Consistency in performance can only come from a team with a steady core of players. That explains the difference between Gujarat Lions, who are perched on top, and Royal Challengers Bangalore, who are just above bottom scrapers Rising Pune Supergiants and Kings XI Punjab.
Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum and Praveen Kumar have featured in all the 11 matches Gujarat Lions have played so far. Close second are Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo, who have played 10 matches. It suggests a team that has a stable core of at least six players.
Royal Challengers still look unsettled. Only Virat Kohli, Shane Watson and AB de Villiers have played all their 10 matches. It doesn’t even add up to being a third of the team. That is never good news for a franchise that hasn’t won an IPL, but has yet again splurged on high-value assets without thinking of finding a balance. So, even though Kohli is the leading scorer and RCB the only team to get a 200-plus total, they now face a situation where they have to win their remaining four matches to stand a chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
Getting to over 150 despite losing Chris Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers pretty cheaply in the previous match shows they have the backup to plug the holes left by the giants. But their real problem lies in the selection of bowlers, which again is surprising considering RCB have possibly the two best bowling coaches in Daniel Vettori and Allan Donald.
What ails RCB most is a suitable partner for leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Kohli has never suppressed his fondness for fast bowlers but one-dimensional attacks have hardly been successful in the IPL unless there is swing involved, like with the Sunrisers bowling. They may have also missed a trick by signing Chris Jordan to replace the injured Mitchell Starc when clearly there was a need to find a quality spinner. RCB’s do have a coterie of spinners. Apart from Chahal, they have Tabraiz Shamsi, Iqbal Abdullah and Parvez Rasool, all of whom have played four matches each but haven’t impressed.
“Basically, I am the only spinner in the team. But I don’t tend to feel the pressure because I have played a lot at this ground,” said Chahal ahead of their crucial match against Gujarat Lions. He, however, admitted there are shortcomings in their bowling.
“We are leaking quite a few runs in the last four overs. If you see, only Shane Watson has been bowling consistently but the rest two overs have been costly. We also tend to concede a lot in the Powerplay.”