Poor use of local talent, bad auction decisions have cost Royal Challengers Bangalore dear in IPL

Royal Challengers Bangalore have epitomised the worst of Indian sport, with its ‘chalta hai [it works]’ attitude this season. (AFP)
Updated 21 May 2018
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Poor use of local talent, bad auction decisions have cost Royal Challengers Bangalore dear in IPL

  • 2018 debacle – eight losses in 14 games – follows on the heels of a 2017 season where they won just three matches
  • Bangalore, both in terms of recruitment and on-field execution, were well off the pace in this year's IPL

The city of Bangalore can now boast of two extremely popular sports teams.
The football team, Bengaluru FC, has only been in existence since 2013. But that half-decade has been enough for them to become a beacon for Indian football, a role model of professionalism — the previous absence of which contributed so much to the slide down the world rankings from the 1970s.
The cricket team, in contrast, has epitomised the worst of Indian sport, with its ‘chalta hai (it works)’ attitude.
That would seem excessive criticism of a franchise that has reached three finals in 11 seasons (losing them all), but if you scratch beneath the surface, it is always individual brilliance rather than a robust team ethos that has been responsible for the team’s crests.
The 2018 debacle – eight losses in 14 games – follows on the heels of a 2017 season where they won just three matches. Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have finished sixth or worse in three of the five seasons where Daniel Vettori has been coach.
Qualifying for the playoffs in 2015, and reaching the final a year later on the back of Virat Kohli’s 973 runs, was largely down to the triumvirate of Kohli, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle being in such formidable touch.
The captain too cannot be exempt from blame. But this season, there were extenuating circumstances.
While the auction was going on in Bangalore in January, Kohli’s full focus was trained on a Wanderers Test that he was determined to win.
When asked a question about the IPL after the match was won, he brushed it off with a curt answer of “Sir, please don’t ask me such things now.”
Bangalore’s auction missteps were cruelly apparent on Saturday evening, as two Karnataka players combined to knock them out.
Shreyas Gopal and Krishnappa Gowtham have never worn RCB colors. It cost Rajasthan Royals 62 million rupees ($910,000) to sign Gowtham, but Gopal came at his base price of two million rupees.
The spin web they spun – 6 for 23 in six overs – illustrated Bangalore’s inability to make best use of local talent. Three of the Indian spinners RCB signed – Pawan Negi, Washington Sundar and Murugan Ashwin – for a combined cost of 64 million rupees ended up bowling 31 overs across the season.
Of course, you cannot be too parochial when it comes to professional sport. The National Football League’s two greatest quarterbacks – Joe Montana and Tom Brady – both crossed the width of a continent to script their legends.
Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles were not born within a goal kick of Hackney or Islington. And Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona certainly were not all about the boys from La Masia.
But in Bangalore’s case, despite Karnataka having enjoyed some excellent seasons in domestic cricket this decade, there has been a marked reluctance to pick the players for RCB. Even those that did play and shine, like KL Rahul, who made 397 runs for them in 2016, were not retained.
Instead, RCB’s third retention card in 2018 was spent on Sarfaraz Khan, who finished the season with 51 runs. Rahul already has 652.
Vettori succeeded Ray Jennings in January 2014, the man who had taken them to two finals in 2009 and 2011.
A year later, when Kohli was handed the Test reins by India, Jennings told The Indian Express how Kohli had been instrumental in him losing his job.
“People generally don’t like being questioned and pointed out their shortcomings, but I knew what I did was for his, and the team’s, well-being,” he said. “But as a captain, he has the right to work with the people he is comfortable with and I have no complaints.”
Gary Kirsten, who took India to the No.1 ranking in Tests and helped win a World Cup in 2011, joined RCB this season as mentor and batting coach.
In the T20 format, Kirsten has a wretched record. India failed to make it out of the Super Eights at the World T20 in both 2009 and 2010, and his two seasons with the Delhi Daredevils were nothing short of a disaster.
Vettori’s attempt to spread his wings with Middlesex last summer saw him finish with a 5-7 win-loss record.
The successful teams long ago realized that T20 is a separate sport, where success depends on good scouting and use of analytics.
Pedigree in the longer forms is no guarantee for success in T20, where the name of the game is tactical innovation.
Bangalore, both in terms of recruitment and on-field execution, are well off the pace.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 41 min 45 sec ago
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”