Virat in fact is the only player (multiple editions) in the history of the IPL to have played for a single franchise. He has been with RCB since the inaugural season in 2008, when as a 19 year old he was picked up outside of the auction for Rs 12 lakh. Since then the current Indian captain has become synonymous with the RCB franchise and vice versa. In fact ahead of the 2011 IPL auction, RCB released all their other players, retaining only Virat.
Over the years, RCB has come close to winning that elusive IPL title, but haven’t managed to get their hands on the silverware. They have been runners-up thrice (2009, 2011, 2016). Out of 13 completed editions, they have finished in the top four six times.
Ahead of IPL 2021, timesofIndia.com ran a poll asking the fans if they thought we would see a brand new IPL champion this season and which team out of the three who are yet to win the title (RCB, DC & PK) has the best chance of breaking their jinx. The maximum votes were polled in favour of RCB, who narrowly beat DC.
Virat and his boys have delivered on those expectations big time so far in IPL 2021. For the first time ever RCB have won their first four matches on the trot in the IPL.
Last season they had a good start as well, winning three of their first four games. In 2020, RCB began with a 10 run win vs Sunrisers Hyderabad. That was followed by a 97 run thrashing at the hands of Punjab Kings. But then they quickly regrouped and bounced back to register a narrow win vs Mumbai Indians in the one over eliminator after the match was tied and then registered a comprehensive 8 wicket win vs Rajasthan Royals.
But this time they have kept their foot on the pedal and refused to let go of any momentum. They have begun their campaign this time with four consecutive wins (for the first time in their history). They began with a 2 wicket win vs defending champions Mumbai Indians, then followed that up with a 6 run win vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, a 38 run win vs Kolkata Knight Riders and a thumping 10 wicket win on Thursday vs the Rajasthan Royals that saw their NRR turn into a very healthy +1.009.
Over the years, RCB has boasted some of the best players from across the world. The likes of Virat, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle have all had very successful, very prolific runs with the franchise, but they haven’t managed to seal the deal. This season though, going by what we have seen so far, RCB seem to be ticking all the boxes and are looking like a very very confident team.
So who are the players who are stepping up to the plate and delivering this time?
One player who really seems to be relishing his new stint with the team is Glenn Maxwell. The Australian power hitter who was released by Punjab Kings after a well below par IPL 2020 outing, where he scored a total of 108 runs in 13 matches, has felt at home with RCB from day 1. In three innings so far this season he has already eclipsed his run tally from last season, so far scoring 176 runs. Last season, incredibly, Maxwell didn’t hit a single six. In IPL 2021 so far he has already smashed 8 sixes, He has played two match winning knocks of fifty plus in what were difficult batting conditions at the Chepauk. He currently sits in second position on the list of most runs this season, behind only Delhi’s Shikhar Dhawan. Maxwell’s fireworks and his ability to play shots around the ground add a new and very effective dimension to RCB’s arsenal.
Glenn Maxwell. (ANI Photo/IPL Twitter)
Then there is the captain himself. The ever reliable, ever prolific Virat Kohli. This season we have seen a much calmer, much more relaxed Virat on the field. The best attitude to have for a player who has already achieved so much is to believe that he doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone anymore and Virat seems to have embraced that thought process very well over the last few years. And that seems to have freed him up. With various players stepping up to the plate and delivering, Virat has had the crucial help he needs from the team. As far as his own batting form is concerned, he has already notched up 143 runs in 4 innings, with a highest score of 72*, smashing 15 fours and 3 sixes in the process. Virat’s decision to open the batting is also paying rich dividends. Just ask the Rajasthan Royals, who were handed a humbling 10 wicket loss on Thursday. The 181/0 on Thursday was RCB’s highest opening stand ever in the IPL. Before this game their highest first wicket partnership was 167 vs Pune Warriors in 2013 (Gayle & Dilshan). This in fact was only the fourth time that RCB managed to pull off a 10 wicket win ever in the IPL.
Virat Kohli. (PTI Photo for IPL)
Last season, we were all very impressed with young Devdutt Padikkal. He seems to be a finished product, ready to take on all kinds of challenges. The southpaw who overcame a bout of COVID-19, which also saw him miss RCB’s opening match this season, has made one of the opening slots his own. With Virat at the other end, Padikkal has played with freedom, composure and grace. He is only the second centurion this season after Sanju Samson (101* vs RR) and has also silenced the critics who felt that he can’t accelerate quickly. So far, in 3 innings, Padikkal has scored 137 runs, smashing 15 fours and 6 sixes.
Devdutt Padikkal. (PTI Photo for IPL)
Think RCB and you will think of the one and only AB de Villiers. The former South African cricketer who is thinking of making a comeback to international cricket for the T20 World Cup later this year is a tried and tested match winner. It’s not a surprise to see AB once again amongst the highest run getters this season (Currently 13th), with 125 runs in 3 innings, with a highest score of 76*. What AB brings to the table is priceless for Virat and RCB.
AB de Villiers. (ANI Photo/IPL Twitter)
One of the biggest strengths of the RCB line-up this season has been the way their fast bowlers have been delivering.
Harshal Patel, who has worked hard on his T20 bowling skills has developed into a death overs specialist. All 12 wickets he has taken so far in IPL 2021 have been taken in the second phase of an innings (Overs 11-20). No bowler this year has picked up more wickets in the above mentioned phase than Harshal. Virat is using him very wisely and Harshal is currently on top of the pile as far as wicket takers are concerned and is holding on to the purple cap.
Harshal Patel. (PTI Photo for IPL)
Then there is new addition Kyle Jamieson. The 6 foot 8 inch giant has been delivering consistently for RCB. He has taken 6 wickets so far in 4 games, with best figures of 3/41.
Kyle Jamieson. (ANI Photo/IPL Twitter)
And Mohammed Siraj is getting better with time. His incredible success on the tour of Australia in the Tests seems to have made him a much more confident bowler. And it’s showing in his performances. He has taken 5 wickets in 4 matches so far, with best figures of 3/27.
Mohammed Siraj. (PTI Photo for IPL)
A lot of things have to go your way for your team to open its campaign with four wins on the trot and claim the top spot. There’s no doubt that RCB have the momentum and they are not willing to let go of it. The battle of momentum currently seems to be between RCB, CSK (3 wins in 4 games) and DC (3 wins in 4 games).
Last season RCB just about managed to make the cut for the top four, pipping KKR on NRR, but then lost the eliminator vs SRH. This time they find themselves as the only unbeaten team after all franchises have played 4 matches each and on top of the points table.
Often in the past RCB has let close matches slip through their fingers. This time they seem determined to not let that happen. The first two wins this season (by 2 wickets vs MI & by 6 runs vs SRH) are examples of that.
It’s so far so good for Virat and his boys. Will this finally be the season that they break their title jinx?