Mohammed Siraj and Co deserve as much credit as Virat Kohli and Rajat Patidar for RCB’s turnaround in IPL 2024

    Mohammed Siraj and Co deserve as much credit as Virat Kohli and Rajat Patidar for RCB’s turnaround in IPL 2024

    While Virat Kohli, Rajat Patidar and Will Jacks deserve all the accolades for leading RCB’s splendid fightback in the tournament, the contribution of the bowlers in the team’s revival is also worthy of some praise and credit. Mohammed Siraj and co. were written off after their shocking display with the ball in the first half of the season but have displayed great courage and character and reversed their dwindling fortunes dramatically thereafter.

    The shocking first half

    Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s Mohammed Siraj(AFP)

    8 matches, 7 losses and one solitary win – the Royal Challengers Bengaluru were down and out and having a nightmare of a tournament. It was the usual script playing out for them again this season – a top-heavy batting line-up which fired consistently but failed to cover for the insipid bowling unit adequately.

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    RCB picked just 34 wickets in their first eight matches – the fewest amongst all teams in the tournament, had the worst bowling average (47.5) and the worst bowling strike rate (26.5). Not only were their bowlers not providing the breakthroughs, but were also very expensive and had an economy of 10.8 – again, the worst in the first half of the competition. They leaked the most runs in the powerplay and were also amongst the two most expensive bowling units at the death.

    The biggest disappointment with the ball for the Challengers during this time-frame was Siraj. One of the best with the new ball last season, Siraj had completely lost his rhythm and confidence this year. He bagged just two wickets in the powerplay in as many as 13 overs and was also taken apart conceding at 11 per over. Alzarri Joseph, who was roped in as a death overs’ specialist, was getting tonked in the last four overs. There was no high-quality spinner who could pick wickets and restrict the opposition batters in the middle-overs – a role Yuzvendra Chahal excelled in for RCB over the years.

    RCB were in the doldrums. They needed to win every match from hereon to have any chance of making the playoffs.

    The stunning fightback

    Will Jacks was given the first over to counter the rampaging SRH opening pair of Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma and struck immediately, getting rid of the Australian for just one. Yash Dayal got rid of the dangerous Sharma in the fourth over. Slow left-arm orthodox, Swapnil Singh, then saw the back of Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen in the next over. RCB had bagged four wickets in the powerplay against the most explosive batting unit in the tournament in their own backyard.

    It was their best display (in terms of number of wickets) in this phase of play in the competition. SRH could never recover from the initial damage and were comprehensively beaten by 35 runs. The win changed something in RCB. It gave them self-belief. It triggered a chain reaction through their bowling unit raising their collective performance.

    RCB has picked 41 opposition wickets in their last five encounters – the most for any team in the tournament in this time-frame. Their bowling average of 20.5 is also the best while their strike rate of 14 places them in the top two alongside the Knight Riders. Their economy rate has come down from 10.8 in the first eight matches to just 8.8 (the second-best after CSK) in the last five. The RCB bowlers are now conceding a boundary every 5.1 deliveries compared to 4.1 before.

    Most wickets in the powerplay

    The biggest transformation in the RCB bowling unit can be seen in their numbers in the powerplay in the last five matches. No team has bagged more wickets than RCB’s 14 in the first 6 overs in this time-frame. Remarkably, the RCB bowlers are also amongst the most restrictive in this phase of play with an economy rate of 8.5, which is just marginally higher than SRH (8.3) and CSK (8.4).

    While Swapnil Singh has picked the most wickets in the powerplay, it is Yash Dayal who has been the most impressive in this phase of play conceding just 7 per over in the last five innings.

    Most economical in the death overs

    Another area of their bowling which has transformed completely in the last five matches is their economy in the death overs. RCB is the most restrictive bowling unit in this time-frame in the final 4 overs with an economy rate of just 8. Siraj has led the way in this phase of play conceding just 51 runs in 7 overs at an outstanding economy rate of 7.3 – he has made up for his lack of wickets in the first 6 overs by choking the flow of runs in the last 4!

    Their biggest test might still await RCB. They will clash with arch-rivals CSK at home on Saturday in what will potentially be a blockbuster shootout for the playoffs. However, if they prevail, it will be the greatest comeback by a team in the history of the IPL! And the RCB bowlers would have played their part in it.

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