When you see Royal Challengers Bangalore take the field, you can feel the buzz around them irrespective of which part of the country they are playing in. The flair of the Indian captain, Virat Kohli, the audaciousness of AB de Villiers and the merciless power hitting of Chris Gayle that stayed with the side for seven seasons between 2011 and 2018 is a crowd’s favorite everywhere. But surprisingly, the franchise has struggled to match the standards set by other high-profile sides like Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians.
Each of those franchises have more than one IPL trophy in their cabinet but RCB has got nothing to show as silverware even once after 11 seasons of the tournament’s inception. In the inaugural edition in 2008, they just managed to avoid the wooden spoon. Next year, without much tinkering in their squad, they stormed to the finals and ended up as the runners-up again with a very different looking side in 2011. But since then, their graph has been up and down. They narrowly missed out of the Top 4 stage in the following two years ending at the 5th spot in the points table. And since the teams were refreshed in 2014, they have found themselves in the bottom half more often than not.
In the 2014 auctions RCB retained Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers for a cumulative cost of Rs 29.5 Cr, and purchased Yuvraj Singh for Rs 14 crore -- that is, RCB spent Rs 43.5 crore of a total purse of Rs 60 crore on just four players, all batsmen. The move left them with little or no money to buy bowlers capable of winning them games.
RCB, more than any other team in the competition, is over-reliant on just two batsmen -- Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers -- to do the bulk of the scoring.
RCB’s over-reliance on the top two comes in sharper focus when you look at the contributions of the next highest scorer, Chris Gayle who only averages a mere 27.85 over the last five seasons as against Kohli’s 46.9 and de Villiers’s 44.05.For the top sides, the difference between the top two and the next highest is negligible as seen below; in some cases, the number three even averages better than number two, underlining the point that successful teams depend on more than two batsmen to put up winning totals.
An illustrative example: Chasing 209 in the 2016 IPL final, RCB looked to be cruising on the back of Chris Gayle’s 76, with Kohli and de Villiers at the crease and with the score on 158/3 at the 15 over mark in comparison to SRH’s 140/3. From that position, RCB managed to lose for want of quality batsmen to follow the two stars.
The top teams understand the need for high-quality finishers capable of phenomenal strike rates. Kolkata has Andre Russell striking at 191.5; MS Dhoni for Chennai provides the finishing kick at 181.6; and Pollard for MI smacks it around at 163.8 (with the two Pandya brothers also chipping in at 160+).
RCB alone has no settled finisher to back up Kohli and de Villiers, and have experimented with a new option in every season. The likes of Yuvraj Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, Darren Sammy, Rillee Rossouw, Shane Watson and Kedar Jadhav have moved on to other franchises,with the result that though RCB has the highest slog-overs run-rate in the last five years seasons, that number drops drastically when neither de Villiers nor Kohli are at the crease heading into the 16th over.
When Kohli and de Villiers are batting in the slog, they are a nightmare for bowlers: Kohli strikes at 196.04 with a rate of boundary every fourth ball and de Villiers strikes at 229.2 with a boundary percentage of 34.6, better than a boundary every third ball. But if neither of the two are around at the death, RCB fails -- and that further underlines the hopelessly skewed nature of the batting composition, and is one of the main reasons for their continued lack of success.
To compound the problem of a weak middle order, RCB has an economy rate of 10.36 in the last five overs -- the most expensive bowling unit in the competition’s last five seasons. They also have the second lowest strike rate at the death of all teams since 2014. In other words, at the business end of the innings they give away runs and fail to take wickets.
Interestingly, though RCB has the second worst economy rate during the opening powerplay (8.00), they are the only side to have taken more than 100 wickets during the first six overs.
One reason for their inability to strike at the death is the low percentage of yorkers their bowlers are capable of producing