Virat Kohli trying to hide his face in disappointment with the pushed-down brim of his cap towards the end of Shubman Gill’s classic at the Chinnaswamy on Sunday will remain one of the most endearing moments of IPL 2023.
Sixteen seasons have passed but Royal Challengers Bangalore are yet to claim an IPL title. Their hopes of making it to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive time evaporated once Gill’s century outshone Kohli’s brilliant 101 not out in a terrific chase. RCB thus had to be content with a sixth-place finish.
The most exasperating part, however, has been the presence of RCB captain Faf du Plessis and Kohli among the top three in this edition’s run-getters list. While Faf has the Orange Cap with 730, Kohli is placed third at 639 having overcome his run-drought last season. Kohli was the top scorer with 973 runs during their last runners-up finish in 2016.
This year RCB totalled more than 180 in nine out of 14 matches mainly because of the contribution of their openers, Faf and Kohli. Glenn Maxwell’s aggression complemented their efforts and the all-rounder added 400 runs at a strike rate of 183.48.
The trio alone accumulated 1769 out of the 2502 runs scored by the team. The rest of the batters made just 733 runs in 14 games. Herein lies the tragedy and story of RCB’s failure.
A weak middle-order resulted in RCB never getting the momentum after a bright start in most of the matches. Dinesh Karthik, Mahipal Lomror, Anuj Rawat and Shahbaz Ahmed’s inability hurt the team badly. Faf was quick to admit that they were “light on the middle order”.
RCB had their share of bad luck too. Rajat Patidar’s injury came at the most inappropriate time. Karthik’s poor form — 140 runs at 11.66 — after a stupendous IPL 2022 as finisher was unfortunate. Josh Hazlewood played only three games before getting injured and was forced to return.
Kieron Pollard used to play DK’s role at Mumbai Indians and they have found a suitable replacement in Cameron Green and Tim David. But RCB haven’t been that lucky and were found struggling.
The bowling also fared no better. Wanindu Hasaranga hasn’t been the same bowler who took 26 wickets at 7.54 last year. His nine from eight games this year came at a higher economy of 8.89.
Harshal Patel was not in his elements. The pacer claimed 14 wickets at an economy of 9.65 compared to his 19 at 7.66 last time. Mohammed Siraj was the only genuine wicket-taker left in the side and scalped 19.
Individual brilliance can no longer drive a unit in a team game. RCB has always been hampered by such failings since the days of Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers. Unless they can follow the team model devised by CSK or Mumbai Indians, the IPL trophy will remain elusive.