A new season; a new setup; but the woes remain the same for Royal Challengers Bangalore. They ended up conceding 207 and when they walked into chase, four of their batsmen got off to starts but couldn’t capitalise on them. RCB dearly missed the intrinsic Virat Kohli and the mesmerising ABD, two batsmen who were the architects of RCB’s fabulous campaign last year, and towards the fag end of the innings, the Bangalore-based Team was gasping for air, stuttering in the 160s. In the end, they managed 172, losing by 35 runs. Chasing a daunting 208 to start their campaign with a win, Chris Gayle and Mandeep provided them with a perfect start, only to falter soon.
32, 24, 30, 31, 22 – the scores of the RCB’s top 5 in that order. Binny managed 11, Sachin Baby just 1. This precisely was the RCB’s problem. Every time RCB looked like they would pull off a difficult chase, one of Nehra, Bhuvaneshwar, Rashid Khan, Deepak Hooda or Bipul Sharma scalped a wicket, ensured none of the RCB batsmen got going. To chase down 208, RCB needed at least one of their batsman score north of 70, or two of them to score in the 50s. None of them managed that. Chris Gayle, who hit a trademark towering six off Nehra when the ball simply looked like never coming down, hit another one off Bhuvaneshwar over long on before miscuing one off Deepak Hooda straight to long off. Mandeep Singh didn’t read the other one and was bowled. Just when Head and Jadhav were rebuilding the innings, a terrific throw from the boundary line by Ben Cutting hit the woodwork and Kedar Jadhav was a foot away from the crease. Head and Baby fell in quick succession. Nehra outfoxed Shane Watson and when Bhuvaneshwar got rid off Binny, it was curtains for the RCB, who later stuttered to 172 before Chahal, who looked like he had already surrendered, was run out by the substitute fielder, Chris Jordan. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was the pick of the bowlers, conceding just 27 off his 4 overs, taking a wicket. Rashid Khan and Ashish Nehra were slightly expensive as they conceded 36 and 42 runs off their quota of 4 overs, but they scalped two wickets each.
Earlier, Yuvraj-blitzkrieg and important contributions by Dhawan (40 off 31) and Henriques (52 off 37) bolstered the Sunrisers to 207/4, the highest ever total on the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. Yuvraj, in particular, looked in pristine touch. He made us stop, drop our jaws and watch in awe as the magician rolled over the years and showed glimpses of the genius he used to be. It was as if he reinstalled the software that controls his batting and got it up and running like it used to, a few years back. His slogs looked mesmerisingly beautiful; cuts looked picturesque and pulls looked enthralling. His 62 off 27 pulverized the RCB bowlers into submission. Mills and Chahal, though were fantastic with the ball, conceding just 53 of the 8 overs they bowled between them.
It’s pretty clear early in the tournament that RCB are yet to address their bowling woes. If they are to entertain any chances of a maiden title win, they’ve got to bowl out of their skins. Because even when Virat Kohli and ABD return, it’s imperious that their bowlers learn to either restrict the oppositions below 180 or defend 190. Else, RCB might have to watch the shimmering silverware from a distance, with squinted eyes!