In a long-drawn public relations exercise earlier this year, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)created a buzz by removing all content from its social media accounts. A big change was promised — perhaps a name change, perhaps a change in leadership. When the curtain finally lifted, it turned out to be nothing more than a new team logo.
The fans were left unimpressed, as one major concern still remained. For all the hype surrounding the Virat Kohli-led franchise, the performances on the field in the previous 12 seasons has not been up to scratch. A superficial change — the logo change, that is — is not what’s needed to win a much-awaited maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy.
It’s the players who will need to step up to achieve that goal. In the auction held in December, RCB needed to address a few weaknesses that have dragged down the side in recent seasons — an over-dependence on Kohli and A. B. de Villiers in the batting department and the lack of specialist death bowlers and middle-order finishers. A look at the final squad list shows that these holes have not been adequately filled.
But the addition of Aaron Finch gives the top order an explosive feel. Australia’s Twenty20 (T20) and One-Day International captain is a pure match-winner. He was in great form before the COVID-19 pandemic forced international sport to come to a halt, having picked up the man-of-the-series award in the three-match T20 International series against South Africa. Finch was on fire in the Big Bash T20 League for the Melbourne Renegades as well, hammering 363 runs at a strike rate of nearly 140. The six-match limited-overs series against England will help Finch get in the groove ahead of the IPL.
The Australian opener is expected to smash the bowlers to all parts of the ground, while his partner — likely to be either young, elegant southpaw Devdutt Padikkal or experienced wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel — will lend steady support at the other end.
Dale Steyn, 36, has battled several injuries in recent years, and it remains to be seen if he can be fit for the full duration of the IPL. – K. Murali Kumar
With Kohli and de Villiers to follow, the RCB top order is in good hands. But the absence of a clinical finisher — in the mould of Andre Russell, Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard — could prove to be a major hiccup. A whole host of all-rounders — led by Chris Morris and Shivam Dube — are expected to don this role. In seasons past, RCB had placed the same expectations on its all-rounders only to receive poor results. The likes of Colin de Grandhomme and Marcus Stoinis were expected to blow the opposition out of the water late in the innings, but they were simply not up to the task.
The bowling attack is led by South African paceman Dale Steyn, who is currently on the comeback trail. Steyn, 36, has battled several injuries in recent years, and it remains to be seen if he can be fit for the full duration of the IPL. Retained player Navdeep Saini has improved by leaps and bounds in the last year, proving himself to be a fiery fast bowler with exceptional control over the yorker and the bouncer. Saini will be key to keeping the runs in check in the death overs. Isuru Udana could provide support in this regard, with the Sri Lankan being renowned for possessing a good variety of slower balls.
The spin department will once again be spearheaded by leggie Yuzvendra Chahal.
While a few reinforcements have arrived to bolster RCB’s chances, old ghosts could well return to haunt the team.
The squad: Virat Kohli (captain), A. B. de Villiers, Gurkeerat Mann, Devdutt Padikkal, Aaron Finch, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Kane Richardson, Dale Steyn, Isuru Udana, Moeen Ali, Pawan Negi, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Chris Morris, Pavan Deshpande Parthiv Patel, Joshua Philippe, Shahbaz Ahamad.
Top three run-getters
|Batsman||Seasons||Runs||Matches||Hundreds||Fifties||Highest score||Average||Strike rate|
|A. B. de Villiers||2011-19||3,755||127||2||30||133*||41.72||159.10|
Top three wicket-takers
|Bowler||Seasons||Wickets||Matches||Four-wicket hauls||Best bowling||Average||Economy rate|
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