Royal Challengers Bangalore made it to the play-offs on the back of six losses.
Royal Challengers Bangalore’s former owner Vijay Mallya was known to make some of the most expensive purchases at the IPL auctions. There was something about the team in the initial four years of the tournament and the results showed — RCB twice became runners-up and once played the semifinals.
Initially, RCB had spent over R6 crore on Jacques Kallis and a whopping R10 crore on Kevin Pietersen the next year. They did not perform that well but the team did.
But 2012 onwards, the team’s fortunes began going south. It was around the same time that Mallya’s Kingfisher airlines were forced to go off operations. But that did not stop Mallya from splurging at the auctions. Buy an arguably spent Yuvraj Singh for R14 crore in 2014 is still talked about.
The team’s fortunes again began to swing upwards from the last edition when RCB made it to the playoffs. The combination of skipper Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle worked wonders and was instrumental in turning things around.
This time too, amid all the turmoil surrounding Mallya, RCB continued to enjoy support of the fans. But this time, Kohli had a tough time as they lost six matches on trot and side’s bowling going bust. Gayle’s bat was silent and at one stage RCB needed to win six of their last seven league matches to have any chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
Few imagined RCB would come back so strong. Not only did they qualify, they finished top two which give them two shots at the final spot. In the process, Kohli broke all the scoring charts. Four hundreds, more than 900 runs and counting, the IPL has not seen individual performance of such heights before.
Kohli steps it up
Kohli repeatedly said that his bowlers really need to step up if RCB were to improve but soon realised he will have to take the ownership himself. He even rested a non-performing Gayle. The West Indian came back with a strong show with the bat, Virat’s strategy worked.
In the last two league games, he played with a split webbing of his left hand. Most players would rather take it easy and wait for the injury to heal but Kohli showed the hunger to score runs and got an unbelievable hundred in a match reduced to 15 overs a side.
Chipping in with more than 600 runs was AB de Villiers and leggie Yuzvendra Chahal’s 19 wickets were the only other contributions of significance.
RCB have played the final only twice before, under Anil Kumble in 2009 and Daniel Vettori in 2011. But the coveted trophy eludes them. If Kohli manages to take them over the line this time, leading by example would be an understatement.