What is the way forward for Royal Challengers Bengaluru after IPL 2024 exit?

Virat Kohli had a superb season but squad had too many holes and franchise needs to hit the reset button

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All good things come to an end, and so did Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s incredible run in this year’s Indian Premier League.

After losing seven of their first eight matches, Bengaluru were getting ready to pack their bags and plan for the next season, aiming to use the remainder of the tournament to simply assess who to retain next year.

With their backs to the wall and against incredible odds, RCB went on a run of six wins on the bounce, including a cathartic win over Chennai Super Kings that gave them the last playoffs spot at the expense of their extraordinarily successful neighbours.

Maybe this was the year the stars finally aligned for the team with the arguably most ardent fan base in franchise cricket. But the Eliminator against Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday quickly put an end to any bubbling ambitions as Bengaluru exited the tournament following a four-wicket loss.

With the season done and dusted, we take a look at the way forward for the franchise ahead of the mega auction next year where all teams will hit the reset button and get a chance to rebuild their squad from the ground up.

Trust in Kohli

Virat Kohli still dominates the headlines one way or the other. Even if he scores runs, questions are then raised about his strike rate or apparent struggles against certain kinds of spin. The bottom line is Kohli amassed 741 runs from 15 innings at an average of 61 and a strike rate of almost 155. That is stupendous by any metric.

The 35-year-old easily has three to four more years of top level batting left in him and even diminishing returns would produce a 500-run season. Whatever RCB do, just let Kohli be and allow him to galvanise the squad in his own way – either with the bat or through his emotions on the field. He is the glue that binds the franchise together.

Focus on local talent and bowling

One of the biggest mistakes RCB have made over the years is focusing on established stars and batting, while almost neglecting bowling and backing local players.

Teams like Kolkata, Hyderabad and Rajasthan have invested heavily on local players, especially those unknown at international level, and they have delivered at various stages this year. Abhishek Sharma, Harshit Rana, Nitish Reddy and Riyan Parag are some of the beneficiaries of that backing.

It is simple mathematics. A playing XI can have at most four overseas players, which means the majority of your squad has to be sourced from India. Everyone knows who the best foreign players are – they play round the year in other franchise leagues – but it takes highly insightful talent spotters to select and then back cricketers who only get to showcase their talents in local tournaments that are not always televised.

Players such as Mahipal Lomror, Swapnil Singh and Vijaykumar Vyshak should have been central to their plans this year from the start but the team's focused remained on bigger names.

Also, they need to accept the adage that batsmen win matches, bowlers win tournaments. RCB have regularly picked one of the weakest bowling units in the tournament and with the impact player rule, their frailties have been exposed further. At least two established T20 specialists in the bowling line-up are a must.

Captaincy conundrum

Not every overseas captain can be as good and reliable like Pat Cummins. What happens more often than not is that a non-Indian skipper blocks one of the four overseas spots in the XI irrespective of his form and he generally does not have a proper understanding of the local players.

Faf du Plessis has played a huge role in helping RCB turn their season around this year, but the fact is that he is almost 40 and the runs are not flowing as freely as they used to. The wise move now would be to appoint a new captain, preferably an established Indian name.

They can easily go back to Kohli simply because the passion is still there and he offers undoubted leadership quality. However, if RCB want to move ahead in a new direction, a couple of big names could be available next season.

Lucknow Super Giants and KL Rahul are not on the best of terms, especially after their owner admonished Rahul on the ground after their defeat to Hyderabad. Also, Mumbai Indians quick Jasprit Bumrah could well ask to be released from the disjointed team as he is guaranteed to become the most expensive player if he enters the auction and could also demand leadership position.

Both players would be good options for the franchise to work alongside Kohli.

Updated: May 23, 2024, 10:43 AM