Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis
Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis of the Royal Challengers Bangalore after the Tata Indian Premier League match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad, on May 18, 2023. Their opening partnerships were a feature of RCB’s batting, which lacked depth. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

Three centuries in a day. That too in T20 games. Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill slammed back-to-back hundreds in the crunch game where the Royal Challengers came up short. That made Cameron Green’s ton invaluable as it helped the Mumbai Indians snatch the last playoff spot on the last day of the league phase of IPL 2023.

For me, the story of the day had to be RCB’s loss. It wasn’t surprising, given their inconsistent displays and the consistency of the Gujarat Titans. Yet, I had a sneaky feeling that they might pull off a win. That’s more due to the fire in Kohli’s eyes and the runs that flowed from his bat. The former India captain’s blazing form and fiery opening partnerships with skipper Faf du Plessis have been decisive in lifting Bangalore to the fifth spot in the points table.

Why RCB is a three-batter team

Kohli led the charge against Gujarat too, knowing fully well that only a win would ensure RCB a place in the last four. Even a rain delay didn’t affect him. Not even the fall of five wickets dampened his determination. In the company of Anuj Rawat, Kohli steered RCB out of trouble and to a challenging total with his record seventh IPL century — his second in a row. That wasn’t enough. Gill’s sublime century took Gujarat home.

A total of 196 wasn’t enough to stall the Titans. That points to the RCB’s batting inadequacies. You can’t escape the feeling that Bangalore is a three-batter team. Kohli, Du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell shouldered much of the burden, and RCB would fall in a heap as soon as the three departed. Even in games where they had good starts, they could never finish strongly. They missed powerhitters at the backend. Dinesh Karthik was a pale shadow of the player he was last year. The middle order too was fragile in the absence of the injured Rajat Patidar.

RCB’s death bowling used to be a joke. Harshal Patel had rectified that last year with a bagful of slower deliveries and knuckle balls. By this year, his tricks had worn thin, and his variations no longer bamboozled batters.

Mohammed Siraj had been simply superb throughout the season. His swing with the new ball was incisive, and he returned to pick wickets in the middle overs before another effort in the slog. But he lacked support. Josh Hazlewood returned from injury halfway through the league before injury laid the Australian low again. Wayne Parnell turned out to be a handy replacement for the injured Reece Topley.

read more

The lack of quality spin was another major drawback. Wanindu Hasaranga was on duty with the Sri Lankan side in New Zealand. His leg-spin was expected to lend muscle to the attack, but he struggled with his form before injury struck him.

Bangalore remained in the fight for a last-four spot on the sheer strength of the batting power of its triumvirate. Of the three, only Kohli fired in the last league game. That wasn’t enough. Not enough for a bowling attack that lacked the power to run through sides or strangle batters.

This RCB didn’t deserve to go through. I hate to say that, but it’s the truth. The barren spell of 16 years continues. As for the slogan, Ee Sala Cup Namde (The Cup is Ours, this time), it can run next year too.