Best finish: Runners up in 2009, 2012, and 2016
Worst finish: 8th in 2017 and 2019
IPL 2020 finish: 4th
Top Run-Getter: Virat Kohli – 5,878
Top Wicket-Taker: Yuzvendra Chahal - 121
New additions in 2021: Glenn Maxwell, Kyle Jamieson, Daniel Christian, Sachin Baby, Mohammed Azharudeen, Rajat Patidar, Suyash Prabhudesai, KS Bharat
Most IPL followers cannot hide their feeling of glee when Royal Challengers Bangalore underperform. With the two best batsmen of this generation in the squad, expectations from RCB are natural. But over the years, their motto to play bold has not translated into the outcomes they have craved for.
After a wooden spoon in 2019, RCB did well under a new management and finished fourth in 2020. But this was more of a crawl than a scamper. After a bright start, their campaign derailed and they lost their last five games.
RCB’s biggest strength is the superhuman presence of AB de Villiers. He scored the most runs in overs 16 to 20 last season - 258. These came at an imperious strike rate of 222.4. He won three games on his own and seemed a player very much in his prime still. Owing to his efforts, RCB’s run-rate of 10.25 at the death was better than most other teams.
It is unusual for the Bangalore franchise but bowling was not their weaker suit last season. As a collective unit, RCB spinners – Yuzvendra Chahal, Washington Sundar and Adam Zampa - had the best economy rate among all teams.
This also resulted in RCB maintaining an economy of 7.21 in overs 7-15, the second-best in the season after the Sunrisers.
The most glaring weakness for RCB last season was a drop in batting intensity in the middle overs. With a light lower-order, the tendency to keep wickets in hand demanded preference over hitting boundaries. Their run-rate of 6.93 in overs 7-15 was lower than all other sides. The trend was similar against pace and spin but it was more alarming against the quicker bowlers.
Such was their inhibition while batting that they limited themselves to hit one boundary in almost two overs in this phase.
In the bowling department, their biggest let down continued to be the Indian pace contingent. Both Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini were effective with the new ball but lacked control as the innings progressed.
RCB used Saini predominately in the middle-overs but he proved ineffective. Siraj as a death bowler was miles away from a finished product.
To provide the much-needed impetus in the middle-overs, RCB have added Glenn Maxwell to their squad. “The reason why we like him because overs 7-15 is where he is the most dangerous”, said RCB’s director of operations Mike Hesson while planning to buy Maxwell.
Mohammed Azharuddeen is a wicket-keeper batsman added to the side. In the recent edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT), he scored runs at an average of above 50 and a strike rate of 190+. He is likely to feature at number six. They have also added domestic veteran Sachin Baby as a left-hander option for the middle-order. He has averaged 45.08 at a strike rate of 141.9 in the last three editions of SMAT.
Devdutt Padikkal impressed in his debut season and was their leading run-scorer (473 runs). After a stellar domestic season post the IPL, where he notched up four consecutive hundreds in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, finishing with 737 runs at an average of 147.70, we can expect him to be a notch better.
Partnering Padikkal at the top will be Virat Kohli. Looking back at the start of the dream season in 2016 when he scored 973 runs, Kohli averages 51.62 with a strike rate of 145.5 as an opener in the IPL.
Chris Morris was RCB’s best pacer in IPL 2020 but they chose to let him go. Instead, they spent a 15 crores INR on Kyle Jamieson, who was their first preference among the seam bowling options in the auction pool as per Hesson. While he is an imposing figure standing at 6’8” but he has played almost all his cricket in New Zealand. And even there, he has been a batsman who bowls in T20s as his economy of 9.7 in nine T20s in 2021 suggests. Since the auction, RCB have taken a big punt on him replicating his performance in alien conditions. They retained Kane Richardson who last played IPL in 2016 and an economy of 8.0 in the recent Big Bash League is not exceptional either.
Importing Daniels Sams and Harshal Patel before the auction were the only other additions in the pace bowling department. But if they play either of them, they will have to bench their first-choice pacers. Without them, they will have a long tail.
On the batting front, RCB have released all the players who scored at less than run a ball against pace in the middle-overs last season. But, the ones with a strike-rate of almost a 100 against spin in overs 7-15 – Kohli and Sundar – are still around but need to change their approach.
Finally, Maxwell’s inconsistency is common knowledge. A well-defined role might make him do things he is capable of. If it doesn’t work out, RCB’s story might go in the usual direction of de Villiers playing the saviour with only Kohli for support.
Virat Kohli ©, Devdutt Padikkal, AB de Villiers (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Washington Sundar, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Kyle Jamieson, Navdeep Saini, Kane Richardson, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal