IPL 2018: Daniel Vettori has to pay the price after another early IPL exit for Royal Challengers Bangalore

Denzil Pinto 20/05/2018
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Daniel Vettori has been in charge of RCB for five seasons.

Moments after the 30-run defeat to Rajasthan Royals that condemned Royal Challengers Bangalore to another early IPL exit, fans took to social media to vent their frustration.

You couldn’t blame them either. After a disappointing start to the 2018 campaign, RCB nearly pulled off an unlikely escape to reach the play-offs only for their batsmen to crumble under the pressure when a result was needed. All their hard work went down the drain and will now reflect back on the last six weeks with only themselves to blame.

Unsurprisingly, Virat Kohli got his fair share of the blame and was deemed an easy target considering he is the captain. And while every win relieved the pressure just a little, it would intensify following a defeat amid another chorus of echoes for the Indian batsman to step down.

He never did and shouldn’t do so anytime soon. Yes, he may have wished he had done things differently – he has had a major input in the personnel, while someone like Moeen Ali was held back for too long – but you only have to look at his stint with India to know why it would be a mistake for him to be replaced.

But there’s one man who should be and that is Daniel Vettori. As head coach, he will be the first to admit to take full responsibility for a disastrous campaign. It is the third time in his five years that RCB have failed to progress to the play-offs. Appointed as Ray Jennings’ successor in 2014, the announcement may have raised eyebrows, but at the time the former New Zealand bowler was no stranger to the RCB set-up.

Donning the red jersey as a player since 2011, he went on to captain the franchise before calling it quits for good two years later. Of course, it was his first coaching job since retiring, but every aspiring coach has to start from somewhere and with his playing pedigree and knowledge, the RCB owners did not hesitate to give him the position.

Tough season: RCB had a disappointing season again

RCB had a disappointing season again.

After a difficult debut season where they finished seventh, the signs were that progress was being made after finishing third in 2015 before going one step better with a runners-up finish in 2016. But they took a giant step backwards 12 months later, finishing bottom of the table in a season that all RCB fans will want to forget. And despite their resurgent form of three wins in their last four games, it was too little, too late as they finished in sixth position in 2018.

His record of 31 wins and 40 losses in his 75 matches might not seem too alarming, especially considering the vagaries of T20 cricket, but if you take into account the form of the previous two seasons and compare it to Chennai Super Kings, who were not part of the competition due to their two-year suspension, then it does ring alarm bells.

In that period, RCB won nine games altogether (three in 2017 and six in 2018), while Chennai have the same record from just 14 matches this season.

Even Gary Kirsten, RCB’s batting coach, joked that “it’s quite nice being an assistant coach because I might be the second guy who might get fired and not the first one (Daniel Vettori).”

And even though he implied it was a joke, Vettori should seriously be thinking whether he has a future with the franchise. Kohli, AB de Villiers and Sarfaraz Khan were the only three retained for this season as the team went through a major overhaul and the 39-year-old would have played a key role in identifying the talent that would bolster his squad in January’s auction.

With the likes of Brendon McCullum, Quinton de Kock, Chris Woakes, Washington Sundar, Moeen Ali and Umesh Yadav, it seemed they had on paper that balance with the bat and ball. Instead it was a balance between hit and miss.

Perhaps why Vettori has avoided the flak is because in a format like T20, the captain plays a big role in team selection and match strategies and if it goes wrong, they often pay the price. Just ask Gautam Gambhir having stepped down as Delhi Daredevils skipper earlier this year. And when Vettori meets his RCB players again in 11 months’ time for the start of the 2019 edition, the current campaign will be history.

If Vettori had been in charge of one of the top international teams – England, Australia or even New Zealand – there would be growing pressure for the ex-spinner to step down or be sacked.

The IPL should be no different. It’s up to the RCB owners whether enough is enough but they shouldn’t need to look far if they wield the axe. Kirsten seems the right choice to succeed should he not mind being in the firing line again. He knows how to get the best of his talented players and make them competitive – just ask any Indian fan and their memories of the 2011 World Cup.

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IPL 2018: Jofra Archer brings the X factor to floundering Rajasthan Royals

Ashish Peter 23/04/2018
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Archer (L) announced himself to the IPL in style. Image - RR/Twitter.

There was a reason Rajasthan Royals splashed out big money on Jofra Archer in the IPL auction in January this year.  The 23-year-old all-rounder is the most highly sought-after uncapped player in T20 cricket at the moment and as such, his debut in the IPL has been eagerly anticipated by fans.

If there was ever any doubt about the adaptability of Archer to subcontinent conditions, those were well and truly erased on Sunday as the Barbados-born man made his IPL bow in the clash against Mumbai Indians.

Having missed out on the previous five matches for the franchise in the campaign with a knee injury, the all-rounder showed his pure class in a man-of-the-match performance with the ball in hand.

While his first three overs during the day did not fetch any wickets, Archer had been highly economical despite his fellow bowlers copping some punishment. The defending champions had raced away to 130-1 after 14 overs and were on course to put up a mammoth total in front of the Royals.

That is when the Caribbean-born Archer decided to take matters into his own hands. Clocking regularly above 145 kmph with alarming ease, the all-rounder put a brake on Mumbai’s power-hitting with some quiet overs before delivering an exceptional final over.

Bowling the penultimate over of the innings, Archer conceded just five runs and picked up three wickets to put Rajasthan on the ascendancy. Despite the excellent figures, it was the manner in which Archer went about his job that grabbed eyeballs.

Displaying that ice-cool Caribbean temperament in the heat of pressure, Archer exhibited the entire range of variations at his disposal to unsettle the batsmen. Bowling pin-point yorkers with breathtaking pace in one ball before bowling a cleverly disguised slower delivery in the next, the Rajasthan Royals man kept the batsmen guessing throughout his spell.

It wasn’t only Archer’s bowling which impressed on the night. The all-rounder was a livewire on the field with his athleticism while also dealing some crucial blows with the bat in hand during the chase.

His inclusion has completely transformed the make-up of Ajinkya Rahane’s men and has given them the ‘x-factor’ in the bowling department which had been severely lacking previously.

Despite having the most expensive player in the form of England all-round ace Ben Stokes in their ranks, the Royals had been lacking that something extra until Archer’s inclusion on Sunday.

To come in and put such a performance on your IPL debut after a long injury lay-off is no small feat and is a testament to the all-rounder’s undeniable natural talent. With him back in the mix of things, the Royals will definitely be dreaming big as they get a floundering campaign back on track.

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Heriot-Watt head to Red Bull Campus Cricket World Finals once again

Nick Watkins 18/04/2018
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Red Bull winners: Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt University (HWU) were crowned UAE champions of the Red Bull Campus Cricket 2018 for the fourth time, after defeating Manipal University en route to the World Finals in Sri Lanka.

Ten universities from the UAE took part in the three-day tournament, which produced thrilling action at Ajman Eden Grounds. Former UAE Under 19 captain Rohit Singh won the toss, elected to bat and helped his side score a massive 201 runs in their allotted 20 overs with the loss of six wickets. In reply, Manipal University were all out for 122 runs.

Key batsman Imad Mustaq scored  a quick fire 104 runs for HWU in just 55 balls, while Manipal’s star bowler, Mukul Anand took the important wicket of UAE international Chirag Suri for just 10 runs. However, chasing a target of 202 runs, Manipal University were all out 81 short, thanks to a vengeful Suri taking three wickets, for just 22 runs with his off-spin.

Red Bull’s chief guests, Bollywood actor and chairman and MD of Caprice watches Mr. M.S. Khan, along with former UAE World Cup 1996 cricketer Mr. Shehzad Altaf, presented prizes to the tournament’s top performers.

Best bowler of the tournament, Jay Joshi from HWU said, “It was a great few days; it was my second year competing in the Red Bull Campus Cricket and we’ve been champions four times in a row now so it’s been great to take part”.

“The ground facilities are superb and the quality of cricket is amazing, it’s good to play exciting cricket in the UAE. The quality is getting better every year and the tournament is being managed better every year as well, it’s really turning into a special event”.

Rohit Singh representing HWU, was awarded the best captain of the season award following the event. With plenty of experience playing abroad he’s looking forward to the World Finals in September. “The tournament has been a great success, and I’ve been lucky enough to captain the side over the last four years. The first year we won, we flew to India and the following two years to Sri Lanka, so we’re looking forward to going back there again and going one better than before. We’ve got a stronger team than ever and we’re aiming to at least reach the semi finals this time”.

He added, “It’s much different to playing in the UAE because a lot of the players have professional contracts so the standard in the world finals is very tough. Some of the guys are fully contracted domestically as well even if they’re not playing for the national side to it’s highly competitive”.

Red Bull Campus Cricket 2018 awards

  1. Best Captain of all season—- Rohit Singh (Heriot-Watt University)
  2. Man of the Finals — Imad Mustaq 104 runs in 55 balls (Heriot-Watt University)
  3. Best Batsman of the tournament – Chirag Suri – 202 runs (Heriot-Watt University)
  4. Best Bowler of the tournament – Jay Joshi – 8 wickets (Heriot-Watt University)
  5. Player of the Tournament – Khalid Shah – 206 runs and three wickets – (Skyline University)
  6. Red Bull Campus Cricket UAE Qualifiers Champions 2018— Heriot-Watt University.
  7. Runner Up Team UAE Qualifiers 2018 – Manipal University

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