RCB have gone 15 seasons without an IPL trophy, and things don’t look bright for them in the 16th either. There’s a clear reason behind this, writes Naman Agarwal.

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Royal Challengers Bangalore were looking good for a play-offs spot in IPL 2023 after their ninth game, at that point they had five wins in the tournament. But, their two most recent consecutive defeats while defending relatively big totals mean they now sit in the seventh spot, with a poor net run rate and dwindling hopes of ending up in the top four. Unfortunately, this is a familiar story.

Bangalore have always been a popular team. They have focused a lot on building their brand value, often splurging large amounts of money on players who have been hot properties during IPL auctions. That is a fine strategy as long as you know what you are doing and have made enough plans for building the rest of the squad. But RCB rarely have.

From the trio of Chris Gayle-Virat Kohli-AB de Villiers to that of Faf du Plessis-Virat Kohli-Glenn Maxwell, RCB have had a well-documented history of putting their eggs in one basket and hoping it would pay dividends. In fact, apart from the ‘big three’, they have also had various fourth big players over the years in the form of Shane Watson and Yuvraj Singh, and yet, they have seldom come close to the IPL trophy.

If the problem was not so obvious by now, here are some numbers to drive home the point.

Only six RCB players have scored more than a thousand runs for them in IPL history, with five of them being overseas players. Kohli, the highest run-scorer in IPL history, is the only Indian batter who has scored more than a thousand runs for the franchise.

To compare this with the most successful IPL teams – Chennai Super Kings, four-time IPL winners, have had 12 players score more than a thousand runs for them over the years in IPL, with as many as seven of them being Indians. Similarly, Mumbai Indians, five-time IPL winners, have had 10 players score more than a thousand runs, seven of whom have been Indians.

It just goes on to show that in order to be a successful team in long tournaments like the IPL, the workload needs to be distributed nearly equally across the squad, and you can’t expect one concentrated portion of the XI (the top three or the top four) to give you long term success, which is what RCB have been doing for over a decade now.

This over-dependence of RCB on international batting stars has had various cascading effects. They have rarely invested in proven Indian batters. When their top three or four have fired they have not needed reinforcements, but when they haven’t, the lack of Indian batting depth has proved fatal.

It has had a direct impact on their bowling as well. With most of the overseas spots being allotted to batters, RCB have had to depend on an India-heavy bowling attack. Only two of their top ten wicket-takers are overseas players – Wanindu Hasaranga (eighth) and Mitchell Starc (tenth).

As if the lack of international expertise in the bowling lineup was not enough, RCB’s irrational spending habits in the auction have meant that they have found it difficult to get the best Indian bowlers in the market as well. All of this has resulted in a structure that has had a very high ceiling, but below average returns. Unfortunately, this structure has not evolved over time.

MI have implemented a successful formula with their well-rounded squads full of international stars who are distributed evenly across the XI. CSK recognized the need for deep batting lineups after their worst season in 2020 and modified the balance of their team accordingly. Even Punjab Kings, another equally unsuccessful team as RCB, recognized the need for something different and tried to build a squad based on the modern-day six-hitting philosophy last year.

If RCB somehow manage to turn things around from here after their demoralising defeat against Mumbai Indians, it will almost certainly be off the back of one of the three big players at the top of their batting order. They should, however, realize by now that irrespective of how their season ends from here, the problem is obvious and glaring. The more they ignore it, the longer they will have to wait for an IPL trophy.