When every IPL comes around, the Royal Challengers Bangalore would say this could be our year. Several years have passed, and the RCB are yet to win their maiden title in the Indian Premier League. That’s a sad commentary on one of the glamorous sides in the tournament’s 15-year history.
A glamour side the RCB have been and remained so. But they never looked like winning the trophy, despite roping in some of the big names in the game. But then, big names don’t make a good side. And a good team is a balanced side, with near like-for-like replacements on the bench.
Glamour, that was part of the problem. All that glitz came from the founder Vijay Mallya, the liquor baron with connections to the modelling, Bollywood and Formula One. In the early days of IPL, Mallya was considered the Richard Branson of India, with business interests in multiple sectors.
The reliance on overseas talent
So the Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise was launched with fanfare in 2008, and Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone, a Bangalorean, and Katrina Kaif were among the early brand ambassadors. So glamour was never in short supply for the RCB.
Even the team was stacked with stars, although there was a tendency to select Karnataka players. Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble donned the red and gold jersey, and later, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair and Devdutt Padikkal turned out for the RCB. Some of the top Indian players too made their way to the RCB, including Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan. The biggest coup was Virat Kohli, who became the youngest IPL captain, aged 22, in 2011.
The RCB attracted some of the biggest overseas talents too. Kevin Pietersen, Chris Gayle, Mitchell Starc, Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn, AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxell and Faf du Plessis have plied their trade in Bangalore colours.
Yet the RCB never won the IPL title. The closest they came was in 2009, 2011 and 2016, although Bangalore qualified for the playoffs seven times in 14 seasons. That’s some consistency, but the trophy drought is inescapable. And Kohli, who led them for 10 years, seemed weighed down by the weight of RCB expectations.
So what exactly is the problem? Part of the problem, cricket pundits say, is the over-reliance on foreign players. While mutiple winners like Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders build their teams around a core of strong Indian players, Bangalore tend to splurge on overseas stars in pursuit of the elusive title. That chimes with the Bangalore zest and thirst for glamour and star value.
That approach is a recipe for disaster since only four overseas can play at a time. The team need strong Indian players who deliver consistently to chase the cup. Foreign recruits cannot be expected to perform in every game, so the onus is on the home-grown talent. This is where the RCB have failed, although Padikkal [now with the Rajasthan Royals] has been a superb find.
Despite the array of overseas talent, RCB's batting collapses have been spectacular. Four of 10 lowest scores in IPL history belong to Bangalore. And that includes the 68 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad this year. The chase of Rajasthan Royals' total on Tuesday was only marginally better as RCB ended up with 114. It does no justice to the team and its ardent supporters.
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So what should the RCB do to turn around the fortunes? They just have to look at the examples of Mumbai and Chennai. These sides may be suffering in IPL 2022, but they share 9 of the 14 IPL titles. Their formula is simple: get the best Indian players for each role before finding overseas players with a healthy appetite for victories.
That’s not all. After assembling a balanced team, keep faith in them. There will be bad days and a poor run of form. That’s part of cricket. Trust them to come good. Frequent chopping and changing erode trust, and players will never be able to give off their best. Look at the example of Rituraj Gaikwad, who struggled for form. The CSK never dropped him despite the team’s lack of success. And he’s now run into form, although CSK’s chances of making the last four have dimmed.
A good coach also can make a difference. Look at how Mumbai and Chennai invested in Mahela Jayawardene and Stephen Fleming. Long years of association helped them mould teams capable of winning, even if there are occasional missteps.
Every year, the RCB look like winning. But never does. That’s a pity.