Opinion: Virat Kohli's 'Slowest' IPL Hundred Divides Cricket World, But RCB's Real Struggles Lie Elsewhere

Despite his explosive batting prowess, Kohli adopted a relatively sedate approach during his knock, taking 67 balls to reach his eighth IPL century.

Opinion: Virat Kohli's 'Slowest' IPL Hundred Divides Cricket World, But RCB's Real Struggles Lie Elsewhere

In a high-scoring thriller at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Rajasthan Royals managed to overpower Royal Challengers Bangalore by 6 wickets, despite a stunning century from RCB's talisman Virat Kohli. While Kohli's 72-ball 113* has drawn criticism from a section of fans and experts, a closer look at the match scorecard and contextual factors suggests that the star batter should not be the scapegoat for RCB's defeat.

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Kohli Shines, But Lacks Support

Batting first, RCB posted a respectable total of 183/3 in their 20 overs, with Kohli playing a masterful lone hand. The former India captain hammered 12 boundaries and 4 towering sixes, showcasing his incredible ball-striking abilities. Kohli's opening partner, Faf du Plessis, also contributed a handy 44 off 33 balls, but the rest of the RCB batting order failed to fire.

Glenn Maxwell, the big-hitting Australian all-rounder, managed just 1 run off 3 balls, while debutant Saurav Chauhan and youngster Cameron Green could only muster 9 and 5 runs respectively. The lack of support from the other RCB batters put immense pressure on Kohli, who had to anchor the innings and ensure his team posted a competitive total.

"The rest of the batting unit is not functioning as you hope they would. So Virat understands that. Yes, there are some gun players in that line-up, but they are not in form. If he gets out, who else is going to make the runs? They are not making anything substantial compared to his contributions. He can't then afford to say in the 12th over 'Okay, I am going to put my foot down and play a high-risk game'. They can't afford that. Otherwise, it could end up being 120 instead of 183," remarked former Australia captain Aaron Finch, highlighting the conundrum facing Kohli and RCB.

Kohli's Measured Approach Justified

Despite his explosive batting prowess, Kohli adopted a relatively sedate approach during his knock, taking 67 balls to reach his eighth IPL century. This slow pace of his innings has drawn criticism from a section of fans and experts, who believe Kohli's "slowness" was detrimental to RCB's chances of posting an imposing total.

However, Kohli defended his approach, citing the challenging pitch conditions and the need to ensure RCB had a competitive score on the board. "The wicket feels like its flat but as soon as you see the ball holding up in the pitch, that's when you realise the pace is changing pretty quickly and then the big dimensions of the ground come into play. Our target initially was 190, 195, to be honest. But then assessing the pitch and how it was slowing down, we decided if one of Faf [du Plessis] or me get out, then the other had to bat till the end so that we can get that boost closer to 180-185, which we did, which I feel is a very effective total on this pitch," Kohli explained.

Former India opener Virender Sehwag, while acknowledging Kohli's brilliance, believed the RCB stalwart could have accelerated further. However, Sehwag's assessment fails to consider the larger context of RCB's batting lineup and the prevailing match situation.

With the rest of the RCB batters struggling to get going, Kohli had to take the responsibility of anchoring the innings and ensuring his team posted a fighting total. His measured approach was crucial in guiding RCB to a respectable 183/3, which, at the halfway stage, seemed a competitive score on a sluggish Jaipur pitch.

Rajasthan's Batting Masterclass Overshadows Kohli's Efforts

Despite Kohli's heroics, Rajasthan Royals managed to chase down the 183-run target with relative ease, thanks to a batting masterclass from Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson. Buttler smashed an unbeaten 100 off just 58 balls, while Samson contributed a blistering 69 off 42 deliveries, as the duo put on a 148-run partnership for the second wicket.

The ease with which Rajasthan Royals chased down the target highlighted the glaring shortcomings in the RCB bowling attack, which failed to apply enough pressure on the opposition batters. While the likes of Reece Topley and Yash Dayal managed to pick up a couple of wickets each, the overall bowling performance lacked the discipline and firepower to contain the RR batters on a batting-friendly track.

The late evening dew, indeed, did not help RCB's cause. The Sawai Mansingh Stadium has often not been a venue conducive for free-flowing strokes. And RR's effort was only the 4th time a total of over 180 was chased. Yet, with the RCB bowling line-up failing to fire, RR made it look easy.

Kohli's Lone Brilliance and RCB's Bowling Woes

While the defeat was certainly a setback for RCB, it would be unfair to single out Virat Kohli's "slow" century as the primary reason behind the team's loss. The match scorecard paints a clear picture – Kohli was the only RCB batter who stood tall, while the rest of the lineup crumbled around him.

Imagine Virat Kohli walking out to open, knowing he has the likes of Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Rinku Singh to follow. Would he not throw his bat at a couple more deliveries in the powerplay? We saw a glimpse of that against Afghanistan in January, highlighting the stark contrast between Kohli's supporting cast at RCB and the strong batting depth of the Indian national team.

The true culprit behind RCB's defeat lies in their ineffective bowling attack, which failed to defend a par total on a batting-friendly surface. While Kohli shouldered the burden of the team's batting woes, the RCB bowlers were unable to apply enough pressure on the rampaging Rajasthan Royals batters, eventually conceding the match with 5 balls to spare.

As the IPL season progresses, RCB will need to address their bowling issues if they are to mount a serious title challenge. Kohli's individual brilliance can only take the team so far, and the onus will be on the rest of the squad to step up and complement their star batter's efforts.