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RCB Preview: Ee Sala....?

Last updated on 22 Mar 2023 | 11:43 AM
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RCB Preview: Ee Sala....?

IPL ’22 saw RCB finish third in the league stage. They won the eliminator against LSG, and lost the second qualifier against RR. Can they go through this time?

They entered the auction with the smallest purse and a set first XI. With not a lot of money to spend, it came as no surprise that they were one of the more docile teams at the auction. In all IPL, this is only the second instance of a team having the same best XI across two seasons. Here, best XI has been defined as the most expensive XI with a cap of four overseas players. Speaks volumes about the consistency Hesson & Co. are trying to bring in, 

Instead, some of the more interesting purchases made by them were the fruits of their scouting program, Avinash Singh and Himanshu Sharma are joining RCB with no professional cricket experience, but the RCB scouts seem to rate them very highly. And there’s every reason to believe them. After all, in just three years of establishing their scouting program, they have seen the likes of Devdutt Padikkal, Shahbaz Ahmad and Rajat Patidar make it to the Indian team. 

Have they upgraded from last season?

Fair to say, RCB will more or less field the same XI as last season. On paper, it reflects the management’s faith in the squad they built in the mega auction. It also allows for the same set of players to be given a longer rope, making them more secure about their spot and the freedom to play their natural game with ease. 

As much as that sounds good, only time will tell us if these reasons can paper over the apparent cracks in their playing XI. Last season, RCB’s openers struggled to get going. While Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis had evident struggles against spin, even pacers managed to tie them down with tight lengths in the opening phase. This resulted in their middle-order bailing them out more often than not. 

Glenn Maxwell scored 300 runs at 169.1 with the bat and took 6 wickets at 6.8 with the ball. RCB would want him to do more of just that. Contribute with bat and ball, and ease the pressure off the top-order and finishers. In addition, Rajat Patidar, Mahipal Lomror, and Shahbaz Ahmed chipped in with crucial contributions to help RCB win games on different occasions. What also helped was Dinesh Karthik’s once-in-a-lifetime season as a finisher in IPL ‘22, and one would have to be really optimistic to believe that he can replicate last season’s success.

What needs to change for them?

No new additions at the top mean that RCB will want their batting mainstays to come good this time. Last season, Faf du Plessis did play a couple of big knocks that helped him boost his run tally in excess of 400. With RCB playing half of this season’s games at their home ground, the Chinnaswamy Stadium, their skipper would surely want to score faster than his IPL ’22 strike rate of 127. RCB fans will take heart from the fact that he has been more proactive during powerplays, post last IPL. 

Faf du Plessis in Powerplay, IPL ’22: R – 201, SR – 104.7, Avg. -28.7, Bdarys/Balls: 16.1%

Faf du Plessis in Powerplay, post IPL ’22: R – 497, SR – 157.3, Avg. – 45.18, Bdarys/Balls: 25.9%

Virat Kohli, the face of RCB, had a horrid time at the center during last IPL. A combination of bad luck, poor form, and ill-timed shots meant that he could just not buy a run. However, since then, he has shown recurring signs of coming back to form. He also broke his century less streak by scoring centuries in all three formats in the last six months. It’ll be a huge shot in the arm for their batting lineup to see him have a decent season this time around. 

Just like their batters, their bowlers also struggled in the powerplay. It was their worst phase, as they leaked runs across venues and struggled to get early breakthroughs. Josh Hazlewood’s arrival did help them, but Mohammed Siraj’s performance left a lot to be desired. He had the worst numbers of all bowlers who have bowled at least 30 powerplay overs in an IPL season. Not a list he would have wanted to be on top of. 

He’s been having a dream run in the powerplay in ODIs since IPL ’22. RCB will be dearly hoping for him to carry on this confidence into the IPL. An encore of his IPL ’21 performance would go a long way in paving RCB’s road to playoffs. 

Mohammed Siraj in Powerplay, IPL ’22: W – 5, RR – 10.2, Avg. – 63.4, Balls/Wicket: 37.2

Mohammed Siraj in Powerplay, ODIs post IPL ‘22: W – 24, RR – 4.3, Avg. – 15.2, Balls/Wicket: 21.3

The middle overs phase is where they pulled back in most games. Wanindu Hasaranga proved that he was paid the big bucks for good reason. Harshal Patel might not have been amongst the wickets, but he ensured that the run flow was kept in check. Faf du Plessis’ rotation of Glenn Maxwell and Shahbaz Ahmed to matchups was commendable. RCB took the most wickets and conceded the least runs in this phase amongst all teams, last season.

RCB in Middle Overs, IPL ’22: W – 51, RR – 7.8, Avg. – 23.2, Balls/Wicket: 17.9

Other Teams in Middle Overs, IPL ’22: W – 367, RR – 8.2, Avg. – 29.3, Balls/Wicket: 21.4

Home and Away

Chinnaswamy Stadium has historically been a graveyard for bowlers. There’s not much in terms of home advantage that RCB can look at, apart from their fans. Intent merchants will have a field day in Bangalore, making it all the more important for the likes of Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis to score quicker than what they have in the past few seasons.

RCB's bowling attack that is neither too spin heavy nor too pace heavy, something that should work in their favour. Barring form/injury concerns, they have a lineup that can compete well across surfaces without having to tinker much. 

Potential XI (Home and Away)

Faf du Plessis (C), Virat Kohli, Rajat Patidar, Glenn Maxwell, Mahipal Lomror, Dinesh Karthik (WK), Shahbaz Ahmed, Wanindu Hasaranga, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Josh Hazlewood

RCB have a good squad and an even better first XI to compete for the title. But, they would be wary of the fact that they have multiple players returning from injuries, and as highly rated as the backup options might be, they are still unproven at this level. Credit where it’s due, it was refreshing to see RCB clearly defining roles for each player and that enabled them to be one of the better teams, tactically. Their reliance on data, coupled with their emphasis on intangibles like team culture and focusing on the process will keep them in good stead while chasing the elusive title. 

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