Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have a huge fan base but the franchise has never done justice to their ceaseless love and loyalty. Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli believes this is the most balanced set-up they have had since 2016, where they finished runners-up to the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). Bangalore haven't come close to the playoffs since, and their "most balanced squad" will be put to the extreme test against the same opponent in their first encounter of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 on Monday (September 21).
On paper, Bangalore always look solid. In Kohli and AB de Villiers, they have two of the best white-ball batsmen of all time but it's their over-reliance on these two that often leads to their downfall. Bangalore made a couple of lucrative purchases in the auction, and have managed to strengthen their batting, but their bowling attack once again looks dubious despite getting their hands on Chris Morris, Dale Steyn, Isuru Udana and Adam Zampa. They spent INR 10 crore on Morris but the South African paceman by no means is a trustable death bowler.
Morris has an economy of 9.6 in the IPL since 2018, while Steyn is someone you would want to bowl out inside 15 overs. 37-year-old Steyn can still cause damage with the new ball but the right-arm paceman is way past his prime and can't be trusted to bowl those crucial death overs. The same goes for Umesh Yadav, which means Navdeep Saini will have to step up big time. The 27-year-old fierce paceman impressed in the last edition of IPL but now that he has made his ODI and T20I debut, Saini will have to take on more responsibilities and bowl those match-defining overs.
Meanwhile, Yuzvendra Chahal has been the backbone of the Bangalore bowling line-up which has struggled over the years. The legspinner will have decent support in the spin department but he will once again be expected to play a massive role in those middle overs. Their bowling attack might be iffy but Bangalore once again have a formidable batting line-up. They managed to acquire Australia's white-ball captain Aaron Finch ahead of the season and if the opener manages to replicate his international form, it will take a huge burden off Kohli and de Villiers' shoulders.
The star duo of Kohli and de Villiers have scored over 42 percent of the total team runs since 2018 and will once again have to play a huge role if Bangalore want to do well in the 13th edition of the lucrative T20 league. They have got an exciting young local talent in Devdutt Padikkal and it will be up to the team management to use his potential to the fullest. However, Bangalore don't have reliable finishers and that might haunt them in the long run. Bangalore should do fine if at least one of Kohli or de Villiers play till the end but if not, players like Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar and Morris will have to step up.
RCB often fail to get their team composition wrong but that's not the case with Hyderabad. SRH won the title in 2016 and since have made it to the playoffs every single time. Hyderabad will be led by David Warner who has inarguably been the best overseas batsman in the last few years. The left-hander from Australia has scored 2181 runs at 62.31 since IPL 2016, only behind Virat Kohli (2275), and this is despite missing the entire 2018 edition. Last season, Warner formed a fearsome opening combination with Jonny Bairstow and the two played a key role in helping SRH qualify for the playoffs.
Unlike the last season, the two will be available for the entire tournament and that might serve as a huge boost for Hyderabad. Kane Williamson's spot in the playing XI is not guaranteed, which means the Indian batsmen will have to put their hands up in the middle-order. Players like Manish Pandey and Vijay Shankar will have to contribute a lot, while the young guns like Abdul Samad, Priyam Garg, Abhishek Sharma and Virat Singh too should get enough game-time.
SRH will rely a lot on the Afghanistan duo of Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan, both in batting and bowling. If Hyderabad want to do well, Bhuvneshwar Kumar will have to make a huge impact. The right-arm seamer has been way below-par in the last two seasons, having managed 22 wickets at an average of 37. Bhuvneshwar will have to lead from the front and also guide the likes of Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma and Siddarth Kaul.
Warner averages 60.92 against Bangalore and in the last season, he along with Bairstow put up a record opening stand of 185 against Kohli and Co. The left-hander has impeccable numbers against Chahal, Umesh and Moeen, which means Bangalore will have to find a way to stop the southpaw.
Bangalore will also be wary of Nabi who has done well in the couple of matches against RCB. Bangalore will have quite a few left-handers in their playing XI and that will increase Nabi's effectiveness.
To make things worse for Bangalore, both Kohli and de Villiers haven't done well against Hyderabad since 2018. Kohli averages just 17.5 against the Orange Army, while de Villiers averages 19.
The only way Williamson could get into the XI is if SRH don't play Nabi and that's not going to happen. Samad should get a place in the XI as he could provide that much-needed firepower down the order. It will also be interesting to see if the team management goes for an experienced campaigner like Wriddhiman Saha or bring in one of Virat Singh or Abhishek Sharma. Hyderabad have quite a few Indian seamers in their squad and at least two of Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul, or Basil Thampi should get a game.
Probable XI: David Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Virat Singh/Abhishek Sharma, Abdul Samad, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma/Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed.
De Villiers will have to don the wicketkeeping gloves if Bangalore want to get their combination right, it's as simple as that. If that's not the case, Bangalore will be forced to play Parthiv Patel ahead of Padikkal or Joshua Philippe ahead of Finch. Considering the amount they have paid for Morris, the all-rounder should find a spot in the XI. The toss-up for the final overseas spot could be between Moeen and Steyn.
Probable XI: Aaron Finch, Devdutt Padikkal/Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal.