Royal Challengers Bangalore have upgraded their bowling attack, which looks well rounded, and have class and power at the top of the batting order. Can they break the IPL jinx? It is the million dollar question every year in this multi-million dollar league.
Can RCB shed their underachievers’ tag?
What can work for them:
Undoubtedly, the top-order is top-notch. The proposition of Aaron Finch, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers can destroy the morale of most bowlers’ in the world. Besides, there is the exciting young left-handed opener Devdutt Padikkal. If at least any two of them click in a match, sometimes even one would suffice, no target or total would be daunting enough for them.
Anyway, top-order has seldom been a worry for them as they have somehow negotiated the best deals. But fast-bowling always had been one of their monumental letdowns.
Not this time though. At least on paper, they have arguably the most lethal bunch of bowlers ever assembled in the red and gold of RCB. Shoring up the fast-bowling stock was their clear auction agenda and they had succeeded in officially acquiring Dale Steyn (who was Nathan Coulter-Nile’s injury replacement last year), not quite the destroyer of the past but still a feared operator, and Isuru Udana, the under-rated Sri Lankan left-arm seamer.
Weave in Chris Morris and the retinue of Indian pacers, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj and Navdeep Saini and RCB’s bowling looks considerably more multidimensional than it had been in the past. That the grounds are bigger than the Chinnaswamy should delight the spinners, a fine assortment nonetheless, rendered finer by the last-minute landing of Adam Zampa in place of fast bowler Kane Richardson, who pulled out. So the bowling, overall, looks an upgrade.
Where they can falter:
Finding the perfect permutation —- a familiar narrative thread in their litany of woes. There is as usual a disproportionate distribution of talent. There are arguably three players who are at their best when opening the innings —- Finch, Padikkal and Parthiv Patel. Yet, their best opener after Chris Gayle’s exit has been Virat Kohli.
Finch could be accommodated at No.3, but what of Patel? Unless de Villiers volunteers to wicket-keep, Patel is bound to figure in every match and him batting down the order is a liability. Blatantly obvious is a lack of depth too. If anyone of their trinity gets injured or run into a streak of indifferent form, the batting would suddenly wither. And Padikkal, for all his dazzle in domestic cricket, is un-guaranteed to reap a similar amount of success at this stage.
In hindsight, they would wish, they had picked a couple of experienced domestic hands. Instead, they have packed their side with bits and pieces players like Pawan Negi, Gurkeerat Singh Mann and Pawan Deshpande.
Will they think of giving the keeping gloves to AB
It’s been three years since de Villiers regularly kept wickets for the RCB. But this time, the team management is seriously pondering to hand the gloves back to the South African. The move would no doubt refine their team balance. They could squeeze in an extra all-rounder or bowler. His keeping is a shade better than Patel too.
But the move is not without ifs and buts. For lurks the possibility of an injury — he has not played much competitive cricket in recent times and the schedule is taxing. The last thing RCB would want is their most prized asset to get injured. Nonetheless, it’s an irresistible temptation for team management.
Say hello (again) to Dale Steyn
Dale Steyn’s priority in his prime was Test cricket, but now that he has put his whites aside, he would channel all his energy into IPL and such-like leagues. His best years might be over, he is not quite as quick or sharp, but the craft remains intact. He has a bagful of deception tools —- the cutters, yorkers, and bouncer and occasionally he does touch the mid-140s. His early bursts could hand RCB the early impetus.
Contrary to perceptions, he has sparkling IPL numbers -— 96 wickets at a strike rate of 24 and an economy rate of 6.76. Perhaps no one in RCB embodies the Kohli spirit than Steyn—like Kohli, the angrier Steyn gets, the better he bowls. With skills, he also brings hostility and energy to RCB. The only prayer on Kohli’s lips would be his talisman lasting the entire tournament. Having had two separate injury-ridden stints with RCB, there is unfinished business for Steyn.
Remember the name
Devdutt Padikkal is a serious cross-format talent, his organised aggression was the fuel behind Karnataka’s charge in last year’s Syed Mushtaq Ali 2019-20. He rattled up 580 runs at 64.44 with a strike rate of 175.75 and struck the maximum sixes (33) in the tournament. He could provide breezy starts, but could also sustain the tempo well into the middle overs.
Mature beyond his years, he can serenely whip up violence. But would the team management have enough conviction to throw the 20-year-old straight into the deep end? And would they have the trust to persist with him, in case he fails? Given RCB’s limited domestic options, Padikkal clearly being the best of them, he will most probably get a chance straightaway.
Staying indoors for 80 days will test all teams. But a largely youthful and fit side, the physical intensity would not be a dampener.
Average age: 28
Total Experience: 2783 T20 games.
Last year: 8,
Last five years: 8, 6, 8, 3, 7