In the 2022 edition of IPL there was yet another heartbreak for Royal Challengers Bangalore fans as the team was knocked out by Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 2 and the dream to get their maiden title was shattered.
Here is a heartfelt letter for Faf du Plessis and company by one of their loyal fans expressing 15-year long journey with the team:
To Dearest RCB,
In the last fifteen years, life changed, the world around us changed, rules of cricket changed, and even the Royal Challengers Bangalore team changed but the wish to finally say Ee Saala Cup Naamde remained constant.
I have supported you no matter what and have always defended your defeat by saying that you fought bravely and won hearts. But this time the way your campaign ended was underwhelming as you didn't manage to win a single heart.
I am writing this letter to tell you about my journey with my favourite team whom I have been supporting loyally for the last fifteen years. To let you know how this red squad is an emotion for me and thousands like me.
I remember when the concept of IPL was declared and how I got excited to choose my favourite team. The thought of watching a rally of back to back cricket matches with my family and friends was wonderful. It doesn't matter why I chose RCB, no, I didn't belong to the city or the state, red wasn't my favourite colour, favourite players? Well, other teams too had many of them. It was an instinct and faith that supporting this team will add colour to my experience of watching the tournament. And indeed it was proved to be true.
I still remember the first season in 2008, when Rahul Dravid was the captain and young Virat Kohli who had won the under-19 World Cup was also included in the second auction. RCB's performance was not great with just four points and ending in the seventh position. But this doesn't mean that I once thought of changing the team. Yes, the team was part of me since the beginning.
Then came the second year of the league when Kevin Pieterson was named the team's skipper. Believe me, I was patient even when we lost four out of the initial six games. And the patience yielded fruitful results after Anil Kumble took over the captaincy and the team won 6 of their remaining eight matches and finished third on the points table. Emerging victorious in the semi-finals against Chennai Super Kings and reaching the final was a different feeling altogether.
It was the first time in the long journey of the tournament that we were so close to the trophy. Even though RCB's ride ended as runners-up by losing against Deccan Chargers, you successfully had created a fandom by then.
In 2010,2011, and 2012 we finished third, second, and fifth respectively. We were close to winning and yet so far. The clock was ticking, time was passing and the belief and expectations from the team started rising.
Then came the year 2013 when Virat Kohli was named captain of the RCB. No one had an idea back then that in future we would associate the team's name with this man. Virat scored 634 runs in that season but couldn't take his team to the Playoffs. Yes, the end was fine but the team scripted history that year.
The game against Sahara Pune Warriors when Chris Gayle scored a monstrous 175 off 66 balls and AB de Villiers smashed 31 off just 8 balls, cannot be forgotten by me. I was jumping and shouting while appreciating each shot. By each shot, I mean 13 boundaries and 17 sixes by Gayle alone. I was so proud of my team as they scored 263/5 and fell in love with the team and cricket all over again.
"I was in that flow, that rhythm. Sometimes as a batsman you know that you cannot do anything wrong and that was one of the days. It was remarkable and so funny that I ended up with 175 which I was saying should be the team's total. I could have got 200 if ABD didn’t come in and steal the show as well," Chris Gayle's words from an interview brought joy to me.
In the next two forgetful seasons when many people left your side to support other teams, I was still there sitting with you in your lows crossing my fingers, hoping for better results.
Then in 2015, we landed up in the Playoffs but lost the Qualifier 2 against CSK who had by then became our rivals. When my friends supporting the four-time champions Chennai tease me, I silently wish for RCB to win matches against them with huge margins.
Then came a year which was magical for captain Virat and also for the entire squad. We were looking unstoppable and no RCB fan can ever forget that season. The team gave me innumerable precious moments. Virat hammered 973 with four centuries and seven fifties. But yet again the team couldn't win the final against Sunrisers Hyderabad even after giving a tough fight.
"I am really proud of the way we played this evening. The support was great from the crowd. I feel gutted that we could not cross the line for them," Virat Kohli's words after losing the final brought tears to my eyes.
Just after having their best IPL performance, the year 2017 went from bad to the worst for the team. The team's batting line-up struggled during the season. It was this year when RCB recorded the lowest score of 49 all out, in the history of the tournament.
“This is our worst batting performance, it really hurts. It was reckless batting. I can’t say anything at the moment. It was that bad. This is just not acceptable,” said Virat after losing the match against Kolkata Knight Riders. I wasn't even there at the stadium during the game, but I understood exactly what he meant.
That year RCB finished in the last position and the entire season was like a nightmare for me. Even after having players like Gayle, de Villiers and Kohli, we collapsed and to be honest I was angry at you. But never for once had a thought of loving you less.
The team struggled in the upcoming years, but whenever there was RCB's match I would sit in front of the TV screen and would pray for the tables to turn. But everything was in vain till 2020 when we bounced back and reached the Playoffs but then too we were left empty-handed getting knocked out in the Eliminator.
In 2021, my dream of looking at Virat holding the trophy and shouting our slogan Ee saala cup naamde (this year the cup is ours) was broken into pieces. I was shattered when Bangalore lost the Eliminator and it was really painful to see the long-term captain deliver his last speech in that role.
Fast forward to 2022, after the Mega auction, Faf du Plessis was given the captaincy and legendary players like Glenn Maxwell and Dinesh Karthik were added to the squad. The team continued to win matches and the squad looked impossible to beat in their initial games. But then the points at the points table got locked as we started losing matches. There was a sigh of relief when we finally managed to climb to the top four. After breaking the jinx of Eliminators of the last two seasons, the Challengers looked strong and I was hoping for them to thrash Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 2. But God had other plans, the team performed poorly with the bat and bowlers were unable to take the onus of defending a less total and we collapsed, yet again.
I felt angry, I felt sad, I felt helpless, but more importantly, I felt heartbroken that you didn't even try. Winning and losing are not as important as giving a fight. Yes, you were relentless in the entire season except for a few games but this time you failed all the fans, all the loyal fans, and all the fans who have been loyal for the last 15 years.
Lastly, the loss didn't let the faith of RCB winning the 2023 season die. I watched the entire auction and rooted for my team. I will still watch Bangalore's entire match, will hope for my silly superstitions to work in the team's favour and will still defend the team when people around me start bashing their form. But most importantly will wish that they try to join the broken pieces of my heart again with a brilliant game.