RCB evening of refreshing joy and familiar agony


Anuj Rawat and Dinesh Karthik gave the top-heavy side a reason to smile, but the bowling imbalance turned that upside down.

Cameron Green's exit to a Mustafizur Rahman off-cutter felt like the breaking point for RCB on Friday. It was still the 12th over but at 78 for 5, it already looked like curtains could be drawn on an underwhelming first innings. The tag of being a top-heavy side, in games like this, hangs around RCB's neck like an albatross. For years they have tried to shed it and refute it, but time and again the failure of the batting brawn comes back to haunt them in different and embarrassing ways.

There were two more overs of complete lull post Green's dismissal, but what transpired after that should fill the RCB think-tank with a lot of optimism inspite of the team failing to take points at Chepauk again. The winds of change came with Deepak Chahar in the 15th over, who started with a gentle full toss that was sent racing through extra cover off Rawat's willow. Chahar's use of a bouncer at the end of that over was then met with an innovative ramp over MS Dhoni's head to get past the 100-run mark.At the death, Rawat showed his ability to manipulate fields, comfortably hitting over the fine leg fielder who was inside the circle, and then flexed his big-hitting muscles to tonk three - over mid-wicket, long on and one down the ground - off Tushar Deshpande and Mustafizur.

Two years after being a long-term investment worth INR 3.40 Crore at the start of a three-year cycle, Rawat made a promising start with a 25-ball 48. With Rajat Patidar fit again to slot in at the top of the order, RCB had to take a call between Rawat and Mahipal Lomror for their choice of left-hander into a right-dominated top-order. Very little separated the two batters who barely scratched the surface of their potential last season, but Rawat got the first nod and took advantage of it.

"I couldn't be happier for him," Karthik said. "He's been part of this team for two years, people can just see how much talent he has. The ball flies off his bat, he's got great bat speed, he's a strong boy. Really works hard in the nets.

"The last two years haven't really panned out as well. Last year, towards the end he showed glimpses of how good he is. I just hope he keeps continuing this form because he is a key player for us - a left-hander through the middle - and he hits a long ball. He's got a lot of power so it is great to see him do well."

Rawat's knock and the sixth-wicket stand worth 95 off just 56 balls was a massive U-turn for RCB from a precarious position. It was in fact the best partnership for the sixth wicket or lower against CSK, and only two short of the best for RCB in the same criteria.

The highs of a comeback fuelled by an Indian batter not named Kohli were then thoroughly negated by the new-look but overly underwhelming bowling attack.

On a surface siding with the batters, even defending 173/6 was going to be arduous against CSK's free-spirited batting ideas that they've embraced since last season. New-man Rachin Ravindra who filled the void of Devon Conway at the top, instantly bought into the philosophies with a blazing 15-ball 37.

IPL is of course a long tournament where fortunes change in a matter of days, but RCB got a worrying first glimpse of their all-new bowling attack. They got rid of all the experience by releasing Harshal Patel, Wanindu Hasaranga and Josh Hazlewood and replaced them with the likes of Yash Dayal, Alzarri Joseph and part-time spinner Mayank Dagar. They even shelled out INR 17.50 Crore to trade in Cameron Green, while Karn Sharma - who featured in 7 matches last season with an economy rate of 10.37, was kept on as the main wrist-spinner. RCB's freshly-assembled attack reeked of inexperience in comparison to what they had last year, even as their director of cricket Mo Bobat begged to differ.

"I don't believe we have an inexperienced attack. Our overseas bowlers have a lot of international and IPL experience. The Indian quicks also have decent IPL experience, while in the spin department, we have a lot of potential in Himanshu Sharma and Mayank Dagar. Also, Karn Sharma has a lot of experience," Bobat had said on the eve of the game. But for starters, their recruitment didn't quite align with addressing a pain point from last season - their death bowling.

RCB in the death overs (17-20) in IPL 2023

Overs Runs Wickets Average Strike Rate Economy Rate
55.3 601 31 19.38 10.74 10.82

RCB's current attack in death overs (17-20) in T20s

Bowlers Overs Runs Wickets Average Strike Rate Economy Rate
Yash Dayal 15 172 3 57.33 30 11.46
Cameron Green 5 83 1 83 30 16.6
Alzarri Joseph 82.2 801 42 19.08 11.76 9.72

Daryl Mitchell's exit in the 13th over of the chase brought Shivam Dube and Ravindra Jadeja together, effectively ending the chances of left-arm spinner Mayank Dagar operating again despite bowling two tight overs. To tackle Dube's spin-hitting prowess, RCB turned to Alzarri Joseph and Cameron Green's deck-hitting abilities. Before that, they even sneaked in an over from Glenn Maxwell in which he fired darts at Dube - with pace ranging in the high 90s and early 100s in kmph.

The equation was down to 46 off 30 balls, and RCB's bouncer tactics seemed sound, albeit only briefly. Dube and Jadeja got accustomed to the predictable short lengths and started to line the bowlers up, but RCB stuck to it. Dube, who seemed a bit awkward against the rising deliveries early on, gave the biggest demonstration of rendering the ploy ineffective when he just stood rooted in his crease and hooked a short one from Joseph for a six over long leg in the 19th over. A ball later, the chase ended.

RCB's scattergun approach to recruitment and the failure to address their death bowling and spin deficiencies drew flak at the time of the auction. One bad game shouldn't lead to extreme conclusions and eulogies, but the lack of control in the opening spells and the absence of a plan B at the death are signs of a familiarly crippling imbalance that RCB have grappled with for years.