Is Virat Kohli not using Washington Sundar to his potential?
After managing to win their opening encounter against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) slumped to a big defeat against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) on Thursday. Washington Sundar top-scored with 30. An all-rounder by trade, Sundar first played the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2017 after he joined the Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS) as a like-for-like replacement for the injured Ravichandran Ashwin.
He was only 17 and picked eight wickets in 11 games at an economy of 6.16. He shone in the Qualifier game against Mumbai Indians, giving away 16 runs off his four overs and claiming the wickets of Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard.
However, he showed his true capabilities with the ball in the Qualifier against the Mumbai Indians. Completing his quota of four overs, he conceded just 16 runs and got the crucial wickets of Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Keiron Pollard. He did a decent job in the final too, as he gave away just 13 runs in his four hours, although remaining wicketless.
In the next auction, RCB shelled out big bucks for the youngster as they acquired his services for a whopping Rs 3.2 crores. By that time, Sundar had made his international debut.
Going by that price tag, one would have thought that the youngster was set for an important role in the RCB setup. But in the 12 games, he played, he has bowled a mere 32 overs. This means that even in the limited games he has played, he has just bowled an average of 2.4 overs. During the phase, he has only managed eight wickets, while his economy rate has shot up too.
In his 22 appearances for the Indian T20 team, all after the end of IPL 2017, he has 19 wickets at an economy rate of just under 7. In his first 19 games, he opened the bowling for India. His economy in the Powerplay, a phase he masters bowling in, remains below 6.
Has Kohli missed the trick by not using Sundar in the Powerplay?
There’s a stoic difference between his performances in international and IPL cricket. But even the slightest look at Sundar’s history would take one to the Tamil Nadu Premier League of 2017. Sundar, playing as a batting all-rounder, opened the innings for the TuTi Patriots. In the nine innings, he amassed 459 runs at a staggering average of 76.50. Those runs came at a strike rate of above 150. Sundar had one century and three half-centuries in the nine matches. He ended as the leading run-scorer of the season.
Even in Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy 2019-20, he aggregated a total of 271 runs at an average of just over 54.
In IPL however, Sunder has never batted above number six. The total of 13 innings under his name have come at the positions 6,7 and 8, with the majority of them (8) being at number 8. The numbers do not matter, as when he walks out, the match has already been decided.
Virat Kohli’s use of Sundar has been surprising. While Sundar has not been used as a batsman in either IPL or international cricket, Virat has barely bowled him during the Powerplay, or even let him complete his quota of four overs.
Virat Kohli and the RCB’s underutilisation of a potentially match-winning talent is surprising, if not criminal.