How RCB came back from the dead to enter the IPL Playoffs | Crickit
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How RCB came back from the dead to enter the IPL Playoffs

May 19, 2024 11:52 AM IST

Nothing exemplified RCB's never-say-die spirit better than the 27-run defeat of CSK on Saturday which sealed their place in the IPL 2024 playoffs

At the halfway stage of the league phase of IPL 2024, Royal Challengers Bengaluru were firmly rooted to the bottom of the table. Nothing seemed to be working – not a change in team name from Bangalore to Bengaluru, not Virat Kohli’s red-hot form that catapulted him to the top of the Orange Cap race, not their vast legion of red-and-blue fans who turned up in their thousands to support their heroes in their moment of strife.

Royal Challengers Bengaluru's players celebrate after winning the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match against Chennai Super Kings (AFP)
Royal Challengers Bengaluru's players celebrate after winning the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match against Chennai Super Kings (AFP)

Six losses from seven games called for a drastic change. Not so much a change in personnel because the brains’ trust was convinced it was the right bunch to get the job done, but a change in attitude, a change in mindset, a change in approach. And so, before their eighth outing, against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens, there was a brainstorming session. No apportioning of blame but an honest exercise in soul-searching, at the end of which the contours of an aggressive new approach began to take tenuous shape.

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There was no instant redemption; at the Eden, RCB slumped to a heart-wrenching, last-ball, one-run loss. Seven defeats, two points, six games remaining. Curtains, surely?

Surely not.

ALSO READ: Virat Kohli's 'yorker nehi, slower ball daal' advice for Yash Dayal sparks Dhoni collapse, leaves CSK legend infuriated

What’s transpired in the last month, since that defeat to KKR, has been the stuff of dreams. Their bowling, for long the softest underbelly, roused itself into action, not least because spearhead Mohammmed Siraj rediscovered his mojo. The support cast was equally impressive – Yash Dayal, whose claim to infamy was conceding five consecutive sixes last season while playing for Gujarat Titans to KKR’s Rinku Singh. Lockie Ferguson, the Kiwi quick gradually coming into his own after an indifferent start. Cameron Green, the strapping Aussie who made excellent use of his height. Karn Sharma and Swapnil Singh, the unheralded spin twins. And Will Jacks, primarily a batting powerhouse but whose off-spin could be underestimated only at own’s peril.

Jacks, of course, was a batting hero too. In the first half, only Kohli and Dinesh Karthik at different ends of the batting order kept up their end of the bargain. Glenn Maxwell was an unqualified failure with 32 runs from six innings, skipper Faf du Plessis blew hot and cold, Rajat Patidar appeared to be nursing the hangover of a dreadful debut Test series against England. How much could Kohli alone do at the top of the order? How long would Karthik, surely in the autumn of the career, be able to shoulder the burden singularly of providing the final flourish? Where was the support?

From Jacks, for starters. And du Plessis and Patidar, and Green. Step by bold step, the pieces began to fall in place. The revival started in game nine, in Hyderabad, against the team that had smashed the highest IPL total ever. Sunrisers Hyderabad’s 287 for three at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium had been a chastening wake-up call; RCB paid them back in the same coin in Uppal, winning by 35 runs to double their tally of points.

Few would have expected, or even suspected, on April 25 that here we would be, eulogising the spirit and spunk of an RCB team that rode on six successive victories to surge into the playoffs ahead of defending champions Chennai Super Kings on net run-rate. Even when they slid from one setback to another, RCB somehow made sure the run-rate didn’t get away from them. Once they arrested the unchecked slide with their conquest of SRH, it was as if the stars aligned to propel them to the next stage. The one percenters started to go in their favour, the little slices of luck required to effect a turnaround were readily forthcoming. What’s it that they say about fortune and the bold? After all, RCB’s motto is Play Bold, isn’t it?

Nothing exemplified their never-say-die spirit better than the 27-run defeat of CSK on Saturday. RCB’s 218 for five was less than its numerical value because to qualify, they needed to keep CSK to 200 or less. At 129 for six, it was mission accomplished, almost. Then, old friends Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja pushed back. In style.

CSK needed 17 off the last over, from Dayal. The first ball disappeared over long-leg and out of the stadium as Finisher Dhoni, hobbling and limping, swatted Dayal aside. Memories of Rinku came flooding back, but Dayal was better prepared this time. His focus, he said, was on ‘process and execution’. Dhoni fell to a back-of-the-hand slower one, after which Dayal conceded just one more run in the over. A triumph of will, of desire, of belief – pretty much the RCB story this season.

Beware, the others in the playoffs. Beware, indeed.

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