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

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.

Woods ready for leap into unknown at fan-free major

Updated 06 August 2020

Woods ready for leap into unknown at fan-free major

  • Woods experienced new fan-less reality at the Memorial Tournament last month

SAN FRANCISCO: Tiger Woods is preparing for a journey into the unknown as he heads into this week's PGA Championship hunting for a 16th major championship against the surreal backdrop of a deserted course at TPC Harding Park.

Throughout his career, the 44-year-old former world No. 1 has become accustomed to roaring galleries following his every shot, providing a jolt of energy that Woods has fed off time and again.

Yet this week's PGA Championship in San Francisco will be different.

Restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 mean that the first major of 2020 will be a fan-free, muted affair.

Woods got an early taste of his changed environment on Tuesday during a media briefing. Where in the past a scrum of reporters would have attended, on Tuesday only a handful of journalists were present.

"Well, that's an unknown," Woods said when asked about how the absence of fans might affect his chances.

"I don't know if anyone in our generation has ever played without fans in a major championship. It's going to be very different.

"But it's still a major championship. It's still the best players in the world. We all understand that going into it, so there's going to be plenty of energy from the competitive side.

"But as far as the energy outside the ropes, that is an unknown. And hopefully I can put myself in a position where I can be in that position where I can feel what it feels like to have no fans and also coming down the stretch with a chance to win."

Woods' former caddie, New Zealander Steve Williams, is among those who believe that the lack of fans might prove to be a hindrance.

"With that element missing, for someone who hasn't played a lot of tournament golf this year, it'll be challenging for Tiger to find that spark he needs," Williams said this week.

Woods experienced new fan-less reality at the Memorial Tournament last month, at Muirfield Village, in Dublin, Ohio. He finished tied for 40th.

"Those four days at Muirfield were a bit different," Woods said.

"It reminded me of sometimes on the weekend, you'd tee off Saturday morning and you'd just barely make the cut and you're first off and there's no one out there.

"But generally by the time you make the back nine, there's thousands of people out there on the golf course waiting for the leaders to tee off.”

"But that never happened. So that's the new world we live in. We just have to get used to it."

Woods, meanwhile, has one eye on this week's weather forecast in San Francisco, with the former world No. 1's lower back notoriously vulnerable to the cooler temperatures expected.

"When it's cooler like this, it's just making sure that my core stays warm, layering up properly," said Woods.

"I know I won't have the same range of motion as I would back home in Florida where it's 95 every day. That's just the way it is."

Woods, who underwent spinal fusion surgery to rescue his career, said he had spent most of his downtime during the pandemic practising at home.

"I feel good," he said. "Obviously I haven't played much competitively, but I've been playing a lot at home.

"Just trying to get my way back into this part of the season. This is what I've been gearing up for. We've got a lot of big events starting from here, so looking forward to it. This is going to be a fun test for all of us."