At the end of an intense Royal Challengers Bangalore’s training session that saw Navdeep Saini crack Virat Kohli’s bat with a pacy delivery, bowling coach Adam Griffith got his quick men to aim at a water bottle placed on the edge of the tram line. It was similar to the yorker challenge the team had partaken in during the pre-season camp with the added caveat that the full, pacy ball now had to be delivered away from the imaginary batsman’s reach. Saini continued to be excellent while Umesh Yadav also fixed his worry lines as the session wore on.
This is a response to the rallying call from head coach Simon Katich, who despite the positive start to the season, wants his team to become more ruthless in closing out games. That, to RCB, can mean only one thing: improve death bowling. In the eight overs bowled at the death (16-20) against Punjab and Mumbai, they conceded 163 runs at an economy of 20.4 – staggering even by RCB standards. And they haven’t played yet at Sharjah.
Unlike the straight yorker which has a lower margin for error, the wide one is an important defensive weapon at grounds like Abu Dhabi, where RCB travel next to face Rajasthan Royals. In fact, a member of their opponent, Ankit Rajpoot, is a proponent of this craft and even earned the Royal Pagdi – a traditional turban handed to the promising Royals performer of the match – for denying Punjab’s KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal a single boundary in the 16th over of their clash. Rajpoot used this wide full ball to great effect against the Knight Riders too, getting Andre Russell to slice a delivery off the tramlines to third man.
The concern for the Royals, who also have two wins from three, is with their batting order and how best to use shrug off the Sharjah hangover. When the cream at the top is brushed away, Rajasthan have found that their middle can be quite squishy. Will they try to break up the Buttler-Smith opening alliance so that one of the experienced internationals can marshal the middle-order and take toll of RCB’s death-bowling frailties?