The perennial under-achievers of the Indian Premier League, Royal Challengers Bangalore will hope to pitch in with a better showing as the 13th edition of the league gets underway. Equipped with possibly their best team in a number of years, RCB will be looking to reverse the trend that saw them finish at the bottom of the table in 2019.
But, do they have the squad that can win them the maiden title?
Batsmen: Aaron Finch, Ab de Villiers, Devdutt Padikkal, Joshua Philippe (WK), Parthiv Patel (WK), Shahbaz Ahmad (WK), and Virat Kohli (capt)
All-rounders: Chris Morris, Gurkeerat Singh, Isuru Udana, Moeen Ali, Pavan Deshpande, Pawan Negi, Shivam Dube, and Washington Sundar
Bowlers: Dale Steyn, KAdam Zampa, Mohammad Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Umesh Yadav, and Yuzvendra Chahal
Strengths: In Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, the RCB franchise have two of the biggest match-winners, who can run away with any game on their day. They have had a terrific impact on the side over the years, and they will be expected to raise their game this season as well. If the duo can perform well consistently, the other players can play their natural game, which will only increase their chances of making the top-four.
RCB not only have two of the best batters, they also boast of as many as eight all-rounders in their side. All-rounders lend an enviable balance to any T20 team, which makes them much sought after. In players like Washington Sundar, Chris Morris, Isuru Udana, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube and Pawan Negi, the franchise has a solid depth, and if they get going, they will be a hard team to defeat. Moeen Ali is one of the most underrated T20 players, capable of contributing with both bat and ball, while Morris is a feared death overs bowler. Dube and Sundar can send the ball a long way, and can pick wickets regularly as well.
Unlike other seasons, RCB seem to have finally assembled a well-round bowling unit, which can be a force in the death overs. In Dale Steyn and Morris, the team have two of the best death overs bowlers, while Umesh Yadav can be a threat with the new ball alongside Navdeep Saini. Adam Zampa’s inclusion further bolsters the spin department that has players like Ali, Yuzvendra Chahal and Sundar.
Weaknesses: The biggest Achilles Heel for RCB will be the lack of a dependable middle order player, with most players in the team being top-order cricketers. Parthiv Patel is likely to open the innings alongside Virat Kohli, which means that Aaron Finch – a natural openr – might have to play at three. Even if the Aussie opens and Kohli bats at three, players like Devdutt Padikkal and Josh Phillippe – both top-order players – will need to be slotted in the middle order. De Villiers might come in to bat at number five, which means that players like Morris, Ali, Dube and Sundar will have to raise the game with the bat in hand. The aforementioned players are not the most reliable with the bat, which only increases the pressure on the top-order.
The lack of a pinch-hitter in case of an injury to De Villiers or Kohli will further deplete the side, as the lack of backups can prove to be a weakness as well.
Verdict: Though RCB look stronger than all other years, how well they utilize their resources will be crucial. Kohli has not exactly set the stage on fire as IPL skipper, making some hard-to-digest decisions, and how well the team is managed is going to be crucial.
Predicted XI: Aaron Finch, Parthiv Patel (WK), Virat Kohli (C), Ab De Villiers, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Washington Sundar, Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini, and Yuzvendra Chahal.