We are midway through the Indian Premier League 2021 and Royal Challengers Bangalore has been the biggest newsmakers so far. While they are starting as favorites in most games with the most accurate IPL predictions rooting for their success, it wasn’t quite the same at the start of the season. Many pundits had written off the side even before the start of the season so much so that they claimed 2020 was RCB’s “best season” where they lost in the Eliminator. This criticism wasn’t unfounded though as apart from some spark in the last season the side had finished 8th, 6th and 8th in the previous three seasons!
The franchise led by none other than India’s energetic skipper and one of the best batsmen of the modern game Virat Kohli has been at the receiving end of memes over the years. They are one of the only two franchises that haven’t won the title despite being part of the tournament since the inaugural season, with the other being Delhi Capitals (formerly Delhi Daredevils). The side which has always been blamed for being slow starters in the tournament and walking up when their fate is sealed has made a glorious start to the 2021 edition of the league.
As the tournament is nearly past the midway point, they are comfortably sitting at the third place on the points table with only the Net Run Rate separating them from the two sides above them. They are ahead of the defending champions Mumbai Indians and have won big games so far and most of them by huge margins. The side has won five out of the seven games they have played which has been their best start to the season in five years.
What Has Worked for the RCB?
Royal Challengers had always been blamed for erring at player auction right from the first season where they were mocked for picking up the “best Test side” in the world! They gambled at the 2021 IPL Auction and it seems to be paying good dividends for the side right now. If you follow the IPL predictions, you’d notice that most analysts are talking about two factors that have turned the tide in their favor – the bowling attack and stability in the middle order which had been missing for several seasons now.
The side brought in Harshal Patel from Delhi Capitals to strengthen their bowling attack. This raised many eyebrows as Patel had picked up only 16 wickets in the last five seasons. Kohli went by his instincts as Patel was the leading wicket taker for the franchise in 2015 when he was with the Royal Challengers. The side seems to have called it right as Patel has returned favors with 17 wickets in 7 games and is the purple cap holder at the moment. His performance along with Mohammad Siraj has opened up the bowling options for the skipper who can now use Yuzvendra Chahal in a more aggressive role. Though Chahal is yet to shine, RCB’s bowling is doing well as a unit.
Their batting needed some cushioning as well. While Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal made up for a formidable opening pair last season and the every exciting AB de Villiers in the lower middle order, RCB had to fill it a match winner at No. 4. And trust Kohli to back his instincts and as he gambled with the idea of aggressively bidding for Glenn Maxwell who was released by the Punjab Kings after his disastrous show last season. Few would have wanted Maxwell in their camp after the last season. This gamble has made all the difference to the side as Maxwell has won several games already in 2021. More than the number of runs that Maxwell has scored, he has been able to relieve some pressure off the shoulders of Kohli and ABD.
As the season enters the most crucial phase Kohli and RCB would want to carry on with the same momentum. There have been few hiccups already as Kohli personally hasn’t looked at his best but the team seems to be enjoying its time on the field and the Team India skipper would want to get the monkey off his back and lead his side to the first title win.
The Bristol County Ground
Radlett Cricket Club
York Cricket Club
Emirates Old Trafford
Emirates Old Trafford
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Uptonsteel County Ground
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Lahore Qalandars beat Peshawar Zalmi by 5 wickets