There is one team in the Indian Premier League (IPL) which has always managed to produce sheer entertainment and a brand of cricket above the rest and that has to be the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The Bengaluru-based team has emerged as a force to reckon with since IPL’s inception. With a batting line-up that comprises of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson and KL Rahul, one would assume that RCB might have won the tournament once or twice. But unfortunately, they are yet to put their hands on the ultimate prize.
After smashing records and bashing teams, RCB went all the way only to lose in the final at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad in the previous edition. The Kohli-led side will be hungry to taste success this time around. However, after donning the Indian jersey in all three formats, captain Kohli will be eyeing to fulfill his and Bengaluru’s wish to bring the trophy home.
The Bengaluru outfit failed to capitalise and finished as runner-up because of their own mistakes in the crunch game, which went down to the wire. Regardless of their strong line-up on paper, RCB lost focus unexpectedly. However, they were lacking balance on their side as Shane Watson and compatriot Mitchell Marsh were troubled with injuries.
The United Spirits-owned franchise will have a chance to fill the void at the IPL auction on 20 February. For people who follow the team closely, it is evident that RCB need minimal changes to actually bolster their squad. Just like the Mumbai Indians, RCB have retained 20 players but have also released 10 including Varun Aaron, David Wiese and Kane Richardson. They have a number of overseas players and with the second lowest purse (12.8 crores), they can only pick one out of the seven they will target at the auction.
RCB is known for their explosive batting and that being said, they have enough striking power but must add fuel to their bowling unit. It looks difficult for Australia’s Travis Head to make the cut but he will be ready to make his mark after playing just three matches and scoring 54 runs last year. Richardson, Chris Jordan, Wiese and even Varun Aaron who featured regularly – will be missed. New Zealand’s Adam Milne, however, will now get a chance to showcase his bowling prowess.
Meanwhile, RCB needs an all-rounder, keeping Shane Watson’s injury woes in mind. Even though Watson plays a pivotal role with both bat and bowl, RCB can snatch Irfan Pathan to solve the problem. Pathan, who recently made the headlines for his good show at the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy, comes with a lot of experience on home soil and could offer much more to the team. Chris Woakes, Corey Anderson and Tymal Mills are the other options available for grabs, given they utilise them.
As far as bowling is concerned, Mitchell Starc and Adam Milne are the only pacers left on the side. As always, Starc will come handy but RCB should prioritise an Indian seamer. High-flying Ishant Sharma is worth the gamble and if not then Basil Thampi, Rishi Dhawan, Munaf Patel or Jaydev Unadkat are the options who can rather come cheap. Interestingly, Englands’ Ben Stokes remains a dream addition. One can only imagine cricket’s two finest products playing alongside each other. Not only that, Stokes is blessed with both bat and bowl which can arguably make the side more than complete.
In the spin department, Yuzvendra Chahal, Samuel Badree and Iqbal Abdulla are the available spinners but have failed to remain consistent, which means their place in the squad is in jeopardy. Chahal remains an exception since he has been in good form and was the pick of the bowler for RCB last year – taking 21 wickets in 13 games. He is also highly-regarded by Kohli and had featured in the recently-concluded series against England. With the likes of Proteas’ Imran Tahir and Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi available, RCB must not hesitate to rope in spin bowlers. Tahir understands exactly what is required in a league like IPL and can partner Chahal to further strengthen RCB’s bowling. But, RCB need to think quick if they are in chase for Tahir since the No. 1 T20 bowler raked up a fifer against the Kiwi’s on Friday and will be a target for others as well. Nabi, on the other hand, has 704 runs from 52 T20I matches and has 56 wickets at an average of 23.30. However, Parvez Rasool shouldn’t have been released, looking at how spinners did well in the earlier edition, so RCB will have to fill the gap.
There is a starting XI dilemma for RCB. Kohli will have added pressure to pick the best starters and figure the overseas options – Shane Watson, Samuel Badree and Chris Gayle – at the earliest.
It would be absurd to make too many changes in a team which has a strong batting line-up, but in order to maintain balance, RCB should fight for the best suitable players. It will be interesting to see what RCB have in store for the IPL auction. They have released some of the players they shouldn’t have, while retaining overseas players whom they could have released. Bowling addition is a must. Depending only on Starc or Chahal would be a mistake. The franchise would have to strike the balance wisely or forget about their maiden IPL title.