Saturday, 5 May 2018

Oh...! the agony of being an RCB fan!

The pain... the suffering... the agony... of being an RCB fan is beyond description.

Consider this: Glamorous big-ticket franchise - on paper.  Marquee players, with 2 best batsmen in the world - on paper.  Hype and hoopla, bold proclamations - on paper.  #eesalacupnamde and #playbold - on (e-)paper.  'Pirate' cheerleaders with the guy in the middle (!), trying to be funny with the slogans with godawful dance moves - on paper... okay, the last one is on stage. 

But NOTHING on the ground.  Zero results to show.  Not a single silverware in the cupboard since the last 11 years. 

No doubt, RCB have come close on a few occasions, but have not provided the finishing flourish.  If ever there was a team in the IPL that flatters to deceive its fans, it must be RCB.

Kevin Pietersen said during the beginning of this year's (2018) IPL that 'the potential of this team is sky high'.  Sadly that potential has also remained only on paper. 

They may yet turn a corner this year, but it is highly unlikely (they have just lost the return match against CSK on 5th May as I write this).

Year after year, for the diehard RCB fan, it is a familiar story: more misses than hits, agony as the batsmen fall cheaply to innocuous bowlers, further misery as bowlers get tonked and are not disciplined enough to maintain a steady line and length, wides-galore down the leg-side, no-balls at inopportune moments, dropped catches...

Having said that, one also has to consider the luck of the team; the X-factor, or the mysterious element that is required to win a cricket tournament - especially considering the topsy-turvy nature of cricket - is eminently missing for RCB.

I have closely watched RCB's performance in this year's IPL, and what else but ill-luck could be the reason for these fiascos:

1. Out-of-form batsmen of other team regain their touch and suddenly start playing extraordinary shots (have you ever seen Sanju Samson play a better innings than the one against RCB?).

2. NONE of the changes in the RCB side - whether it is batting order, field placements, or bowling options - work out when it matters.  One loses count of the number of opening options RCB have tried in this edition of IPL.  They are still searching for the ideal playing 11.

3. Retained players have been failures.  Sarfaraz Khan and Pavan Negi, who were retained have not delivered.

4. On the other hand, those that were let go - Shane Watson and Chris Gayle - are in the form of their lives and have notched up centuries for their respective franchises.

5. Some players have ended up being mere travellers with confusing roles.  Why was Washington Sundar picked?  He is said to be a good power-play bowler, but he has not bowled often at any stage of the innings, let alone power-play.  He is said to be a good batsman who can score briskly, but he has not been tried as a pinch-hitter opener.

6. Much was said about the improvement in the bowling department after the purchases in the big auction in April this year.  But it continues to be a familiar sob story: bowlers getting thrashed in the death overs. 

7. RCB boasts of having the 2 best batsmen in the world.  Indeed, many non-Bengalureans are fans of RCB only because of Virat Kohli and A B deVilliers.  Sadly, even 2 koels do not a monsoon make.  It takes more than these 2 to win the matches.  If these 2 fall early (as it happened in today's match against CSK), you can pretty much forget about the rest of them stepping up.
One also has to ask what is it that the other teams are doing right that RCB aren't?  Granted, that the format is tough and 'it is not an easy tournament, man' as Ashwin put it after King's XI's loss against MI.  But still there is something that the others are doing better than what we are.  

Take Chennai Super Kings for example.  They are returning to the tournament after 2 years.  But they didn't have to 'rebuild'.  They just teed off where they left off, and started winning matches straight away.  Dhoni, who must be an avatar of Cricket God, has led them well, and whatever the man has touched has turned to gold - especially against RCB, whom he has simply tormented this year.  Kolkata Knight Riders, who had a poor run in the first few years, brought in changes in the team management and structure.  They turned around their fortunes and went on to win the cup twice.

Mumbai Indians are masters at nearly exiting the tournament and staging remarkable comebacks; they are well on their way to doing this again this year.  King's XI Punjab have changed their team considerably and built a balanced batting/bowling unit.  Even Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals have performed well at times.  Sun Risers Hyderabad have been good as gold in spite of the fact that they do not have David Warner.  They are sitting pretty at the top of the table.  In fact, as things stand now, it may be tempting to hold the finals between SRH and CSK, and be done with the whole damn thing!

In all this, the frustrated, agonized RCB fan may well tear his hair out and say, WHY NOT RCB???!!  Why are they not improving?  

In the absence of any other sane or rational explanation, one is left wondering if the fortunes of the main man at the helm of affairs of RCB - the inglorious position of its owner-in-exile - has anything to do with the fate of the team itself.

A cursory look at the RCB website suggests that United Spirits Limited are still the 'founding partners' of the franchise.  One has to question where this franchise is headed.  What is the fate of this franchise that promises so much, but delivers so little?  Who are the men behind the team; the think tank, the people who matter, those who call the shots behind the scenes?  What are they doing, year after year, as the franchise flounders from one disastrous outing to another?  

All we get to see is the coaching team: Daniel Vettori who is always inscrutable, Ashish Nehra who is always seen saying something to Vettori/Kohli (what does he talk about?!), and now they have added Gary Kirsten to the team (what is his role, exactly?).

Empty proclamations about 'play bold', go green initiatives, birthday dedications, harping about flash-in-the-pan performances, and even individual records of marquee players are not going to cut it.  

We need that elusive cup!

Yes, the fans are asking for changes.  They are getting impatient.  Heads may have to roll.  Radical changes may have to be made to the team management, ethos, team constitution.  

Dare I say it, the franchise probably needs rescuing from the owner/s.  Yes... play bold RCB.  Do something... soon.

Otherwise, forget eesala, yaavasalaanu cup namdagalla!

Image source: