KKR’s pummeling reveals lack of variety in RCB bowling


PTI, Mar 30, 2024, 11:01 AM IST

Credit: BCCI / iplt20.com

Bengaluru: Three matches might be too small a sample size to form an opinion but going by the lack of variety that has been on show in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s bowling attack, they might just be staring at a long, tiring IPL season this year.

The match against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday offered the latest and the largest footprint of this particular weakness as the RCB bowlers failed to check a set of free-hitting batters while defending 183.

The immediate defence will be to project the presence of dew and an improved M Chinnaswamy pitch during the second innings. But a deep dive will give a different picture.

Defending a total, even a competitive one like 183, demands a tight beginning, however, the RCB bowlers were profligate.

Mohammed Siraj’s length ball was walloped over mid-wicket for a six by Phil Salt, and the Englishman was served with two more juicy offerings on the fifth stump which were carted for a six and four each. The first over produced 18 runs.

Alzarri Joseph was introduced in the third over. But the pacer gave Sunil Narine a length ball on leg-stump which was dispatched for a six over long-on and two balls later a short-pitched delivery was sent in the same direction for a maximum.

These are the balls that will be punished at this level — dew or no dew, whether it is easy pitch or tough pitch.

There was an exception in Vysakh Vijayakumar who used knuckle balls and pace-off deliveries to good effect to return with excellent figures of 1/23, but the more experienced names were reluctant to bring in those variations – at least consistently.

“The second innings was slightly better to bat because the ball came on to the bat a bit quicker because of the dew. I was trying to use hard-length balls and short balls banged into the pitch to contain batters,” Vijaykumar said in the post-match press conference.

“But it was still gripping from both the ends. We did try to mix it up but they (KKR batters) got away with it.”

There’s some truth in his words. The stats show that KKR bowlers used 22 balls under 120 kmph and conceded just 20 runs off them to pick up three wickets.

Meanwhile, the RCB bowlers bowled 19 balls under 120 kmph, but gave away 40 runs and could bag only a wicket.

The primary reason for this contrast was the areas where the KKR and RCB bowlers pitched their slower balls as the latter set landed those deliveries predominantly well outside the off-stump or on the leg-side for comfortable pick-ups for batters.

It reflected in their cumulative figures on the night too. The three RCB pacers — Siraj, Joseph and Yash Dayal — leaked 126 runs from nine overs, while KKR’s Mitchell Starc, Harshit Rana and Andre Russell conceded 115 runs from 12 overs for four wickets in return.

But it also tells us that KKR had planned better for the pitch and the bowlers.

“The far end (from Vijayakumar was bowling) was still tricky. But the other end (the media box side) certainly got better and the communication was to target the bowlers from there,” said KKR batter Venkatesh Iyer, who made a 30-ball 50.

Unfortunately, RCB did not have enough options, especially in spin department, to try a new run-checking ploy that can lead them to wickets.

“We’ve tried (Glenn) Maxwell. Finger spinners are effective here but today there wasn’t much spin. With KKR having a left-right combination, spinners can find it tricky,” RCB captain Faf du Plessis said.

“We needed a wrist-spinner who could turn it both ways.”

They had two excellent options — Yuzvendra Chahal and Wanindu Hasaranga — but chose to let go both of them, and cricket often is unforgiving to such callous decisions.

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