IPL: RCB redeem pride alright, but did they leave it too late?

Renewed confidence of their bowlers, new talent like Will Jacks key to their turnaround

Jubilant RCB members after fifth win on the trot on 12 May (photo: @RCBTweets/X)
Jubilant RCB members after fifth win on the trot on 12 May (photo: @RCBTweets/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Even after the first eight matches of IPL 2024, Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) were languishing at the bottom of the table with one win – becoming fodder for the memes and trolls. However, with five back-to-back wins and the much-maligned bowling unit putting their hands up, Faf du Plessis’ men suddenly find themselves in fifth position – though it could be a case of leaving it late again.

A disciplined performance by their bowlers at home, known for its run fests, saw them putting it past Delhi Capitals on Sunday, 13 May, to equal their second-highest winning streak. However, the mid-table scramble is now at its peak with the last week of league games about to get underway and simply a win in their final league game against Chennai Super Kings on 18 May is not going to guarantee them anything.

As of date, the top two teams: Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals have ensured themselves a passage to the final week with 18 and 16 points, respectively, with two games in hand. CSK, now third (14 from 13 games) and Sunrisers Hyderabad (14 from 12) are the best bets for the third and fourth positions respectively but the fifth-placed RCB has a fighting chance here with a better run rate than No.6 Delhi Capitals.

The ifs and buts will tell you that RCB have a better than 40% chance of making it to the top four on points. The best they can do, once all the league games are done and dusted, is end at tied for a joint third position with a couple of other teams – a situation which is pushing the RCB diehards to draw parallel with their topsy-turvy run in 2016. They had a shaky start that year as well, winning the first game before enduring defeat in five of their next six games.

However, much like this season, then captain Virat Kohli was in unstoppable form as he secured the Orange Cap and then the team eventually finished as the runners-up to Sunrisers Hyderabad. It’s certainly presumptuous to think about any such possibilities and their focus now is on redeeming themselves after an extremely lackadaisical campaign in the first half – which even raised calls for selling off the franchise to different owners.         

Well, how did such a turnaround happen? In all likelihood, it could be their courageous chase of a 220-plus total against KKR at the Eden on 21 April when they eventually lost the match by a run. They discovered a new ace in the batting pack in Englishman Will Jacks and the 100-plus partnership between him and the consistent Rajat Patidar had really sent shivers down the spines in the KKR camp.

It was a loss alright but in Faf’s words, it was just a shot of ‘renewed confidence’ that they needed. In the very next match against the high-flying Sunrisers, RCB decided to bat first in Hyderabad and stopped the rivals short by 35 runs and suddenly, the momentum was back. Trying to put things into perspective, Faf said after the Delhi win:  ‘’It’s just confidence. The first half of the season, we were just fighting for it. First five or six games, we couldn’t get wickets, now three times or so we have bowled opposition out.’’

The captain heaped praise on their bowling unit, lauding the way the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Yash Dayal and Lockie Ferguson along with the unheralded spin twins of Karn Sharma and Swapnil Singh stepped up in their last five games. ‘’I feel there is a lot of variety in bowling as a skipper: six-seven options, you asses the conditions and see what you can do. Yash has been an exception. Lockie has been brilliant. Both [batting and bowling] need to have a full crack. We want to be bold,’’ the South African added.

If RCB eventually make it to the last four, it will be a season to remember in the chequered journey of the franchise. If they don’t, they can have the satisfaction of having salvaged some pride!

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