The RCB went big for last season’s Purple Cap-winner Harshal Patel and Sri Lankan spin-bowling all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga for ₹10.75 crore each. They also bought in the CSK duo of Faf du Plessis and Josh Hazlewood for a combined fee of ₹14.75 crore. But have they got a squad good enough to clinch that first IPL title?
Gone are the days when the Royal Challengers Bangalore used to field top-loaded batting lineups-usually recognised for the Gayle-Kohli-de Villiers trio that powered them to mammoth scores. Ahead of the 2022 IPL season, they have gone from a top-heavy, lopsided team to one filled with utility options and bowling cover up and down the playing XI.
However, on the flip side, the RCB batting lineup poses a bit of concern. For all the talk of workload management for Virat Kohli, he will need a season like the 2016 one to take his team past the final hurdle, while also hoping and praying that Faf du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell turn out to be the able supporting cast or take the initiative in the team’s 15th quest for success.
The RCB’s approach for the 2022 IPL Auction was clear from the onset: the intention was to build a good, solid core of domestic players. To that end, they bought in Anuj Rawat for ₹3.4 crore, bought back Shahbaz Ahmed for ₹2.4 crore, plucked away Mahipal Lomror, Siddharth Kaul and Karn Sharma, each for less than ₹1 crore, while also making some shrewd quality additions in Aneeswar Gautam and Chama Milind. However, they still had a few holes to fill and had more than ₹1 crore in the bag, though they decided against using it, and only time will tell where it leads them to come the end of the season.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into it and take a look at the SWOT analysis of the Royal Challengers Bangalore for IPL 2022.
Total squad strength: 22
|Batters and Wicket-keepers||All-rounders||Bowlers|
|Faf du Plessis||Aneeshwar Gautam||Akash Deep|
|Suyash Prabhudessai||David Willey||Chama Milind|
|Virat Kohli||Glenn Maxwell||Harshal Patel|
|Anuj Rawat (wk)||Mahipal Lomror||Jason Behrendoff|
|Dinesh Karthik (wk)||Shahbaz Ahmed||Josh Hazlewood|
|Finn Allen (wk)||Sherfane Rutherford||Mohammed Siraj|
|Luvnith Sisodia (wk)||Wanindu Hasaranga||Siddharth Kaul|
Here’s the possible best XI for the RCB. While there has been no official confirmation on the captaincy front, the team have Faf du Plessis and Dinesh Karthik as the possible candidates, and while the latter may look like the front runner for the role it is highly unlikely that he will take it up, given he stepped down from the role mid-season in 2020 when he was with the KKR. Thus, Faf looks the favourite for the role if Kohli doesn’t have a sudden change of heart before the season begins.
Probable XI: Faf du Plessis (c), Virat Kohli, Anuj Rawat, Glenn Maxwell, Mahipal Lomror, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Wanindu Hasaranga, Shahbaz Ahmed, Harshal Patel, Josh Hazlewood, Mohammed Siraj.
Domestic talent has been the cornerstone of the Royal Challengers’ Playoff push in recent years. They have had great success by backing the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Devdutt Padikkal and Navdeep Saini; they still have two of those, and have added a few more to the mix. In Anuj Rawat and Aneeswar Gautam, the RCB have two young and exciting uncapped Indian talents. The two have the talent and the potential to blossom in one of cricket’s biggest stages, and with time and patience, the RCB might just unearth their next Padikkal and his partner.
The team have a proven and polished opener in Faf du Plessis, who has that title-winning gold dust and experience with him—having played key roles in both of the CSK’s 2018 and 2021 title-winning runs—to make them go that extra mile. As far as Kohli is concerned, even when he isn’t at his best he chips in with consistent scores of 30s or 40s at the very least. Also, the RCB finally have a bowling attack that is flexible and has the potential to tackle any conditions.
When asked about his assessment on the team’s digital channel, and specifically having back-ups for almost all positions, Mike Hesson said, “That’s the way you look to base your squad because the reality is you don’t want to have one injury and have to make three replacements. So what we need is to have people can come in for a straight swap and don’t upset the balance of the squad.”
Looking at the back-ups, the RCB have tried to get in like-for-like replacements for positions they felt were vital to the team’s cause. 22-year-old Kiwi wicket-keeper Finn Allen is an explosive package at the top of the order and can step in if Faf were to miss a game or two. Similarly, they have cover for Glenn Maxwell in Sherfane Rutherford. For Josh Hazlewood, they have a similar profile of replacement in Jason Behrendoff, while in Chama Milind, the Royal Challengers have a left-armer change-up heavy version of Harshal Patel.
Yes, the RCB have a few match-winners and good depth at certain positions, but is their playing XI good enough to challenge for the title? How many players do they have that would make the other teams say, “Wow! Wish we had that player.” Du Plessis, Kohli, Maxwell, Harshal and Siraj will definitely be the ones. Hasaranga? Maybe. But at ₹10.75 crore, isn’t that just a bit too much? Dinesh Karthik and Josh Hazlewood are—at best—great squad players to have in your XI. It seems like in going for squad balance, the RCB have traded off with the notion of keeping multiple match-winners, especially in their batting department.
Moreover, they have huge question marks lurking over their No. 3 and No. 5 slots. Unless Kohli decides to revert to his previous role as a No. 3 batter, the young Anuj Rawat will have to anchor the innings and lay a foundation for the likes of Maxwell, Lomror and Karthik. At No. 5, it’s very likely that the RCB will opt for Mahipal Lomror. The left-handed batter has the experience, having played as a regular in the Rajasthan Royals set-up. However, not to be too critical of him, but he hasn’t pulled up any trees so far in his short IPL career, though he still has some potential to build on.
So, here’s the issue: Bangalore have back-ups for Faf, Maxwell, Hasaranga, Shahbaz Ahmed, Harshal Patel and Hazlewood, but it feels like in going for depth and balance across the squad they have traded off match-winners, especially in their batting ranks. Kohli, Faf and Maxwell can’t be expected to bail them out every single week. Dinesh Karthik hasn’t played much cricket recently, and his performances were sub-par last season anyway. Then, there are Anuj Rawat and Mahipal Lomror: two young and exciting players with potential, but they are expected to play a major role for the RCB in the middle-order. The No. 3 and No. 5 spots in any team are two of the most important roles: one builds a foundation and sets a tone during the middle-orders, while the other comes in to build on that foundation set by the anchor and openers. These two positions are key to any franchise’s push for success, but when you have two youngsters who are part of your playing XI without any competition, that too for key positions within the setup, I’m afraid that’s not an ideal situation to be in.
The RCB went all the way for young Anuj Rawat, forking a ₹3.4-crore paycheck. The 22-year-old plays for Delhi and is a wicket-keeper batter, which adds another dimension to his game. The left-handed batter is pleasing to the eye given his elegant stroke-play but also has the power to muscle the ball out of the park with ease. Since the RCB failed to buy back Devdutt Padikkal, it was evident that they needed a left-right combination at the top; Rawat gives them that freedom, and alongside three genuine match-winners in Faf, Kohli and Maxwell, he will have some breathing room to get used to the dynamics of the squad and his role in particular.
Another great acquisition with loads of potential is India’s U19 World Cup-winning middle-order batter Aneeswar Gautam. The 19-year-old left-hander is an explosive batter who can be rotated with someone like Mahipal Lomror, should the latter fail to make the No. 5 role his own. Gautam is someone who likes to play in the V but is a tad bit leg-heavy if you look at his stance and bat-swing. Moreover, the young Karnataka-born player bowls part-time slow left-arm off-spin and is electric on the field, adding more value to his game than just the batting.
As stated above, the RCB also have a left-handed version of their star boy, Harshal Patel. 27-year-old Hyderabad-born Chama Milind is a change-up heavy left-arm medium-pace bowler, who has been part of many IPL teams in his nearly nine-year-long domestic career but has never really got the chance to represent one on the field. He took 5/8 against Uttar Pradesh back in November 2021 during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and also bagged 6/63 in a List A match last December. Bangalore already have a good bowling attack; Milind’s presence only adds more options and variation to that attack.
It is again the No. 3 spot and the lower middle-order. The RCB have Rawat or Gautam with whom they can experiment for that No. 3 role, but with the lack of experience and rawness on their part, Bangalore can’t pin all their hope on the inexperienced pair to flourish. The RCB also have Sherfane Rutherford, who looks like an able replacement for Glenn Maxwell. However, if Rawat and Gautam fail to deliver and Kohli opens with Faf with Maxwell moving to the No. 3 slot, they’ll need someone like Rutherford to slot in at No. 4.
If they don’t bring Rutherford in, Anuj Rawat, Mahipal Lomror, Dinesh Karthik and Shahbaz Ahmed are the only options to pick from for the No. 4-5-6-7 slots in the middle-order. Would that line-up fill you with any hope and optimism? I don’t think so. At least not me. So, it looks like they’ll have to bring in Rutherford at some stage during the season, but at the same time, if they play him, they cannot play both Wanindu Hasaranga and Josh Hazlewood in the same team, which is another problem for the management team. This leaves the likes of Mohammed Siraj, Harshal Patel and Siddhart Kaul/Chama Milind as the possible pace attack, which looks more fragile than potent.
Finally, the RCB don’t have a quality spin bowler apart from Wanindu Hasaranga, meaning they’ll have to play him whenever he’s available for selection. Shahbaz Ahmed is a decent option who could restrict the run-flow, chip in with a wicket or two on a good day, and contribute something with the bat if required, but he isn’t the kind of threat an opposition would be fearful of. They also have Karn Sharma, though the leggie has consistently under-performed over the last few seasons, be it with the SunRisers Hyderabad or the Chennai Super Kings.
Thus, in the spin department and back-ups for certain key positions, the RCB have almost one hand tied behind their backs even before the season has begun. They have options in their bowling ranks, but they still look fragile. If they try to make the middle-order robust, it’ll weaken their bowling. If they try to strengthen their bowling a bit, the batting will become significantly weaker.
Despite going for squad depth and overall balance, the Royal Challengers Bangalore have inadvertently built a squad that is much weaker than the previous two teams they had. While the top order should take care of itself, it is the middle order that is bound to give them plenty of sleepless nights. Their spin department looks stretched, putting further pressure on the fast-bowling department that, in the absence of any premier death bowler, is relying on a breakthrough player in Harshal Patel.
Hence, with so many questions hanging above their heads, I can’t see this RCB team making it to the Playoff this time around.