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IPL 2024

Maxwell has only scored 32 runs in six innings but Bobat maintained he remains an integral part of RCB's line-up.

Maxwell has only scored 32 runs in six innings but Bobat maintained he remains an integral part of RCB’s line-up. © BCCI/IPL

Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s Director of Cricket Mo Bobat said on Sunday (April 14) there was no hiding from the fact that the team have not played as they had envisaged ahead of IPL 2024. Closing in on the half-way mark of the league phase, RCB find themselves at the bottom of the standings with a solitary win from six games, including four losses on the bounce.

It’s been a start to forget for the team, who have sifted through 19 different players already – one short of Delhi Capitals’ 20, a selection roulette that has also consumed both of their big-money pre-season signings, Alzarri Joseph and Cam Green. Counter-intuitive to the theory of settled sides, Bobat said more personnel switches could be in the offing, starting from Monday night’s game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, as RCB look to arrest the freefall that has been this league campaign since an early win against Punjab Kings.

“We need to start winning some games. Look, we’re obviously getting close to the halfway point of the competition. And there’s no hiding away from the fact that we haven’t played the way we want to play,” Bobat said. “When you go into the competition, you work out what you think your best chances of winning are. We came into this competition in the last year of an auction cycle, you go to the auction, you improve the team, the best you can, you set the strategy, and you come in and you expect to deliver. Now, we haven’t played the way we want to play. That’s up there.

“What you try to do then as you try and look at different selection options, different combinations, you try and help the players improve. But ultimately, the players would be expecting to go out and deliver probably better than they have done. So it’s our job to support them. With our coaching, our support, we’ve already looked at a couple of different personnel changes. And we’ll continue to think about whether any selection changes can enhance the team.

“And in Andy [Flower, Head Coach], we’ve got one of the best head coaches in the world who’s very good at improving players and improving teams. And he’s trying his best and exhausting every opportunity possible, along with his coaches and support staff so that we can try and turn this around. And if we can start by getting a win in the next game, which is all you can think about is the game in front of you, you hope you can start to build some momentum. But in competitions like this, negative momentum can build up quickly. And you want to try and switch that to get some positive momentum.”

The trouble for RCB is that there are no easy fixes with both the batting and bowling departments floundering simultaneously. After the recent defeat to Mumbai Indians, captain Faf du Plessis served a damning verdict of the bowling, stating there were no real weapons in there and implored the batters to take up more of the heavy-lifting and consistently chase above-par totals. RCB have taken the fewest wickets so far and have been the most expensive team in the PowerPlays with Mohammed Siraj, their specialist, conceding at 12.3 in the phase, up from an outstanding 5.93 last season. The batting, on the other hand, has been laid low by another star player, Glenn Maxwell’s poor form – 32 runs from six innings.

“Look, firstly, he’s [Maxwell] disappointed. He obviously has high standards and he has had a very impressive 12 to 24 months. And he’s in our planning a really important part of our batting line-up. Obviously, he’s an allrounder, but an important part of our batting line-up, particularly in those middle overs where we want to be able to attack spin in particular, [against] which he is one of the best players in the world. So up until now, we’re trying to support him as best we can and try and help him find his best form,” Bobat said.

“Siraj also feels that he hasn’t been himself. It’s our job to try and get him up. I think we all know Mohammed Siraj is one player when he’s on song, we can see his rhythm, his body language.

“There are a lot of champion cricketers in our team and our squad, but we haven’t played at that level. So it’s our job and the captain is trying to get the best out of them. So in terms of strategy, we’re looking for performance improvements, we’re trying to get to a positive powerplay, we’re trying to make sure that the opposition is under pressure in the middle overs, and we have been able to finish strong. Our middle to lower order has played well so far. I think that has been more of a positive. So try and make sure that we can get that lower order still firing. And then we want to be able to bowl with aggressive intention. We want to take more wickets. I think the way the IPL has gone with impact players, I don’t think you can just try and not concede rules anymore. I think the best way to not concede runs is to take wickets because if you try to not concede runs, then they’ve got the impact player coming in, and there’s eight batters, maybe nine batters coming up at you.”

The trouble for RCB, as ever, is that the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium offers no home comforts, with its short boundaries and the thin air through which balls fly. RCB have already lost two of the three games they’ve played here. In previous seasons, the pitches played truer. This year, they’ve been two-paced, especially in the first innings of games, making the toss even more of a decisive factor. The Delhi Capitals envisioned similar pitch fatigue at the Arun Jaitley Stadium and opted to play two home games at Vizag to start the season.

“I think from our perspective what we’ve tried to do is try to have pitches that have pace and bounce on them, hopefully, because we have seam bowling heavy and we have top-order batters that are really good against pace bowling. So we try to have it that way,” Bobat said.

“We haven’t always got that here. That’s not that easy, we try to work closely with the curator to try and make sure we get exactly what we want and to be fair to him and his team, they’re trying really hard to try and deliver that for us and they are certainly doing their best. But obviously, at this stage of the year, there’s been a lot of cricket on this square. The WPL was here, a lot of domestic cricket. We’re trying to get conditions to match our strengths. But the simple answer is that it’s not that easy to gain home advantage at the Chinnaswamy. Because it’s a small ground, it’s a good leveller, it’s the sort of place where everybody fancies having a go at a big score and if you get on the wrong side of the toss, it can be difficult to defend. So it’s not an easy place but we’ve got to be prepared for that challenge.”

While form, squad strength, conditions as well as history may be stacked against them, but Bobat and the rest of the RCB management are unwilling to throw in the towel on the season just yet and turn the focus to planning for 2025.

“We’re not thinking that. As far as I’m concerned, we started this campaign with 14 group games and the aim was to finish in the playoffs and all of that was in our own hands,” Bobat said. “We sit here with eight games to go with an aim to get into the playoffs and that is also in our hands. There’s a point when it’s not in our hands, that’s when you might think differently. Right now it’s in our hands and we have to believe. That’s the clear message we’ve given to the team. There’s also not that much of a point of looking at it as a free play for next year because you’ve got a big auction up, things will change. Every team will have a blank canvas to look at their resources. Right now the focus is on this season and in particular the next game. Certainly, we’re not giving up in our changeroom.”

© Cricbuzz

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