Poor Decision-Making at the Heart of RCB’s Disaster Season
“When your decision-making is spot-on and balanced, those teams win the IPL. The teams that are more relaxed, don't take the pressure too much, and take good decisions in pressure moments - they should get the credit for winning."
These wise words, which came from Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper Virat Kohli one week prior to the start of this year’s IPL, have now come back to haunt him and his team management as RCB finished a third straight underwhelming IPL campaign without making it to the playoffs.
While RCB had a (very) outside chance of making it to the playoffs, the truth is that the brand of cricket they played was never really bright enough to secure for them a top-four finish. Their performance fell deeply inadequate and their poor decision making, right from this year’s player auction, lay at the heart of this inadequacy.
Poor Auction Choices
An important factor which prevented them from making it to the playoffs last season was their below-par death overs bowling and their under-firing all-rounders.
To rectify that, RCB released the all-round options of Corey Anderson and Chris Woakes ahead of the IPL auctions 2019 and traded Mandeep Singh for the services of Marcus Stoinis from Kings XI Punjab (KXIP). So, before the IPL auctions 2019, RCB had only two genuine first-choice all-rounders in Moeen Ali and Marcus Stoinis and it was clear from the start that both these players will not be available for a full season because of their respective national duties
Also, the release of players like Brendon McCullum and Sarfaraz Khan, along with the trading away of Quinton de Kock to Mumbai, left a gaping hole in their batting line-up. Considering the fact that their home ground, M Chinnaswamy Stadium, was back to its high-scoring self, they went into this season’s auctions with three clear questions to answer – 1) Who after Virat Kohli and AB de Villers in the batting order? 2) Which all-rounders to pick to fill the places of Anderson and Woakes? And the third and the most important one of which bowlers to go after to bolster their death bowling?
A look at RCB’s auction performance is enough to gauge that their management could find an answer to only one of three questions they had staring them in the face when the trading window was closed. They just couldn’t rope in a bowler whom they can trust with the all-important death bowling responsibility. Not just the death bowler, their team management also failed to find proper replacements for all-round options of Anderson and Woakes.
The highlight of their auction performance was their batsman shopping spree which led them to splurge a princely INR 12.80 Cr for the willow of Shimron Hetmyer (4.2 Cr), Shivam Dube (5 Cr) and Akshdeep Nath (3.6 Cr) – all three bets resulted in negative return-on-investment because of the shoddy manner in which they were used during the campaign.
A Slow Start to the Season
If RCB’s decision-making at the auctions was bad, it nosedived further into mediocrity during the campaign. The start couldn’t have been more horrible than them misreading a square turner at the Chepauk which saw them folding-out for a paltry total of 70 runs. They went into the match with three seam bowling options of Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, and Mohammad Siraj and had the seam-bowling all-round options of Colin de Grandhome and Shivam Dube while their opposition lined-up with three proper spinner and two part-time spinners.
That ignominious loss in the first game kick-started their sorry story for yet another season. The story, which unfolded as the RCB campaign progressed, brought back the past season woes of poor death bowling, no one in the spine-less middle-order really standing up after the departure of ‘big-brothers’ Kohli and de Villiers along with luck leaving their side to hand Mumbai a last-ball victory in a humdinger. An amalgamation of these factors accounted for the 8 defeats which casted them out of the playoff race for yet another season.
Unexplainable Team Selections
A look at the 8 defeats of RCB’s campaign also brings attention to the big failures of their team management which failed miserably in getting its man management right. Hetmyer was dropped after his fourth poor outing while Shivam Dube, who came with a reputation of being a ferocious hitter in the domestic circuit, was dropped on the third failure before getting dropped again following a one-off chance in the mid-season. Akshdeep Nath, on the other hand, was given an inexplicably long-rope of 8 matches which yielded just 61 runs.
Another example is the misuse of Marcus Stoinis’ batting abilities. There was a clear precedent of him getting a whopping 533 runs while opening the batting for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League 2018-19, yet RCB persisted with him in the finisher’s role. Parthiv Patel did score 373 runs in the season but his struggles after the powerplay gets over are well-documented. RCB didn’t even give a try to the idea of Stoinis over Parthiv at the top.
The RCB management now has plenty of time to ponder over the effects of their decisions in the auction as well as during the campaign. One thing they must learn from this year’s experience is that they must show proper backing to the talent which they have recruited and not take hurried decisions after 3-4 failures. Hopefully, they can reward the unwavering loyalty of their fans with some better results next season.