It won’t be wrong to say that Royal Challengers Bangalore’s South African recruits have had a royal hand in the side’s choke in three Indian Premier League finals. In 2009, Jacques Kallis, Roelof Van Der Merwe and Mark Boucher faltered, and AB de Villiers didn’t pull his weight in 2011 and 2016.
Like five years ago, de Villiers failed to step up despite having contributed heavily through the season. He had scored 312 runs in 2011 while he almost doubled that effort with 687 runs in 2016 but flopped in the final.
Kohli, de Villiers let it slip
On Sunday at Bengaluru, RCB had the game in their pockets with Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli inflicting pain on the Hyderabad bowlers, raising 114/0 in 10 overs chasing 209 runs. Once Gayle fell for 76, Kohli and De Villiers controlled the asking rate. The pair was RCB’s main match-winners in the league stage and another stand was the need of the hour.
But at 140, Kohli was bowled by left-arm pacer Barinder Sran, who had been torn to pieces by Gayle. Now it was left to De Villiers to repeat his match-winning effort against Gujarat Lions that had taken RCB into the final. De Villiers had then produced a brilliant 73 not out after an early loss of wickets, pacing his innings and taking calculated risks.
But in the final, at 148/2, the South African choked at the most important stage, his dismissal making it 148/3. De Villiers was on five when he scooped a flighted delivery from left-arm spinner, Bipul Sharma, to long-off. Had he batted a little longer, he could have easily targeted a few bowlers. His dismissal allowed Sunrisers Hyderabad to fight back as they never let the hosts back into the game again.
Taking charge mattered
In the initial phase of this edition, RCB were on a losing spree. Against KKR, Virat and de Villiers had fallen in quick succession and Virat had said the only way to fix it was for him or de Villiers to take the ownership of the innings. They did in style throughout IPL 9 only to falter at the finish line.
In 2011, against Chennai Super Kings, RCB were chasing 205 for the IPL trophy. They had a bad start as Gayle and Mayank Aggarwal were dismissed in the third over, but it was the wickets of Kohli and de Villiers that ruined it for them. De Villiers was the first to go, on 18, while Kohli was trapped by Suresh Raina on 35. RCB were 147 all out.
The 2009 final was even more heart-breaking. With Anil Kumble at the helm, the bowlers had restricted Deccan Chargers at 143. The situation demanded the batsmen to step it up but another choke in the final kept RCB away.
One of RCB’s most expensive buys, Jacques Kallis, flopped on top of the order. Then, Van Der Merwe, promoted to No 3, lost his wicket at an important juncture after making 32. Boucher too failed in the slog overs while Robin Uthappa was well-set and the team lost by six runs.
This is not the only time South Africans have choked in the final. In the World Cup and WT20, they are labelled perennial chokers. Other than winning the inaugural Champions Trophy in 1998, South Africa have not won any title. Though they have enjoyed being at the top of Test rankings for a long time, the nerves have jangled in these tournaments.
The best example of South Africa choking happened in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinal at Dhaka against the Kiwis. Having restricted New Zealand to 221, South Africa lost the plot in the middle-overs despite Kallis, De Viliers and Graeme Smith getting good starts.
When Kallis slipped
SA had lost Kallis on 108 in the 25th over but two successive wickets in two balls meant the game was over for the Proteas. Once again, it was de Villiers and JP Duminy who put the team in trouble at 121. De Villiers had two hundreds and a fifty in the tournament. Twice SA were done in by the Duckworth Lewis rain rule, losing out due to miscalculations.
The only South Africans to have been part of title-winning IPL teams are CSK’s Faf du Plessis and Albie Morkel, and KKR’s Jacques Kallis, who having choked in 2009 led his side to victory with an important knock of 69 three years later against CSK.