If Not Kohli Who? Lack Of Reliable Indian Batters Continues To Haunt RCB

Royal Challengers Bengaluru's game against Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League 2024 on Monday again laid bare its middle order problems and the lack of trusted Indian names apart from Virat Kohli in the batting lineup.

Credit: X/@RCBTweets
Virat Kohli Photo: Credit: X/@RCBTweets

In modern T20 cricket, teams regularly chase 200-plus totals and if there is one ground where the chasing team would back itself to reach any target it would be the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. (More Cricket News | Full IPL coverage)

On Monday when Royal Challengers Bengaluru were set a 178-run target by the Punjab Kings, it seemed like a below-par total. However RCB, being RCB, could reach the target only in the final over courtesy a late flurry by Dinesh Karthik and Mahipal Lomror. Two quickfire cameos were needed to drag RCB over the line despite Virat Kohli scoring a magnificent 49-ball 77 opening the inning.

The game again laid bare RCB's middle order problems and the lack of trusted Indian names apart from the former Indian captain in the batting lineup. RCB's lack of big Indian names was underlined by a stat that trended ahead of their game against the Kings.

After Virat Kohli, the leading run scorer in the Indian Premier League with over 7,000 runs, the second-most succesful Indian batter for the franchise is the now India coach Rahul Dravid. Dravid's aggregate of 898 is the second highest for an Indian in RCB in its 17-year history. There is no Indian batter apart from Kohli who has scored even a thousand runs for the franchise!

Australian legend and IPL winning captain Adam Gilchrist while talking to former England skipper Michael Vaughan also put light on the same issue.

Where is the problem?

With seven Indian players taking the field every game, the value of local talent in IPL is massive and every successful IPL team has boasted of a core of Indian players who have done the job for them. RCB has not been able to build such a core.

It is not that RCB have not signed good Indian talent. They had had in the past local players who with time developed into match winners for other franchises.

Manish Pandey, the first Indian to score a ton in the tournament, played for RCB. Robin Utthappa, who went on to have a great time with Kolkata Knight Riders, also was with the franchise in its initial days. RCB splurged massive amounts of money to get Yuvraj Singh. KL Rahul played a key role in the middle order in the fairytale 2016 season for the franchise. Parthiv Patel, Devdutt Padikkal, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh were also parts of the franchise at one point or the other.

With proper backing a lot of these players could have fit into the franchise nicely and become exactly what the team needed. A reliable Indian face.

So what happened?

Mega Auctions force teams to get rid of much of their talent. Add the fact that RCB have always been in a desperate search of the trophy and you get a team that has to try things differently every time they get a chance. Since they remained without the title, they could not just retain a lot of players like Mumbai Indians or Chennnai Super Kings. So, while some of the Indian names like Yuvraj Singh could not justify their price tags and were thus released, most of the Indian players had to be released because the franchise decided to go into the auction with a clean slate and lot of money.

With AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle already among the first names on the retention list apart from Kohli, the franchise had to make some hard choices in the run up to the mega auctions. And those choices have not always turned out to be great ones like retaining Sarfaraz Khan ahead of KL Rahul before the 2018 mega auctions.

The lack of trophies and the lack of trust in the players meant that among Indians only Kohli was left to do all the heavy lifting with the bat. The result of that is that now Kohli is the most successful batter in IPL while none of his Indian RCB teammates has even 1000 runs to show.

The franchise has currently posed its faith in Rajat Patidar, but how long this association will last remains to be seen.