Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) batsman AB de Villiers had recently said that Virat Kohli was leading the team by example. RCB’s win on Tuesday in the Qualifier against Gujarat Lions was, however, an example of how the team managed to get going even when Kohli didn’t fire.
All it took was for De Villiers to step up.
That has been the story of RCB this IPL season. Even when the nucleus of the side has failed to perform, others have taken on the onus.
While De Villiers contribution will be seen as the main factor in RCB’s hop to the final, there have been other performances of note in the build-up. These might appear to be minor but when they came together as a whole, the team rocked. On top of this list comes all-rounder Shane Watson, who might have failed with the bat but picked up four wickets on Tuesday to break the backbone of the Lions.
Watson also shares the top spot in the wicket-takers list alongside leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Both have 20 scalps. Both of them have peaked at a time when RCB’s bowling seemed to be falling apart with the main bowlers conceding a load of runs. This was also a contributing factor to just why Kohli had to produce double the effort during chases. After all, bowling wasn’t helping his team’s cause. This, in turn, led to the opposition putting up big scores. Watson stepped into this breach.
His spell of 3/24 against Rising Pune Supergiants at Bangalore was match-changing as RPS were cruising at over ten an over. The Dhoni-led side had put up 191. While Kohli notched up a century (108), RCB were in trouble once KL Rahul and De Villiers lost their wickets in quick succession. Watson came and thrashed the bowling and contributed a vital 36 in just 13 balls to take his team home. While RPS were nearly out of contention, for RCB, every match was important to make the final four.
Chahal comes to life
Chahal too peaked in the latter part of the tournament and his 4/25 against Punjab certainly boosted RCB’s chances. For the last few seasons, Chahal has been an important factor in RCB’s success as his ability to pick wickets gives Kohli a lot of room. Though batsmen do like to go after him, Chahal has been intelligent as a bowler and employs his tricks to bag wickets.
Same is the case with de Villiers. He too had a mellow start but with Kohli shouldering the load of batting, de Villiers was never under pressure. And when the situation demanded it, de Villiers stepped up to play a responsible innings. De Villiers was expected to provide solidity to the middle-order and he did exactly that throughout the IPL.
Even before Tuesday, De Villiers got runs when Kohli failed. While De Villiers also has batted alongside Kohli and stitched huge stands together, his innings when Kohli left the crease early has had solid impact. Against KXIP, De Villiers’ 64 led the team to a healthy 175 and RCB ended up winning by a run. In the qualifier against Gujarat, De Villiers again showed just how controlling the nerves and changing one’s natural game is exactly what this format deigns many a time.
“To be honest, I was nervous when we lost five wickets. I just kept telling myself that I have to focus one ball at a time and focus on basics. Once I was set, Virat ordered me to go after Dwayne Smith and I took calculated chances,” De Villiers said after the match. It’s not only about just how De Villiers paced himself, it’s also the role he played as a senior in helping Iqbal Abdulla carve out an unbeaten knock that’s appreciable.
RCB’s success is not only because of Kohli’s run fest, but also because of these important contributions by other team members at crucial times. Had RCB lost even one game after the halfway stage, their dream of playing the final would have been laid to rest there and then.