Bengaluru: Royal Challengers Bangalore, for all their flash and dash, glitz and glamour, choreographed one of the biggest flop shows of the 2014 Indian Premier League-7 (IPL-7) by finishing seventh out of eight teams with five wins and nine defeats - a record that defied all expectations and explanations.
Virat Kohli. Pic/AFP
It will take a lot out of Virat Kohli's squad to rise from the depths of despair to at least become competitive, much less win their maiden IPL title this season, during which the team can expect to be under closer scrutiny than ever before.
The biggest story that RCB provided last season was when they bought Yuvraj Singh for Rs.14 crore, a move that they soon began to regret notwithstanding the public show of support to the all-rounder, whose scratchy efforts fetched him a mere 376 runs (average 34.18, strike rate 132.25) and five wickets (economy 8.25) in 14 matches.
The team did not even blink twice to release Yuvraj along with six others for the 2015 auction. It is another matter that Delhi Daredevils outbid RCB to buy Yuvraj for an astronomical Rs 16 crore.
Last season, RCB were hurt by the poor form of their top batsmen, notably Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Kohli himself while the bowling attack, despite the presence of Mitchell Starc, Varun Aaron and Yuzvendra Chahal, lacked conviction. Consequently, the team stumbled from one defeat to the next for their worst-ever performance in the IPL.
Gayle, nursing injuries, managed just 196 runs from nine matches last season, against tallies of 608 in 2011, 733 in 2012 and 708 in 2013.
His loss of form, which continues to be iffy going by his performance in the recent World Cup, could yet be a major source of concern for RCB, who might have to look beyond the giant Jamaican to reinforce their top order batting.
However, with the Aussie quick Starc, the Player of the Tournament at the World Cup, in good nick as also fellow-seamer Aaron who has recovered from an injury that cut short his Test series in Australia, RCB will be hoping for better results this season.
At this year's auction, RCB sought to add some steel to the line-up by picking up two all-rounders in West Indian Darren Sammy and young South African David Wiese, besides two quicks in Sean Abbott (South Africa) and Kiwi Adam Milne. Wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik was their most expensive purchase at Rs 10.5 crore.
On the face of it, RCB appears much better placed this season to make a strong bid for the title, but they would be first to acknowledge that eventually, performance and not reputations or price tags that matter.
In this regard, Kohli will be facing one of the biggest challenges of his IPL career to transform the team from an also-ran outfit into a winning combination.
Another factor could be the trials and tribulations of RCB owner Vijay Mallaya, whose UB group had been going through a series of financial difficulties for the past many months.
Indian Players: Virat Kohli (captain), Varun Aaron, Ashoke Dinda, Harshal Patel, Vijay Zol, Abu Nechim, Sandeep Warrier, Yogesh Takawale, Yuzvendra Chahal, Iqbal Abdulla, Manvinder Bisla, Mandeep Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Subramaniam Badrinath, Sarfaraz Khan, Jalaj Saxena, Shishir Bhavane.
Foreign signings: AB de Villiers (South Africa), Chris Gayle (West Indies), Mitchell Starc (Australia), Nic Maddinson (Australia), Rilee Rossouw (South Africa), Daren Sammy (West Indies), David Wiese (South Africa), Sean Abbott (Australia), Adam Milne (New Zealand).
Team Schedule - Home: vs Sunrisers (April 13), Mumbai Indians (April 19), Chennai Super Kings (April 22), Rajasthan Royals (April 29), Kolkata Knight Riders (May 2), Kings XI Punjab (May 6), Delhi Daredevils (May 17)
Away: vs Kolkata Knight Riders (April 11), Rajasthan Royals (April 24, Ahmedabad), Delhi Daredevils (April 26), Chennai Super Kings (May 4), Mumbai Indians (May 10), Kings XI Punjab (May 13), Sunrisers Hyderabad (May 15)
IPL Record: 2008-7th; 2009-2nd; 2010-3rd; 2011-2nd; 2012-5th; 2013-5th; 2014-7th