The perennial underachievers of the IPL, Royal Challengers Bangalore will be desperate to get their hands on the elusive title. Led by talismanic Indian skipper Virat Kohli, RCB, despite having some of the biggest names in T20 cricket haven’t been able to get over the line in 13 attempts. They have thrice finished second best (2009, 2011 and 2016).
Last season, they reached the playoffs after three years. They won almost everything in their first 10 games but then lost five in a row, crashing out in the eliminator.
RCB bought eight players at the auction. New Zealand pacer Kyle Jamieson (15 crore) and Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell (16.25 crore) were their biggest buys. Other purchases include experienced Australian all-rounder Dan Christian and domestic players Sachin Baby, Rajat Patidar, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Suyash Prabhudesai and Kona Srikar Bharat.
RCB will take on defending champions Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener on April 9. Here’s a look at what works and what doesn’t for them.
STRENGTH: With Kohli and ‘Mr. 360’ AB de Villiers in the side it goes without saying that batting is RCB’s stronger suit. The prodigiously talented Devdutt Padikkal has proven to be a valuable addition at the top. He enters the tournament on the back of a sensational Vijay Hazare campaign where he was the second-highest run-scorer.
The team has made some smart additions ahead of the campaign. Mohammed Azharuddeen is an exciting prospect. The wicketkeeper-batsman from Kerala had taken the opposition apart in the Syed Mushtaq Ali campaign earlier this year, striking the ball at a staggering rate of 194.54. New Zealand’s Finn Allen, who was bought in as Australian Josh Philippe’s replacement, is also in a rich vein of form. The addition of a world-class all-rounder like Maxwell makes the batting unit even more potent while the likes of Sachin Baby, Daniel Christian, and Washington Sundar are also not to be taken lightly.
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and offie Washington Sundar make for an enviably spin attack. The duo was one of the main reasons for the side’s success last year. While Chahal is RCB’s leading wicket-taker it was Washington whom Kohli turned to during the powerplays last season. The two will be joined by Maxwell, who regularly bowls for Australia in the white-ball formats and also in the Big Bash League.
WEAKNESS: Pace attack has always been RCB’s kryptonite. Last season, they had Chris Morris who pulled out the best death-overs economy rate of any bowler in the season. However, the South African was let go and now the team is left with a bunch of rookies. Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj and Jamieson are all red-ball players who lack the experience of playing the shortest format. Additionally, Jamieson doesn’t have any experience of playing in India.
OPPORTUNITY: RCB has an arsenal of explosive batsmen. With so many players possessing the ability to hit the ball outside the park at any given time in the game, it will be beneficial for the side while chasing.
This season will provide Maxwell with the perfect opportunity to silence his critics. There is no doubt that the all-rounder is a match-winner, he has done it umpteen times for Australia. However, barring two seasons, the 32-year-old has been underwhelming in the IPL, to say the least.
THREAT: Over the years the over-dependence on Kohli and de Villiers has only increased. While the two possess the ability to single-handedly win matches, it takes a team to win a tournament. For RCB to win the title, other batsmen in the team will have to raise their hands and take responsibility.
Maxwell’s form will be vital. The franchise is counting on him to deliver with the bat and ball both. If he flops with the bat early on, the team management will have to put on their thinking hats and consider giving away his spot in the playing XI.
Squad: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Devdutt Padikkal, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Siraj, Kane Richardson, Washington Sundar, Pavan Deshpande, Finn Allen, Shahbaz Ahamad, Navdeep Saini, Adam Zampa, Kyle Jamieson, Glenn Maxwell, Rajat Patidar, Sachin Baby, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Daniel Christian, KS Bharat, Suyash Prabhudessai, Daniel Sams, Harshal Patel.