RCB’s never-ending tale of defeats and heartbreak

PC – BCCI. RCB have won only one out of six games so far

“RCB has 24.2 million fans worldwide on various social media sites and is growing rapidly. The franchise has 3.52 million YouTube subscribers, 7.1 million Twitter followers and 13.6 million followers on their Instagram handle.” The answer given by Google Search Engine for a query related to Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s ever-increasing fanbase. 

That point extends to the kind of crowds that throng the Chinnaswamy Stadium for RCB’s matches. So much so that police personnel have a hard time in ensuring a touch of calmness amid the frenzied atmosphere near the stadium. But RCB’s growing fanbase is in contrast to the results achieved by the team. Granted that the franchise has reached three IPL finals. But they are yet to win the title, and haven’t made it to the summit clash since the heartbreaking loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2016.

The ongoing 2024 IPL season has been catastrophic so far. The franchise has won a solitary game out of the six matches they have played. The batting, barring Virat Kohli, has mostly looked bereft of confidence.  The bowling unit too has been abject at times. And when you add strategic errors to the mix, it is clearly evident that RCB are failing on multiple fronts. 

When a side loses more than a few matches in a row, it invariably leads to plenty of chopping and changing. RCB is no different. Mahipal Lomror found his hitting range versus Punjab Kings, but was left out of the starting XI in the very next game. Vijaykumar Vyshak varied his pace reasonably well versus Kolkata Knight Riders. After that, he has largely found himself among the impact subs. 

Andy Flower, the current head coach, has an enviable CV – right from helming England to franchise teams, he has tasted success almost everywhere. But at RCB, even he has looked slightly out of his depth. For instance, in the game against Rajasthan Royals, RCB ended up with the inexperienced Saurav Chauhan and Cameron Green in the slog overs, with Lomror and Dinesh Karthik cooling their heels in the dug-out. 

It is true that RCB were hoping to bowl first in order to unleash Lomror in the second innings. Just that, ideally, Lomror should have been included in the Playing XI. Flower might have a few detractors, but over his 17-year coaching career, he has won plaudits for being a very meticulous coach, who pores through every minute detail. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Flower is a huge fan of ‘Moneyball’. Somehow, even Flower has floundered in terms of tactical smarts at RCB. 

Faf du Plessis, the skipper, too has had his share of critics. With Flower and du Plessis at the helm, RCB took Cameron Green from Mumbai Indians, and released Josh Hazlewood, Wanindu Hasaranga and Harshal Patel. Hazlewood was released on the back of the pacer not being available for most of the season because of personal reasons. But with Hasaranga also not getting retained, RCB suddenly had a very inexperienced spin attack, with Mayank Dagar turning out to be the lead spinner. Incidentally, Dagar has only taken one wicket in the tournament. 

The pace-bowling department too has a couple of nuts and bolts missing. For starters, RCB have one too many options to bowl with the new ball. Mohammed Siraj, the attack leader, is struggling for rhythm. He also doesn’t have enough defensive weapons to counter the hitting range of opponents. 

In Flower’s defence, the previous management did make a few curious moves in auctions. In that context, Flower and co. might build a good side in the next mega auction, but for now they are grappling with the resources. Compared to other teams, RCB’s scouting system has been suspect as well. To encapsulate it further, when Avinash Singh was picked up by RCB, there was fanfare about his ability to bowl fast. However, he has now been released by the same franchise. 

RCB have backed Anuj Rawat to the hilt, but barring a few matches, he has had a disappointing time. Manoj Bhandage, the all-rounder, has been with the RCB camp for a while, but is yet to play a game for them. There is no point in taking a punt with certain players and not trusting your own choices. 

Some 5837 days ago, RCB slipped to a crushing loss against KKR in the inaugural match of IPL. Since then, the fans have had more heartbreaks than fond memories. When will RCB chart a turnaround in their fortunes? Next year? 2029? Or 2034? Meanwhile, for the growing legion of fans, there is no respite.