Loyalty test in Bengaluru amidst rain

Every RCB chant was matched by a CSK chant with almost equal number of yellow jerseys in the stands.
RCB’s Swapnil Singh before the start of the match against CSK
RCB’s Swapnil Singh before the start of the match against CSK (Photo | Shashidhar Byrappa)

BENGALURU: Despite the lack of tactical advantage at the venue, M Chinnaswamy Stadium has always bled red for Royal Challengers Bengaluru. Even on the morning of the clash against Chennai Super Kings, one could see fans chanting RCB, RCB, RCB from a BMTC bus while crossing the ground on Queens Road. And yet, as the evening wore on, despite the rain forecast, the colour began to change.

Yellow slowly started creeping in. The No. 7 (MS Dhoni) yellow jerseys seemed to be the most visible one around the venue, followed by the No. 18 Virat Kohli T-shirts. One of the fans even took it to the next level, donning a MS Dhoni No. 7 jersey in RCB colours. That pretty much set the mood for the contest.

Inside the venue, it was hard to tell who the home team was. Every RCB chant was matched by a CSK chant with almost equal number of yellow jerseys in the stands. It was understandable to a large extent, considering how it could well be the last game of Dhoni should Chennai end up on the losing side. With the prediction of rain around, Chennai Super Kings captain Ruturaj Gaikwad won the toss and opted to field, and RCB openers — Kohli and Faf du Plessis came out all guns blazing. In the second over, Shardul Thakur went for 16 runs followed by a 13-run over from Tushar Deshpande as RCB raced to 31/0 in three overs. That is when the sky opened up and the rain stopped playing.

Now, RCB have been on a bit of a winning streak, with five wins in a row. But the road to here has been far from smooth. At one point, RCB had seven losses in eight games and were at the bottom of the points table. It is not just the losses that hurt, but also the manner in which they happened. Before their one-run loss in Kolkata (7th one), they had conceded a record total at home against Sunrisers Hyderabad and lost by 25 runs, largely thanks to Dinesh Karthik’s heroics.

Among the many honest conversations that happened within the dressing room was a discussion within the spin bowling group. Until the KKR game, RCB had played a frontline spinner — Karn Sharma — only once; in the opening game of the season against CSK. Since then, they had opted for batting depth and went with part-timers, but it clearly hadn’t worked. That is when Karn, Swapnil Singh and other spinners went to the team management. “We had a chat, especially as a spin group, we talked to the coach and said we haven’t used the spinners so well. They took it in a very nice way,” recalled Swapnil in a chat with this daily.

Karn played against KKR, in their next game, an away contest in Hyderabad, RCB went back to playing two spinners, including Swapnil. That, among other things like Rajat Patidar and Will Jacks getting into the groove, proved to be a crucial piece of the puzzle. RCB won that match by 35 runs. And the spin duo — Karn and Swapnil — shared four wickets between themselves. Since then, the two spinners have played every game and RCB has continued to win all four. “God has been kind,” says Swapnil with a big smile. “We have had two spinners all the way through till now that has been the changed and things have worked out for the spin group as well,” he adds.

Even as the play resumed on Saturday after a 41-minute break, once again, RCB would rely on Swapnil and Karn to do the job later in the night for them to get across the line.

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The New Indian Express