S. SOORAJ | 12th October 2021

Before the commencement of the second phase of the IPL, no one would have expected KKR to have a better season than RCB. Bangalore were looming at the top half of the table with 5 wins in 7 games. On the contrary, Kolkata had lost 5 of their 7 games.

It has been an interesting turn of events as the Knight Riders vanquished the Royal Challengers in a low-scoring thriller to seal a spot in the Qualifier 2 clash against Delhi Capitals on Wednesday.

Before we head into that game, let’s take a look at the 5 talking points from a hard-fought victory for KKR against as it’s heartbreak season once again for RCB.

KKR’s spin trio posed questions that RCB’s batsmen had no answers to

One of the main strengths in KKR’s comeback trail has been its exceptional spin bowling unit. Varun Chakravarthy and Sunil Narine have been sensational for the men in purple, and adding Shakib Al Hasan into the mix makes it the closest thing to unplayable.

While these 3 spinners have been scintillating all tournament, they took it up a notch in the Eliminator against RCB. Conceding a mere 65 runs in their 12 overs as a whole, the trio had the Bangalore batting line-up in a chokehold.

Eoin Morgan needs to be credited for the way he rotated the spinners, bowling them right from the 1st over till 17th, keeping the strike rate of the RCB batsmen impressively low.

Sunil Narine was easily the pick amongst the bowlers with a cracking 4/21 spell. Despite taking the crucial wickets of Virat Kohli, Glen Maxwell, Srikar Bharat and AB de Villers, Narine walked away with a face as expressionless as a postman who has just delivered the mail.

It’s not as easy as Narine, alongside Chakravarthy and Shakib are making it look.

Ironically enough, RCB’s batting cost them this season

The only problem with this Royal Challengers Bangalore team is that they do not have enough quality batsmen at their disposal to cement an unbreachable core, or a top 6 in cricketing terms.

This has always been symptomatic of RCB’s cursed journey throughout the IPL and it was Groundhog Day again.

The team clearly lacked a proper finisher as a below-par score is what they had to settle with, making it impossible for even a splendid bowling attack like Bangalore’s to do the business.

The Royal Challengers have looked iffy ever since the beginning of the second phase of the tournament and the drop of form of two of their major batsmen in Padikkal and de Villiers are central to their struggles. Kohli also didn’t have the greatest of seasons, putting the entire burden of the side on the bullish Glen Maxwell.

And while Maxwell has delivered for RCB time and again, it was a rare off day for him against KKR and it cost a batting line-up that you’d be silly to put your money on.

Is Morgan a liability with the bat?

While the plaudits to his captaincy are very well-deserved, we never got to see Eoin Morgan, the batsman throughout this tournament. He has had a torrid IPL, scoring a shocking 129 runs in the 11 games.

The World Cup winner has looked a shadow of his imperious self with the bat and the question is- could KKR field a much better XI out there without their captain?

While chasing a target of 139 should never be a difficult task, KKR made it as challenging as possible, dragging the game through to the last over. Morgan had the chance to put the game away but once again, the KKR skipper failed to rise to the task.

Thanks to the experience of Shakib Al Hasan, the Knight Riders could see through the game, but the road was bumpy to say the least.

With the likes of talented overseas batsmen like Andre Russell and Tim Seifert out on the bench, is playing an out-of-sorts Morgan justified?

Even an impeccable pace duo like Harshal and Siraj wasn’t enough

Both Mohammed Siraj and Harshal Patel were in sublime touch once again the eliminator against KKR, much like they have been throughout the tournament. The pair was economical as per usual and took 2 wickets apiece, not letting the game slip away in KKR’s favor.

However, that certainly wasn’t enough for the men in red as their below-par first innings score of 138 was simply too low to defend.

In the past, a poor bowling unit has cost RCB the IPL title way too many times. This time around, it is the batting that has disappointed an excellent pace attack where Harshal Patel, in particular bagged 32 wickets, the joint most in IPL history.

While Siraj’s 11 wickets may not blow your minds at first glance, his inch-perfect consistency would have. Tipping our hats to RCB’s excellent pacemen feels pertinent, despite yet another sad ending to things.

It’s the end of an era for the Royal Challengers Bangalore

Yes, it’s real. That was the last time we saw Virat Kohli lead the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. Before the commencement of the second phase of the IPL, Kohli had announced that he would be stepping down as RCB’s captain after the current IPL season, but will however remain a part of the side until the end of his career in the biggest T20 tournament.

Even though his 9 years at the helm as RCB captain remained trophyless, Kohli’s status as an icon can never be questioned.

Under their lionhearted leader, Bangalore rose to incredible heights, always playing a fiery brand of cricket, with his genius shining through.

In the 2016 edition of the tournament where King Kohli was at his unplayable best, smashing 973 runs in 16 innings at an average of 81.08, Bangalore still fell to the sword at the final hurdle as they tasted defeat by 8 runs to champions SRH.  

Moving on from one RCB legend to another, this might also be the last time we see AB de Villiers in red, as a mega0auction awaits next season.

It is painstaking to see such an iconic duo that has given memories upon memories be likely to be separated but it’s essential to remember one thing.

Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.