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An incapable captain?

Four matches, four losses, zero points — Royal Challengers Bangalore are again staring at a horrific IPL season. Is Virat Kohli’s captaincy to be blamed for this?

On Tuesday, the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore slumped to their fourth successive defeat in this year’s tournament as they were outdone by Rajasthan Royals. This came after a thumping 118 run defeat at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad, propelled by dual centuries of Johnny Bairstow and David Warner.

In fact, with no points on the board, RCB is currently languishing at the bottom of the IPL table, looking ahead for yet another horrific season. In fact, the team has become the butt of jokes on social media for their shambolic run of form.

The main blame for the failure of this star-studded team is being put on captain Kohli. However, considering his status in modern Indian cricket, Kohli is not just any cricketer but an enigma, like Sachin Tendulkar was during his prime. But with the failure of RCB, questions are being raised about his leadership skills. Former players like Mitchell Johnson and Gautam Gambhir are questioning Kohli’s credibility as a captain.

In fact, after 2016, where Kohli scored more than 900 runs and also took RCB to the final, Virat’s team has performed very poorly and always finished in the bottom half of the table.

So, where has Virat gone wrong with his red and gold army?

Questionable Tactics

Though Kohli is one of the best cricketers on the planet, his tactical acumen really raises questions. His fielding placements and his on-field presence of mind also comes under scrutiny.

One example of this can be seen in the last match vs Rajasthan Royals wherein he failed to pick up the wicket of Jos Buttler who scored a blazing 59. Buttler’s weakness against leg spin is no clear mystery, and just a few matches ago SRH captain Kane Williamson exploited this by employing Rashid Khan early in the innings. Not only did he struggle, but he also got out cheaply. Despite having the number one leggie in India, Yuzvendra Chahal among their ranks, Kohli didn’t deploy him against Buttler.

Even, in the death overs, he paces fields at unusual positions. In fact, he is known not to deploy fielders in fine leg and third man during the death overs. Now, with batsmen looking to hit 360 degrees all over the park, it is important to place players in the right field positions.

Too many changes

The problem that is most noticeable with the RCB is that there is too much chopping and changing in the starting XI. Every successful captain has always had a core in its team– sans Gautam Gambhir’s KKR or Dhoni’s CSK- But Kohli’s team seems to be missing that core.

RCB are the only team to field four separate playing XI’s in the four games, and when a captain doesn’t have a stable core, the team he leads is bound to fail. Kohli needs to find that stability in order to do well this IPL.

RCB has also tried three different opening combinations. While Parthiv Patel remains a constant, he was accompanied by Virat in the two matches, and Moeen Ali and Shimron Hetmeyer in one each. Every other team has a fixed opening combo at the top, and this small example brings the team’s instability to the fore.

Poor team selection

The best bowler in RCB’s rank is Tim Southee, as he provides experience to an otherwise rookie RCb bowling line up. Instead they chose to field Colin de Grandhomme, who has done nothing much in the matches

However, he had not been played until the last game vs RR. In a spinning track like Jaipur, RCB chose to go with only one specialist spinner in Yuzvendra Chahal, with Moeen Ali as a part-timer second option.

Nathan Coulter-Nile should have been picked in the last match considering his talent and ability, after he was back in the squad post the Australia P-Pakistan series. However, he was benched, and instead underperformers like Ali and Hetmeyer were picked.

Kohli also has failed to show confidence in his youth players. Players like Shivam Dube and Prayas Ray Burman have not been given enough chances, and youngsters like these need more exposure to develop. But they have been dropped after a few unimpressive performances. Look at someone like Priithvi Shaw. He too failed at the beginning of his IPL career but now is an indispensable part of the Delhi Capitals batting line up.

However, Kohli alone can’t be blamed for all of RCB’s wrong doings. The players have failed to deliver. Barring the 50 vs MI, AB De Villiers has looked out of sorts. The season’s big signing for RCB, Caribbean batsman Shimron Hetmeyer, has failed to live up to his reputation. The bowlers have gone for innumerable number of run.

Kohli and his tryst with RCB can be compared to another sporting legend, Lionel Messi. Considered the greatest ever footballer, Messi has won everything there is to win with Barcelona, but at the national level for Argentina, he has failed to match up to his big standards. In fact, not winning a World Cup is what Is considerd a blemish in Messi’s dazzling career.

Similarly, Kohli, the greatest modern batsman, has done wonders in national colours, at the club level, he has performed below his reputation. Will Kohli lead RCB to a win ever? Or will not winning an IPL remain a blemish in his otherwise legendary career just like the World Cup is with Messi? Only time will tell.