Gone are the days of the Chris Gayle-AB de Villiers-Virat Kohli kinda batting lineup for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Ahead of the Indian Premier League season in 2022, RCB have gone from a lopsided, top-loaded batting lineup to a squad filled with bowling options everywhere.
But on the flip side, the batting now appears a bit worrisome. For all the talk of workload management for Virat Kohli, he is going to have return to close to his 2016 level exploits and hope Faf du Plessis, Glenn Maxwell can also do some heavy-lifting in a squad that doesn’t quite hit the peak notes in that regard.
“High-quality domestic core is really important for us,” said Director of Cricket Operations Mike Hesson at the end of day one of the IPL mega auction in Bengaluru.
RCB’s most expensive picks were Indian all-rounder Harshal Patel (Rs 10.75 cr), Sri Lankan wrist-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga (Rs 10.75 cr), Australia’s World Cup-winning and IPL 2021-winning pacer Josh Hazlewood (Rs 7.75 cr), South Africa’s former captain Faf du Plessis (Rs 7 cr).
Players signed by RCB
|Full name||Price (Rs crore)||Times over base price||Country||State Association||Age||Specialism||2021 Team||C/U/A||Base|
|Wanindu Hasaranga||10.75||10.75||Sri Lanka||24||ALL-ROUNDER||RCB||Capped||100|
|Faf Du Plessis||7||3.50||South Africa||37||BATSMAN||CSK||Capped||200|
|Sherfane Rutherford||1||1.00||West Indies||23||ALL-ROUNDER||Capped||100|
|Finn Allen||0.8||1.60||New Zealand||22||BATSMAN||RCB||Capped||50|
Possible best playing XI
Here’s a look at the possible best XI for RCB. While there has been no official confirmation on the captaincy front, it would have to be either Faf du Plessis or Dinesh Karthik, if Kohli stands firm on his decision to give up leadership.
RCB full squad and possible XI
|Possible XI||RCB||Price (Rs crore)||Overseas|
|1||Faf du Plessis (C)||7||OS|
|5||Dinesh Karthik (WK)||5.5|
Domestic talent has been the cornerstone of RCB’s relative recent playoff runs. They have had great success with backing the likes of Siraj, Harshal and Devdutt Padikkal and they have two out of those three still with them. And in this current squad too, the domestic core stands out. In Anuj Rawat and Aneeshwar Gautam, they have brought in two more exciting young Indian talent.
Good repeatability across the squad stands out for RCB. For the roles that they think comprises balance of the first XI, they have tried to add back-up options.
When asked about his assessment on the team’s digital channel, and specifically having back-ups for almost all positions, Hesson added: “That’s the way you look to base your squad because the reality is you don’t want to have one injury and have to make three replacements. So what we need is to have people can come in for a straight swap and don’t upset the balance of the squad.”
In that sense, Hesson sees Sherfane Rutherford as a powerplayer who can bat anywhere between four to seven, and a back-up for scenarios where Glenn Maxwell is not available. Jason Behrendorff is an overseas pacer back-up for Josh Hazlewood. Finn Allen, an X-Factor player with big potential, could do the job at the top of the order as a back-up to du Plessis and can also double as the wicket-keeper. In Chama Milind, they have a change-up heavy Indian pacer who could be a left-arm alternative to Harshal. Milind, as one of the standout performers in the domestic season, is another pick in the direction of backing players in the Harshal mould. Siddharth Kaul and Karn Sharma can slot in if Siraj or Hasaranga cannot be played in the XI.
So yes, what Hesson says about having the luxury of straight swaps in back-ups, and not having to make multiple changes for one unavailability is handy to have, especially in Covid-19 times.
Is the first XI really as strong as RCB would want you to believe? A good, well-rounded squad is essential in IPL, no doubt. But that cannot come at the extent of star power in the starting lineup. Take a look at the squad, and especially the possible best XI, and ask yourself how many of them would make the other nine teams go: “Oh, I desperately wish I had that player in my team.”
Kohli, Maxwell, Harshal, Siraj... definitely. Hasaranga, possibly (but at Rs 10.75 crore?) Du Plessis, sure, because of availability and the winning stardust he brings from CSK. Dinesh Karthik? At a stretch... he is a great player to have in your squad, no doubt.
It does feel like in going for balance across positions, RCB traded off with having match-winning quality especially in the batting side of things. Rawat, Lomror might be exciting young Indians to back but when they are part of your first XI without even any real question mark over ‘who else?’ then it is not ideal.
Also, bizarrely, the management has opted to pick up only 22 players out of the possible 25. And they finished with Rs 1.55 crore in the bank. Surely, surely, there was enough quality left in the list of players unsold to find one, or even two, more batting options to provide competition for places? They were the only team to have more than a crore left and fall short of the maximum allotments.
Who’s saying what
Sanjay Bangar, Head Coach: “The addition of Faf du Plessis adds real strength to the batting department. He is a proven performer, a seasoned campaigner and has delivered at the highest levels. We were looking at someone who can solidify our top order and his inclusion into the team solves just that, with diverse experience of playing across formats gives us options, not only in terms of opening the batting line but also with leadership skills.”