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Cricket news - So RCB a season for RCB

Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj and Navdeep Saini just couldn't get it right in the death overs. In the death overs, RCB conceded at a rate of 11.23.

It was a season of two halves for Royal Challengers Bangalore. The first - very RCB-like, of how they fluff key moments, make strategical errors and how they just fail to come good together as a unit. The second - also very RCB-like, of the promise they are expected to live up to. But such was how their campaign panned out, that despite eventually being only one point less than Sunrisers Hyderabad - who made it to the playoffs - they never really threatened to get into the top 4. After six successive losses to begin with, they were playing catch-up all through.

But it was a good catch-up, nonetheless. From the time Virat Kohli announced that it was time the team starts 'enjoying their cricket', they certainly did. Of their last six games, they lost only one. Just when they were getting their act right, the one home game against Rajasthan Royals that rained out proved costly as it eventually put them mathematically out of contention before the final round of matches.

In the end, they finished at the bottom of the table, winning their last game and celebrating with the home crowd that continued to extend their support, in rain and in defeat, despite the team's repeated failures and the repeated manner of their failures.

What worked for them?

Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers were their top two run-getters, and Yuzvendra Chahal was their highest wicket-taker. Surprise, surprise!

In short, nothing was significantly different. The majority of the coaching staff might have changed, but the way they went about their business on the field, didn't really alter too much. There were a few positive signs though - with the kind of starts Parthiv Patel got for them, apart from how Marcus Stoinis and Moeen Ali contributed during their brief Indian summer stay. Dale Steyn, in his two-match stint with the team, too gave their bowling attack a massive face-lift.

Shimron Hetmyer, who was dropped after a run of poor scores early on, too came good with a match-winning fifty, when he was recalled for the final match.

What pulled them back?

Such is the nature of the T20 game that one good period for an opposition player can take the game away from you. RCB had several coming their way - Andre Russell and Jasprit Bumrah at home, and most importantly, David Warner and Jonny Bairstow in Hyderabad. That game against SRH was not only a massive loss, but proved critical with respect to the entire tournament, in terms of the Net Run Rate - which eventually put SRH in the playoffs and handed the wooden spoon to RCB.

They were also on the receiving end of a few contentious no-ball calls - be in against MI or SRH, both at Chinnaswamy.

But even if all the external factor are to be considered for their miseries, their own undoing cannot be overlooked. There were panic changes in the starting XI and the batting order, several questionable bowling changes, abysmal catching, and the bowlers' continuous failure to bowl to the fields in the death overs.

From lack of creativity in ,planning to below-par execution, peppered with a bit of star show, RCB had very little going their way. To make matters worse, they failed to close games that they should have - especially their homes matches against KKR and MI. Had they managed to win either of those, they would've found themselves in the playoffs.

What did they sorely miss?

Death bowlers. On paper, it's a fairly good assembly of bowlers - domestic and international - that RCB had. But it's largely one-dimensional. With Tim Southee out of form, they were left with no good option for the death overs. Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj and Navdeep Saini just couldn't get it right.

Signing of the season

Marcus Stoinis

The Australian all-rounder, who was traded in from Kings XI Punjab, was expected to beef up their middle order as well as provide an extra bowling option. Even as he joined in late and left early, in the 10 matches that he did feature, he scored 211 runs at an average of 52.75 and a strike-rate of 135.26. He wasn't as effective with the ball, picking only a couple of wickets, but was reasonably economical.

Hetmyer was discarded after four poor games to begin the campaign, only to be brought back in the last match of the season. He constructed a fine half-century after RCB found themselves in a deep ditch after losing their top three run-getters early in the chase. He gave evidence of his ability and the promise that made him a INR 4.2 Crore pick at the auction. Maybe, something for the team to look forward to in the next season.

What's on the highlights reel?

Virat Kohli's expressions

If you wanted any evidence of how a match was panning out for RCB, it was all played out on Virat Kohli's face. The delight, the frustration, the resignation - they were all on display. He didn't take it easy, and if he ever did, even that was screened on his face. To follow RCB, with all the drama, star power, and the relentless fan support has now become a signature feature in itself of the tournament. And the emotion of it all is worn proudly, almost compulsively, on the captain's face.

On a scale of 1 to 10...

Auction and retention strategy: 4/10

Trading Quinton de Kock to Mumbai Indians, as it proved in hindsight, wasn't the smartest move. But even without him, there were only two loopholes that they needed to fill - middle order and the death bowling. And they had all the moolah to fix that. But while they went all out to overstaff the former - bagging Shimron Hetmyer, Heinrich Klaasen, Marcus Stoinis, Shivam Dube and Akshdeep Nath - the latter remained unattended to. Not surprisingly, it was their bowling which let them down yet again.

Batting output: 6/10

Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers had reasonably good seasons, maybe not their finest, but good enough by the general standard of the tournament. With Parthiv, Moeen and Stoinis also coming good at times, the top order contributions were fairly good. But their inability to use their big-money signings - Dube, Nath and Hetmyer - well resulted in them giving below-par results.

Bowling prowess: 3/10

Beyond Yuzvendra Chahal, and the promise of Navdeep Saini, there was nothing going good for RCB's bowling. In the death overs, they conceded at a rate of 11.23, only shade better than KKR (11.25) and RR (11.34). Apart from Chahal, the remaining bowlers combined to take only 3.5 wickets per game in the 13 full games.

Overall performance: 5/10

They were easily the worst fielding side, possibly only better than KKR as a bowling unit. A lot went their way, a lot didn't. But even considering all the tactical blunders, it was only one poor call from the umpire that kept them from making it to the playoffs. But so small were the margins between the teams eventually that they have finished at the bottom of the table.

Is 2019 an improvement on 2018?

Certainly not. Having said that, while they have fallen two spots lower on the points table, their performances have almost been at par with what they showed last year. The problem, however, was that their pace bowling - even with the promise that Navdeep Saini showed - fell a few notches lower.

What next then?

Gary Kirsten has hinted at a need for some 'structural changes'. And key to that will be to give some continuity to the players. They will certainly need to beef up their bowling attack, especially with some good options for death bowling. But even with the likes of the domestic Indian batsmen, like Gurkeerat Singh, Akshdeep Nath and Shivam Dube, there needs to be better utilisation and assurance to them in their respective roles. Virat Kohli would've also realised that when they were out to 'enjoy their cricket', the results were more favourable for them. Less panic should certainly help.

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