Today’s story is about the most passionate fans in IPL history. There are 3 franchises, (DC, KXIP & RCB) who are yet to lay their hands on the silverware, in the 12 versions of IPL. While DC and KXIP have had moderate support from the fans, RCB has had the good fortune of extremely passionate fans turning up each year for them, expecting that this will be their year. The unwavering support from the fans is what keeps Kohli’s team going and we as cricket fans surely hope that this year, they make their opportunity count. To begin their IPL journey, this year, they faced off against a team that is massively underrated in the world of franchise cricket. Over the past 5 editions, SRH has been the most consistent team beside CSK and they have surely created a loyal fanbase for themselves in Hyderabad.
It cannot happen, that you would be talking about RCB and you won’t be talking about selection blunders. The issue was no different since the first match of this edition. While it is an excellent call to feature the charismatic Devdut Paddikal in the line-up, it is an equally nightmarish call to include Joshua Phillipe in the middle order, already packed with power hitters. The inclusion of Joshua Philippe meant that neither of Isuru Udana or the high budget Chris Morris could feature in the playing 11 and that already set RCB on the back foot, even before the first ball was being bowled. It was completely understandable if they did not want De Villiers to keep wickets. They could have gone for Parthiv as a floater and used the death bowling services of Morris, for whom they have paid 10.5 crore INR.
However, despite the team selection blunder RCB began on a positive note. Paddikal took the attack to the opposition from the word go and displayed shades of Yuvraj Singh in his cover drives and flicks. He seemed at ease against the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma or, Natarajan. He looked equally adept at handling the spin of Rashid Khan as well. Paddikal scored an elegant half-century and Finch supported him to launch an excellent opening partnership for RCB. However, both the openers departed off consecutive deliveries, with Finch departing off a beautiful carrom ball from Abhishek Sharma. Warner will be eager to use this young spinner in the upcoming matches as he did quite a good job after Mitchell Marsh limped off with a sprained ankle.
Kohli mistimed a slower one from Natarajan to long-on and it was on AB to take RCB to a fighting total. The veteran did not disappoint at all as he scored a brisk half-century feeding on some clueless death bowling from Sandeep Sharma. SRH has to identify their slog overs’ specialist to bowl alongside Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the upcoming as Warner was found wanting against the onslaught from Mr. 360.
While RCB was disappointed with the exclusion of Morris, SRH disappointed big time with the omission of Mohammad Nabi. Nabi is the best power-hitting finisher going around, perhaps only 2nd to Russell. In no logical scenario can he be omitted and replaced by Mitchell Marsh. That would have been a valid statement even if Marsh had been fit and performed well.
The tried and tested pair of Warner and Bairstow began well for SRH before the former was dismissed in the most unfortunate way for a batsman – by runout of the non-striker’s end. Manish Pandey and Bairstow consolidated the innings pretty well. Pandey looked in good touch. He will be looking to make his place in the already-crowded middle order of the national team, through his performances in this IPL.
Both Bairstow and Pandey took the team total to 90 and then Pandey fell to a beautifully flighted leg spinner from Chahal. However, the wicket did not shift the momentum towards RCB as Bairstow was striking the ball pretty well. In fact, at one point in time, SRH was 121-2 in 15 overs needing just 40 odd in the next 5 overs.
Then mayhem struck. The wily legspinner scalped Bairstow with a flighted googly and the non-existent middle order of SRH, in the absence of Nabi was exposed immediately. Make no mistake about it that, Vijay Shankar, Priyam Garg, Abhishek Sharma are fabulous talents- just that they cannot be your 4,5 & 6 at this level. You need a power hitter to close the innings and SRH lacked that with an injured Marsh at the pavilion and a potential Nabi in the benches. I doubt whether Mitchell’s contribution would have changed the outcome of the match, as he is yet to show his mettle in Asian conditions.
A massive collapse ensued and SRH lost 7 wickets in a space of 4 overs to concede the match in the absence of a proper finisher. Navdeep Saini bowled excellently at the death and hopefully, he can pair up with Morris in the future matches to solve the death bowling owes of RCB this season.
RCB made a massive selection blunder to begin the match,. However, SRH was not smart enough to capitalize on their weak underbelly- RCB’s death bowling. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what kind of role RCB assigns to Joshua Phillipe and whether they continue to keep Morris and Udana out of the first 11. For SRH, they are not left with many options after Marsh’s injury, as they will hopefully feature Nabi in the playing 11, from the next match.