Royal Challengers Bangalore have only qualified for the play-ofsf twice in Daniel Vettori's five seasons in charge.
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.
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.