Steve Smith replaces MS Dhoni as Rising Pune Supergiants captain

MS Dhoni led Rising Pune Supergiants in their debut season last year

Former India skipper MS Dhoni has been replaced by Australia’s Steve Smith as the captain of Rising Pune Supergiants for the upcoming season of Indian Premier League (IPL). The decision comes on the eve of the player auction, on Sunday (February 19).

Dhoni, who recently stepped down from captaincy of India’s limited-overs side, is the only player to have captained in every IPL match he has played. Despite being one of the better performers for the side last year, his personal form was on the wane; he had scored 284 runs in 12 innings at a strike-rate of 135.

In an interview to India Today, RPS team owner Sanjeev Goenka confirmed the development. “We have opted for Steve Smith as captain of RPS for the forthcoming IPL season. We wanted a young captain. We spoke to Steve Smith and he agreed. We have communicated the decision to Dhoni. He is a thorough professional. Dhoni and Smith share a great rapport. MS is ready to help him on the field.”

The 35-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who was chosen as the first player in the drafts by RPS last season, had led Chennai Super Kings to two consecutive IPL titles in 2010 and 2011, apart from winning the Champions League T20. He had turned CSK into one of the most lethal forces in T20 club cricket in the world.

However, he couldn’t find similar success with the Pune franchise in the last edition, with several players getting ruled out due to injuries at the start of the tournament. They finished second-last on the points table with only five wins to their credit. It was also the first time that Dhoni had failed to lead his side to the playoffs in IPL

In order to reverse their fortunes, Pune have also released as many as 11 players from the side and are expected to be active in the player auctionprv_1bbf7_1487491392

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RCB and Mitchell Starc part ways ahead of 2017 season

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mitchell Starc have parted ways ahead of the 2017 IPL season; the Australia fast bowler will not be part of the IPL player auction on February 20 either.

RCB will now go into the player auction in Bangalore with two slots for overseas players – they previously had only one – and an additional INR 5 crore (US$ 746,000 approx.) in their purse, which was Starc’s price. RCB now have INR 17.825 crore (US$ 2,660,447 approx.) to spend at the auction.

Starc was part of the RCB franchise since 2014 but played only two tournaments for them. He missed the entire 2016 season because he was recovering from a foot fracture. In 2014, he took 14 at 28.71 apiece, with an economy of 7.49, and in 2015 he claimed 20 wickets at 14.55 apiece with an economy of 6.76.

RCB squad Virat Kohli (capt), Chris Gayle, 3 KL Rahul (wk), AB De Villiers, Shane Watson, Kedhar Jadhav, Stuart Binny, Yuzvendra Chahal, Iqbal Abdulla, S Aravind, Harshal Patel, Mandeep Singh, Adam Milne, Sarfaraz Khan, Samuel Badree, Travis Head, Sachin Baby, Avesh Khan, Tabraiz Shamsi

Mitchell Starc of the Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrates the wicket of Dwayne Smith of the Chennai Superkings  during match 37 of the Pepsi IPL 2015 (Indian Premier League) between The Chennai Superkings and The Royal Challengers Bangalore held at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai Stadium in Chennai, India on the 4th May April 2015. Photo by:  Ron Gaunt / SPORTZPICS / IPL

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Australia v Sri Lanka, 2nd T20I, Geelong

Sri Lanka opt to bowl;Fast bowler Jhye Richardson became Australia’s fourth debutant of the T20 series

Upul Tharanga won the toss and sent Australia in to bat in the second Twenty20 in Geelong, where Sri Lanka will secure a series win if they chase down their target later in the evening.

Australia made two changes to their XI, with fast bowler Jhye Richardson handed a debut and batsman Ben Dunk called in to bolster the top order. Fast bowler Billy Stanlake was dropped along with the legspinner Adam Zampa, a particularly surprising decision given that spin was effective on the same pitch in the women’s T20 that preceded this game.

Sri Lanka made one change to the team that won in Melbourne on Friday, bringing in the batsman Kusal Mendis at the expense of left-arm wrist-spinner Lakshan Sandakan.

The match – the inaugural men’s international at Geelong’s Kardinia Park – was due to begin in cool weather on a day that had earlier brought heavy showers.

Australia: 1 Aaron Finch (capt), 2 Michael Klinger, 3 Ben Dunk, 4 Travis Head, 5 Moises Henriques, 6 Ashton Turner, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Andrew Tye, 11 Jhye Richardson

Sri Lanka: 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Upul Tharanga (capt), 3 Dilshan Munaweera, 4 Asela Gunaratne, 5 Milinda Siriwardana, 6 Chamara Kapugedera, 7 Kusal Mendis, 8 Seekkuge Prasanna, 9 Nuwan Kulasekara, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Vikum Sanjaya.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 28:  Ashton Turner and Jhye Richardson of the Scorchers celebrate the wickt of Brad Haddin of the Sixers during the Big Bash League match between the Perth Scorchers and the Sydney Sixers at WACA on January 28, 2017 in Perth, Australia.  (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

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Bangladesh in Sri Lanka 2017

Bangladesh to play 100th Test in March

Bangladesh will play their 100th Test match, against Sri Lanka, on March 15 in Colombo. Having played their first Test in November 2000, Bangladesh will be the last of the Full Members to complete the century, having taken little over 16 years to the mark.

The visitors will begin their tour with a two-day practice game in Moratuwa before the first Test in Galle on March 7 and their milestone match at P Sara Oval a week later.

The limited-overs leg begins with a warm-up game on March 22, before Dambulla hosts the first and second ODIs on March 25 and 28. The series concludes in Colombo – unusually at the SSC, which has not hosted an ODI since 2011.

Sri Lanka Cricket CEO Ashley de Silva said the decision to play this match – a day game – was made on the basis that Bangladesh were not a major drawcard. The SSC has a capacity of about 10,000.

“The reason we don’t host one-day games at SSC when we play other teams, is because we feel we won’t be able to accommodate the crowds there – the capacity is very limited at SSC,” de Silva said. “But when we play against Bangladesh, though there will be crowds, it will not exceed the capacity which can be accommodated as SSC, I’m sure.

“When you play at a smaller ground also, it would seem like there are crowds – even for a Bangladesh tour. We can market it better.”

The two T20Is to finish the tour, however, will be played at Khettarama.

The Bangladesh squad is expected to be announced by February 20, while training begins in Mirpur on February 24. This is Bangladesh’s first bilateral tour of Sri Lanka since 2013, when they drew the Galle Test and also secured a 1-1 result in the three-match ODI series.download

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India vs Australia: Jayant Yadav’s big chance to seal his place in the side

The Indian cricket team is enjoying a purple patch as far as its form in Test cricket is concerned. Having risen to the top of the Test rankings with utter domination.

There are a number of things that have clicked for the Indians that have contributed to their success, starting with indomitable form of Virat Kohli and then Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja ‘s destruction of the opponents.

However, the last six months have also been about the emergence of young stars from the Indian domestic circuit, and their success along with that of the team’s makes for a great story.

File photo of Jayant Yadav. AFP

File photo of Jayant Yadav. AFP

One of the said emerging stars happens to be Jayant Yadav, the young off-spinner from Delhi. Jayant had a very good series against England but missed out against Bangladesh as India opted for three pacers. He will now look to get back in the race with the upcoming Test series against Australia.

Jayant’s domestic debut stretches back to the 2011 season, in which he impressed in his very first game for Haryana, snaring six Gujarat batsmen in the Ranji Trophy match. While he faded off for a bit after a decent debut, if wasn’t until the next season that he hit headlines again, slamming a double-century while sharing a 392-run partnership with Amit Mishra — someone he would be competing with for a slot in the Test team years later.

Among his other noteworthy first-class performances was his four-wicket haul for India A against the visiting Englishmen during the latter’s 2012-13 tour of India, with skipper Alastair Cook being one of his victims.

One consistent performance in the domestic circuit after another led to an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract, with the Delhi Daredevils signing him for a sum of Rs 10 lakh in the 2014 edition, although he would get a game only after a year-long wait.

While he earned a call-up to the Zimbabwe-bound Indian limited-overs squad in the summer of 2016, lady luck did not smile upon him by handing him his debut.

It wasn’t until the final One-Day International (ODI) against New Zealand at Visakhapatnam that he got to make his big international debut, in which he captured the wicket of Corey Anderson while giving away eight runs in a four-over spell. It would turn out to be his only ODI in the end.

His performance in the subsequent Test series against England, turned out to be a career-changing one for him. Making his debut, in third Test at Mohali, he showcased his value with the bat down the order aside from getting crucial breakthroughs, making him the third musketeer alongside Ashwin and Jadeja.

His century at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, with Virat Kohli notching up his career-best score at the other end, was perhaps his best moment in the series, and even of his cricketing career so far.

His performances in the England series earned him praise from chairman of selectors MSK Prasad, who called him a “true-blue” product of the India ‘A’ system. His performances in the Ranji Trophy aside, it was his stint with the Rahul Dravid-coached India ‘A’ that also played part in his national selection.

“The true blue products of India ‘A’ system are Karun Nair and Jayant Yadav. I believe it is the emphasis on A tour by the BCCI that we are now finding finished and ready for international cricket players like Karun and Jayant,” Prasad was quoted as saying after the conclusion of the India-England Test series.

With Pune likely to offer more turn than Hyderabad, Jayant seems a certainty for getting game time, at least as far as the first Test is concerned. Jayant certainly has been a gem of a find for the Indian team. It’s time he goes one notch above from being termed ‘find’, and becomes a regular in the Test side, before shifting focus to the other formats. The upcoming series would be an ideal platform to pursue that goal.

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IPL 2017 Auction: 5 Players To Watch Out For

The IPL 2017 player auction will take place in Bengaluru on Monday, February 20,IPL 2017 Auction: Five players that could start a bidding war between the teams.

The much-awaited IPL 2017 player auction is around the corner with some big names from the world of cricket set to go under the hammer. There are many established stars as well as some new faces that will be garnering interest from various IPL teams. Many English stars are available in the auction and surely will be hot property following their performance in the recently-concluded limited overs series against India. Also, in a historic first, the BCCI has included five Afghanistan cricketers including hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Shahzad.ipl-players-to-watch-out-afp_806x605_41487402622

Ben Stokes (England) – Base price Rs. 2 Crore

As mentioned earlier, many English stars will be up for sale in the IPL 2017 player auction and arguably the biggest of them goes by the name of Ben Stokes. The all-rounder showcased his hitting prowess as well as his bowling skills in the ODI and T20I series against India.

Stokes was the eighth highest run-getter in the ODI series, scoring 120 runs at an average of 60. But the standout stat is that the Englishman’s strike rate of 146.34 was the highest among the top 10. Stokes was also the fourth highest wicket-taker in the series with five scalps to his name in the three matches — more wickets than the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.

Stokes didn’t have such a good time in the T20I series, scoring 46 runs in the three matches at a strike rate of 117.94. However, the likes of Virat Kohli too failed in the T20 series so Stokes can be forgiven for not setting the series alight.

At a base price of Rs. 2 crore, the Englishman doesn’t come cheap but his skills both with the bat and ball could prove to be invaluable to the team that buys him.

But Stokes, along with all English and South African players come with some baggage. The South African players are likely to leave IPL 2017 after May 7 while the England players are scheduled to depart the tournament in two batches – a few after May 1 and the rest after May 14 to prepare for South Africa’s tour of England and the Champions Trophy in June.

Ishant Sharma (India) – Base price Rs. 2 Crore

Ishant Sharma is the only Indian cricketer who has been put in the base price bracket of Rs. 2 crore. The lanky pacer was bought by MS Dhoni-led Rising Pune Supergiants for Rs 3.8 crore but was released along with 10 other players.

However, if his sensational spell of bowling in the one-off Test against Bangladesh is anything to go by then Ishant could be a potent weapon in the IPL 2017. Having played for the Kolkata Knight Riders, Deccan Chargers, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rising Pune Supergiants in the previous editions, Ishant brings with him bags of experience in the IPL that could be crucial to his cause.

Ishant has played 14 T20Is for India, taking eight wickets at an economy rate of 8.63. Ishant had a poor outing with the Supergiants last season, playing just four matches and picking three wickets at an economy rate of 9.86. His overall IPL stats make for a much better reading. He has played 70 IPL matches and has taken 59 wickets with a best of 5 for 12.

Tymal Mills (England) – Base price Rs 50 Lakh

Tymal Mills came in as the X-factor to the England side in the recent T20I series in India and didn’t disappoint. He met not have set the stage alight but his skills at the death certainly caught the eye.

Mills has the ability to bowl at 90 plus mph and beat batsmen for pace upfront but his real weapon is the slower delivery. The left-armer bamboozled many Indian batsmen with his back-of-the-hand slower balls in the death which were hard to pick and even harder to hit.

The English pacer might have taken just three wickets in the T20 series against India but an economy rate of 7.83, while bowling mostly at the death, is invaluable to any team. The left-armer has an overall economy of 7.28 in the death overs — second in the world of cricket only to Bangladesh sensation Mustafizur Rahman.

He is available at Rs 50 lakh, and would be a steal for any team. Surely, there will be a bidding war between the teams to get his services.

Eoin Morgan (England) – Base Price Rs. 2 Crore

If anyone was ever in any doubt about the batting skills of England’s limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan, they just need to take a replay of the second ODI between India and England. The English might have lost that match but Morgan’s century blitz didn’t go unnoticed. Such clean, crisp hitting was seen by a visiting batsman after a long time.

He ended the ODI series as the fifth highest run-getter, only 12 runs behind India’s run machine Virat Kohli but a better strike rate than that of the Indian skipper.

Morgan was the second highest run-getter in the T20 series with 108 runs in three matches at a strike rate of 131.70.

The English captain is in the Rs. 2 crore bracket but some IPL teams could do with his hitting skills in their middle order.

Mohammad Shahzad (Afghanistan) – Base Price Rs 50 Lakh

Yes, you read right. Mohammad Shahzad, Afghanistan’s star wicket-keeper batsman, will go under the hammer. It can be safely assumed that at least Shahzad with a base price of Rs 50 lakh would not have been kept in the final auction pool without the consent of the eight franchises and BCCI’s wish. And why shouldn’t he be in the auction pool after grabbing eyeballs with his pyrotechnics during the last edition of World T20 in India.

Shahzad is the most popular among Afghanistan cricketers with a strike-rate of 136 plus in 55 T20 Internationals in which he hit a hundred and 11 half-centuries. Shahzad has played 55 T20Is and has a high score of 118 not out and an average of 31.84.

Who wouldn’t want to have a player who can hit the MS Dhoni’s helicopter shot and that also for just Rs. 50 lakh!

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IPL 2017: Mohammad Kaif Appointed Assistant Coach Of Gujarat Lions

Former India batsman, Mohammad Kaif was appointed as the assistant coach of Gujarat Lions for the upcoming Indian Premier League season starting April 5kaif

Indian Premier League franchise Gujarat Lions on Friday appointed former India batsman Mohammad Kaif assistant coach of the team for the upcoming IPL 2017 season starting from April 5. Kaif, who made his ODI debut against England at Kanpur in 2002, was in talks with the management of the Gujarat Lions for quite some time. The 36-year-old was previously a part of teams like Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore. The former middle-order batsman will work with Brad Hodge, who is the head coach of the team.

Keshav Bansal, Director, Intex Technologies and Owner of Gujarat Lions, speaking on the development, said, “Kaif is a great resource for our team, who has valuable experience and in-depth knowledge of the sport.

“The experience that he carries of the game, made us realise that he needs to be given larger roles as it will prove beneficial in our efforts to develop the game. I am confident that our team will benefit immensely from his guidance and mentorship.”

Kaif said he is looking forward to the new role.

“I am looking forward to my new role as an assistant coach in the team. It will be a great opportunity to work with a dynamic owner like Keshav Bansal and with extremely talented players with likes of Suresh Raina, Ravinder Jadeja, Bravo etc.,” he said.

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Shreyas Iyer Stands Out As India A Trail By 293 Runs Vs Australia

India A finished the second day’s play on 176 for 4 against Australia, still trailing by 293 runs with the visitors declaring their first innings on 469 for 7sheryas-iyer-pti_806x605_61487423159

Shreyas Iyer made his mark on the Day 2 of the three-day practice gameagainst Australia in a match where India A struggled to get their act together, both with the bat and ball. Iyer made an impressive 85 not out in a not so impressive batting display by the Indians who were reduced to 176 for four in reply to Australia’s big first-innings total of 469 for seven declared. Navdeep Saini was the pick of the bowlers for India, returning with figures of two for 42 while Hardik Pandya, Shahbaz Nadeem and Akhil Herwadkar shared a wicket each.

Iyer could not have chosen a better platform to showcase his talent as his knock consisted of five sixes and seven fours in an almost run-a-ball innings to take India A to some sort of respectability at the end of the second day’s play. Rishabh Pant was the other unbeaten batsman, having faced 93 balls in his 147 minutes stay at the crease. At stumps, India A still trailed by 293 runs.

The Mumbai-born started off in fine fashion by hitting off-spinner Nathan Lyon for a six of the very first ball he faced and from that point on there was no looking back for the 22-year-old.

Iyer gave just one chance, off Lyon, soon after reaching his half-century off 44 balls but otherwise dominated the Aussie spin duo of Lyon and left-armer Stepen O’Keefe, who was hoisted twice over the ropes by the youngster.

All the sixes were hit over long-on as Iyer, who is 15 runs short of his ninth first-class hundred in 38 games, used his feet to good effect.

Priyank Panchal made 36 with six fours in 77 minutes, but was beaten often by lanky Aussie pacer Jackson Bird.

The other opener Akhil Herwadkar struggled his way to four in 48 minutes. Ankit Bawne made an attractive but all-too-brief 25 in 39 minutes with four hits to the fence while skipper Hardik Pandya too got a start before departing late in the day for 19, caught behind off Bird.

Iyer and Pandya, dropped on 3 at first slip by Matt Renshaw off Bird, had consolidated the innings after the fall of Bawne with a partnership of 52.

For Australia, Lyon – although punished by Iyer – showed good form as he got purchase off the track to pick up 2 for 72 while Bird, easily the most impressive bowler for the visiting team, did not allow the batsmen any freedom and also got rid of Pandya to end with excellent figures of 2 for 15 in 11 overs.

In the morning, Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade utilised the one-off opportunity to hit individual half centuries, ahead of the Test series.

In reply, India A made 63 for two with openers Akhil Herwadkar (4) and Priyank Panchal (36) dismissed at the stroke of tea – both falling to off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who is expected to be the main spin bowler in the four-Test series commencing at Pune on February 23.

Earlier, Marsh made 75 during which he hit one six and 11 fours while the left-handed Wade scored 64 with nine fours in his 161-minute stay before getting out just before lunch against part-time bowler Herwadkar.

The visitors declared soon after Marsh drove left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem straight into the hands of the mid-off fielder to become the only victim of the innings.

On the first day, skipper Steve Smith and Shaun Marsh hit individual hundreds while Mitchell Marsh and wicketkeeper Wade hardly looked in any trouble on the second day. The visitors would be pleased with the time spent in the middle by all the batsmen.

Australia declared when Glenn Maxwell and O’Keefe were at the crease with 16 and 8 respectively and in reply, the home team’s openers Herwadkar and Panchal faced a testing time against Australia new ball bowlers Bird and Marsh.

Panchal, especially, was troubled by the movement extracted by Bird but managed to stay on only to see his partner Herwadkar offering a low return catch to Lyon.

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Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif Charge-Sheeted By PCB

sharjeel-khan-khalid-latif-afp_806x605_61487431344

There is more trouble brewing up for Sharjeel Khan and Khalid Latif as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) charge-sheeted both the players for their alleged involvement in the spot-fixing scandal that rocked the Pakistan Super League (PSL) on February 9. PCB charge-sheeted both the players under its anti-corruption code and gave them 14 days to respond to the charges. This was after both the accused players denied all charges levelled against them and pleaded not guilty.

Clearing their stance on the issue, PCB media manager Amjad Hussain Bhatti said that the players will have to respond to the charge-sheet within 14 days.

“If they plead not guilty the board will form a three-member tribunal under a Judge to hold proceedings. But if they accept charges a disciplinary commission will be formed to decide on their future,” he said.

Although Bhatti confirmed that the players have every to plead not guilty and they can appeal in any court of law. He said the charge-sheet issued to them related to offences under the anti-corruption code.

The players have been in Lahore since the last three days, meeting with the PCB’s Anti-Corruption head, Colonel (retd) Azam and the board’s legal head and have been questioned after they were sent back home from Dubai on the second day of the PSL.

They were sent home after being suspended under the PCB’s anti-corruption code.

“The players have been given 14 days to submit their response. All the things have been written in the charge-sheet and will be revealed once the process is complete. We can’t reveal the details at the moment,” Bhatti said.

But sources confirmed that Sharjeel and Khalid have been issued notices under the PCB’s anti-corruption code for violation of clauses.

Both the players have been in touch with legal advisors. Bhatti said the PCB had a zero tolerance policy towards corrupt practices, which it believes, is a cancer eating at the heart of the game.

He said the ACU is continuing investigations into any questionable activity by any player or support staff.

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IPL 2017 Auction: Royal Challengers Bangalore must invest in bowlers to add balance to the squad

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.

Royal Challengers Bangalore need to add balance to their squad ahead of IPL 10. BCCI

Royal Challengers Bangalore need to add balance to their squad ahead of IPL 10. BCCI

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.

Click here to know what the franchises need to do in the IPL 2017 auction

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