For one last time but not for the first time, Royal Challengers Bangalore will enter into the resplendent IPL tournament as among favorites with this core squad, as contracts are going to expire and fresh auctions to be held next year. RCB’s IPL itinerary has been that of a roller coaster, from being on the receiving end of a McCullum assault and finishing in bottom two in the inaugural season, to being the surprise finalist followed by few appalling early exits and finishing second last season, the winner’s podium is something that continues eludes them.
And this time too, things don’t look much different for RCB with the battle lines drawn. Having spent some eye catching bucks in the recent auction, RCB will be hoping that they have gotten their bases covered.
But, have they?
Royal Challengers Bangalore, a team which represents the Silicon Valley of India has the most sought after cricketing innovator in their ranks, they have a batsman who can score hundreds in a 15 over game, and they have the universal boss. Being the batting power house of IPL, any target can be chased and set if any one of the top three carries his bat. K.L. Rahul and Kedar Jadav’s drastic rise in the shorter formats for their national team will be an added advantage and Jadav has the gasoline to seal the finisher’s role. Inspite of his below par last season with the bat, Watson’s ability to clear the ropes with ease and his vast experience makes him a menacing customer. He averages better at the top, but he is left with no choice but to adapt to his middle order role. Travis head will be a perfect back-up in case of any overseas batsmen getting injured. Stuart Binny could also serve with his lusty blows at the end. Sachin Baby, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh too have enough motivation in their camp to perform whenever drafted into the eleven.
T20 being a batsmen’s game, is won by the team with better bowlers, preferably those who can execute perfect Yorkers or run-rate dipping variations. Sreenath Aravind was impressive with the new ball, and Chahal,coming back from a six-fer against the visiting English side, can make some important breakthrough in the middle. It will be a toss-up between Negi and Abdulla on who will partner Chahal. Tymal Mills was bought for a staggering sum impressing with his death bowling prowess in the T20 series against India. He did make it difficult for the Indian batsmen’s with clever change of pace, line and length. Virat Kohli would want him to do the same for RCB to take some burden off their batters.
Their management must groom another bowler who can support Mills at the end overs, any one of Aniket Choudhary or Harshal Patel can don the role. Having traveled with the Indian team ahead of New Zealand and Australia Test series, Virat should have a fair idea of how to use Aniket, who raised quite a few eye-brows in the auctions. Though they have a number of options available with Samuel Badree in the ranks as well, the rule of 4 foreigners could hurt RCB again. This is one department where Vettori and Kohli must look to get better from their previous editions and their luxury of having a herculean batting line up cannot be taken for granted.
From stepping in to Royal Challengers Bangalore as a promising uncapped player to being the juggernaut that he is now, the one thing missing in Virat’s and RCB’s IPL history is the trophy itself. RCB missed the winning penalty last year when their name was written all over the trophy, and they would love to convert this season into a glorious one. If guided properly and grounded until it actually gets over, RCB will surely be the team to beat. This season will be an opportunity for the likes of Lokesh Rahul and Jadhav to further up their IPL records. Their bowlers will also be raring to prove that they can hunt in packs. It will be interesting to see if Virat ‘Run Machine’ Kohli can break the 1000 run mark in a season after coming real close last time.
Royal Challengers Bangalore started their chase in the 2016 final in a commanding way as the scoreboard read 114/0 in 10.2 overs. Gayle got out in 10.3 and things became topsy turvy before they ended up losing the match. It required an AB special in Qualifier 1 to stop one such and on numerous other occasions when their skipper rescued them out of shambles. Middle order must take the responsibility of stabilizing things when the humans behind the top three cause them to falter. It might be difficult to imagine them faltering the way they do, but it is where the coaches should let the others know that their turn to pull one such may not be too far along the road. They should not allow the opposition to make the inroads in case of a top order failure.
The Royal Challengers from Bangalore look promising as they always do, but can they get past their choking instincts?