For 12 seasons now, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have flattered to deceive. They’ve been the most underperforming side in the history of the Indian Premier League (IPL). They have never won an IPL title and have faltered in three finals. Moreover, the Bangalore-based franchise have made it to the top four in only five out of the 12 seasons.
Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and Delhi Capitals (DC) haven’t won an IPL title either. But over the years, RCB have been a star-studded side and have had the firepower on multiple occasions. But they have always failed to live up to expectations.
In fact, after a terrific run in the 2016 season which ended up as heartbreak when they lost in the finals to Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), RCB have been very poor. In fact, they finished with the wooden spoon twice in the last three seasons (2017 and 2019). Last season, they lost six games in a row to start the tournament before winning five out of their last nine. They finished last and hence, it was no surprise when they released 12 players ahead of the auctions.
Despite having 12 slots available, RCB opted to buy just eight players. There was the big signing of Chris Morris for INR 10 crore. Aaron Finch was also added as he was bought for INR 4.4 crore. Dale Steyn (INR 2 crore) was resigned while Isuru Udana (INR 50 lakh) and Kane Richardson (INR 4 crore) add some bowling depth. Uncapped Australian wicket-keeper batsman Josh Phillipe was the other acquisition for his base price of INR 20 lakh. Shahbaz Ahmed is another wicket-keeper batsman who has been added.
Overall, RCB have a squad of 21 players which includes eight overseas options as well. There are plenty of quality options at RCB’s disposal and in fact, they have the depth that could well see them lift their maiden IPL title.
Like always, RCB have the batting firepower. It will be centred around the two stalwarts, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. With the number of opening options that RCB have, it is likely that Kohli will bat at 3 and De Villiers at 4. Meanwhile, the addition of Aaron Finch adds some quality at the top of the order. Finch’s inclusion could well ease some pressure of the two big players.
Moreover, there is Parthiv Patel who is likely going to be the first-choice wicket-keeper and he had a decent season last year. The Finch-Patel could well be the opening partnership. But RCB have options there as well. There is Devdutt Padikkal who has been in fine form while Josh Phillipe could be an underrated option and he’s looked in great touch in the Big Bash.
RCB have a few quality all-round options as well. None bigger than Chris Morris. He was the big signing this season and much will depend on the South African as he will be crucial to the balance of the side. He might bat at 7 and will be absolutely critical with the ball. Then, there is Moeen Ali who did well last season and the addition of Isuru Udana adds some depth lower down the order along with the variations he brings with his bowling. Shivam Dube is rated highly and has done well in domestic cricket and has been in and around the Indian team as well.
Meanwhile, bowling has always been a problem for RCB. While they’ve had some brilliant performances with the bat, it’s the bowling which has been disappointing over the years. However, this time around, they seem to have some good depth in the bowling as well.
RCB have a very good Indian bowling core. Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal and Pawan Negi offer some variety in the spin attack. While Sundar is good with the new ball, in the powerplay, Chahal has made a name for himself by being a bankable bowler despite bowling at some graveyards at the Chinnaswamy. He will lead the spin attack.
Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini form a decent Indian fast bowling core. Yadav can expensive at the death and hence, can be used aggressively at the top. Saini is a very exciting prospect and has done well in a couple of games for India as well. He has the pace and can bowl a good yorker as well. Siraj is a good backup option as well. Meanwhile, RCB have the likes of Dale Steyn and Kane Richardson. Steyn is a proven performer and has been in great rhythm in recent times. The ace South African pacer did well in the Mzansi Super League (MSL) and also, the Big Bash League (BBL). Meanwhile, Richardson has done very well over the last couple of seasons in the BBL.
Hence, there are various options in the bowling attack which is a good sign. While the batting continues to be RCB’s strength, the bowling isn’t too far behind. There are various combinations RCB can have as far as their playing XI is concerned.
There are a few sure starters. Kohli, De Villiers, Morris, Chahal, Saini and Yadav seem like definite starters. You can add a couple more to this list with Finch and Sundar. Steyn and Richardson could fight for another fast bowler’s spot. Or if RCB opt to go with Ali in the middle, they could have an all Indian bowling attack along with the all-round power of Morris.
Thus, RCB have the firepower and the depth to go all the way this year. They need to use their resources well and back players. Moreover, they will need multiple players stepping up apart from Kohli and De Villiers.