It is one of the great ironies that in the celebratory 10th anniversary edition of IPL when a fearless Royal Challengers Bangalore ought to have been proudly showcasing their batting riches they increasingly resemble a flock of wimps. Their famed batsmen are being whipped into submission and made to look incompetent not by dreaded bowling attacks but by uninspiring basement bowling talents like Gujarat Lions.
Yet, on the evidence of the fare this season, that aspect of the team looks lost, listless and out of sorts.
Who can forget last year’s fantastic fare when skipper Virat Kohli slammed four hundreds or how the irrepressible AB de Villiers found innovative ways to put rival attacks to the sword. Earlier, Chris Gayle, the powerful battering ram from the Caribbean islands, used to bat like a one-man run machine.
But all that seems a distant dream as the team, despite picking up more superstars along the way, resembles a rag-tag outfit.
“We need one match where six or seven of us can collectively contribute and power the side to a win. That is when we could say that the team is functioning well. Somehow that is not happening. We are having stray performances, by one or two players, and that is simply not enough,” said Jadhav late at night after the crushing defeat at the hands of Gujarat Lions had dampened all spirit in the camp.
Jadhav believes that a turnaround is just round the corner. “We need just that one win. It will lift the team and make us more positive,” he said as a matter of fact.
It is obvious that all the superstars, from Kohli to ABD to Gayle to a whole lot of others are feeling the heat. The support that Bangalore have received from the home crowd has been nothing short of fantastic. They have packed the stadium match after match, paying serious money to occupy seats and cheer the team. A few home wins are all that these ardent fans look forward to. Somehow this year that does not seem to be happening.
Kohli and Co look tense and simply don’t look in the right frame of mind. The top players’ tension and consequent tentativeness is rubbing off on the others.
Additionally, players like Mandeep Singh have been miserable flops. The right hand batsman has got many chances but has not played even one memorable or substantial innings. It is true that if KL Rahul had been fit and able, Mandeep would not have been even in the 15. But now, with the cupboard bare and unimpressive, the team management is loath to try some of the unexciting options available on the bench instead.
The sad aspect of the Bangalore meltdown is that it has hit the team collectively. The well-paid professionals, including Indian and foreign players, are simply not providing the sort of starts, impetus or weight to the batting. The lesser-known domestic players look lost and don’t have the stomach or ability to prove a point on the big stage.
Bangalore may believe that they have been unfortunate with injuries right from the start of the season when they had to make do without Kohli, de Villiers, Rahul, Mitchell Starc and Sarfaraz Khan. But even when some of these players returned, the team has looked far from reassuring. Shane Watson who could have been such a huge pivot in batting and bowling with his undoubted all-round skills has flopped massively and weighed down the side.
Further, constant changes, either in the batting line-up or bowling has not helped. Worse is the complete loss of momentum. The team, during the course of the season, has had its chances. But the inability to convert them has seriously eroded its confidence.
Of course, Bangalore is not a bad team. They still have more superstars than many other sides. On their day they could smash any team and thus spoil their party. And that is where they as a team could still be a dangerous opposition to a couple of teams aspiring to make the next stage.