Life of a Royal Challengers Bangalore fan is almost equivalent to a life of a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. The two teams have always had some phenomenal individuals but often end up struggling to fire as a unit. Two modern titans of their respective sports, Virat Kohli and Harry Kane are friends in real life and are men who wear hearts on their proverbial sleeves. The two have been consistent performers but are yet to win a trophy for their respective clubs, and will now once again try to chase success this season.
We could keep talking about these two, but let's stick to Kohli and his team for now. Bangalore were in remarkable form in the first half of the Indian Premier League 2021. For a change, the Men in Red got their "combination" right from the very first game and won five of their seven encounters before the tournament got postponed. RCB already had enough firepower in their arsenal but the arrival of Tim David and Wanindu Hasaranga will make them even more formidable. Bangalore will restart their season against Kolkata Knight Riders on September 20 and would be eager to replicate their form from the first leg.
The reason RCB did well in the first half of the competition was they were consistent in most facets of the game and won those key moments, helping them win a couple of close matches. They defended 149 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and then got the better of table-toppers Delhi Capitals by just one run. Devdutt Padikkal smoked a stunning century against Rajasthan Royal, while despite not being at his best, skipper Kohli chipped in with a couple of decent cameos. However, it was Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers who did the majority of the damage in the batting department.
Maxwell was one of the most dominant batsmen in the middle overs (7-15). The Australian batter scored 154 runs in that phase - second-most after Shikhar Dhawan (226) - at a strike rate of 145.3. Spinners generally operate in the middle overs and Maxwell had the fifth-best balls per boundary (4.8) against them (minimum 50 runs). No other batter hit more sixes against spinners in this phase than Maxwell (8). Overall, RCB also had the third-best scoring rate in the powerplay (8) and death overs (10.3). And, the latter was largely taken care by de Villiers.
The genius from South Africa scored the most number of runs - 146 at a strike rate of 243.3 - in the last phase (overs 16-20) of the innings. Among batsmen who scored at least 60 runs in this phase, de Villiers had the second-best strike rate after Ambati Rayudu (66 runs at 287). However, the 37-year-old scored more than double of what Rayudu managed. De Villiers also smashed the most number of boundaries and clearly stood head and shoulders above the competition. The right-hander formed a solid combination with Maxwell and the form of these two could decide Bangalore's fate.
In the bowling department, Harshal Patel is currently the leading wicket-taker in the tournament. The right-arm seamer had a rough game against Chennai Super Kings, thanks to Ravindra Jadeja, but still has 17 wickets at an impressive strike rate of 9.8. The surfaces in the UAE might even suit his style of bowling. RCB had the third-worst economy (8.5) but did well to take wickets at regular intervals, thus, having the second-best strike rate (17.5) after Chennai (17.2). The franchise has also benefited from the growth of Mohammed Siraj. The right-hander defended 13 runs in the final over against in-form Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetmyer, and will now be even more confident after his outings in England.
Bangalore's two key players - Kohli and Chahal - haven't been in great form. Kohli has managed 664 runs in 22 games in IPL since 2020 but has a strike rate of just 121.4. The Bangalore skipper averages almost 74 against spinners in this time period but has a strike rate of just 109.26. Not just Kohli, even de Villiers strikes at only 115.82 against spinners but operates at 194.04 against seamers. Padikkal (164.9) and Maxwell (161.4) are the only two RCB batters who have a strike rate of more than 130 against spin in IPL 2021.
The form of Chahal is also a huge concern for Bangalore. The legspinner doesn't have great numbers in the last two-three years and was also left out of the 2021 T20 World Cup squad. Chahal only took four wickets at an average of 47.50 and an economy rate of 8.26 in the first half of IPL 2021, as Bangalore spinners had the worst economy rate (7.9) after Rajasthan (10.4). Chahal, however, did claim 21 wickets in IPL 2020 in the UAE and would desperately want to stamp his authority in the second leg of IPL 2021. Meanwhile, Harshal and Kyle Jamieson are Bangalore's leading wicket-takers in IPL 2021 but the two have also been expensive. Amongst bowlers who have bowled at least 20 overs, Jamieson (9.2) and Harshal (9.17) have the fourth-worst and fifth-worst economy rate.
Adam Zampa, Daniel Sams, Kane Richardson and Finn Allen made themselves unavailable for the second half, while Washington Sundar has been ruled out due to a finger injury. Bangalore have managed to acquire the services of David, Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera, George Garton and Akash Deep. David, who plays international cricket for Singapore, has become a household name in T20 leagues around the world. The hard-hitting middle-order batsman has an average of 35.5 and a strike rate of 153.2 in T20s and is a perfect option if Bangalore want to strengthen their batting line-up.
Meanwhile, Hasaranga is one of the best legspinners going around in world cricket. In T20s since 2020, the legspinner has scalped 48 wickets an economy of just 5.6. The 24-year-old troubled most of the Indian batsmen during the recent tour of Sri Lanka, and would probably walk into RCB's playing XI once available. They have also brought in Sri Lanka's Chameera and England's Garton. If needed, both Garton and Hasaranga could also chip in with the bat. If used properly, in-form Hasaranga and David could prove to be game-changing signings.
How do they feel about the UAE?
Bangalore made it to the playoffs last season, which was played in the UAE, but lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator. However, they have a lot more "balanced" squad than what they did in 2020. Players like Chahal, de Villiers and Maxwell have had success here in the past and they wouldn't mind IPL shifting its base to the UAE. If the surfaces are flat, their batting would become even more formidable, but their bowling unit would excel on slow surfaces as they did in Chennai in the first half.
Bangalore are currently placed at the third position on the points table and need three or four wins in their remaining seven games to qualify for the playoffs. However, they will be wary of their NRR (-0.171).
Best possible XI
Virat Kohli (c), Devdutt Padikkal, Rajat Patidar, Glenn Maxwell, AB de Villiers (wk), Shahbaz Ahmed, Kyle Jamieson, Wanindu Hasaranga, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal.