IPL is in its 11th year and RCB is still struggling to get its team combination right. Who should share the blame? Fans will readily point fingers at the team management for poor choices at the player auction: either the management spends exorbitant money on unproven players (Tymal Mills, last season) or doesn’t bid for local players. How else can one explain the retention of an average player like Sarfaraz Khan over a proven guy like KL Rahul? Or the decision to sign up a non-regular, also-ran player like Corey Anderson as a replacement for Nathan Coulter-Nile?
While the team management should be rightly castigated for its decisions, the captain should also be held responsible for baffling team selection. I am not sure about how much Kohli’s inputs are considered during the player auction. But I believe that he has the final say in the playing 11. And, the results are all there to see. I would be surprised if this RCB team will be able to win more than 4 matches this year!
Now, coming to Tim Southee’s absence in the playing 11. When Coulter-Nile withdrew from IPL due to injury, he should have been ideally replaced with a bowler, and not an all-rounder. Anyway, Southee is an ideal fit for T20s. He may not have express pace, but he swings the new ball and has loads of experience bowling at the death. Had Southee been in the playing 11 in the match against CSK, RCB would have won the match. But in his infinite wisdom, Kohli opted to bowl Corey Anderson over Colin de Grandhomme, a regular player, and a better all-rounder. Did Kohli forget why Grandhomme is on the team or is it sheer arrogance on his part? Possibly, both!
Poor death bowling is not the only problem with RCB. Kohli has shown zero flexibility when it comes to the batting order. Why not try Washington Sunder as an opening batsman or send Mandeep Singh as a pinch hitter? In yesterday’s match against CSK, when de Kock and de Villiers were going great guns, I expected the score to reach at least 220. But de Kock fell to a brilliant catch by Bravo, which triggered a mini-collapse. At this point, Kohli should have sent Mandeep or Grandhomme Grandhomme ahead of Anderson. To no one’s surprise, Anderson plays out a maiden over, gets 2 runs from 8 balls, and sucks the momentum out of the innings. Thanks to Mandeep, RCB reached 205, which I felt was inadequate because of CSK’s strong batting lineup and lack of death bowlers in RCB.
In the first 3 years of IPL, KKR faced a similar problem: buy players at exorbitant prices and never play them (Mashrafe Mortaza) as well as lack of good, local batsmen. Come season 4, KKR team management turned it around with some smart buys like Sunil Narine and Kuldeep Yadav. They won the IPL trophy twice and are a strong contender this year too. In the meantime, RCB is yet to learn anything from the past 10 years and continue to be an under-performing unit.