It’s another season and another opportunity for Royal Challengers Bangalore to win their first Indian Premier League title.
Led by Virat Kohli since 2013, RCB are perhaps the biggest underachievers in the history of the T20 tournament. They may have finished runners-up thrice but for a franchise that has had some of the biggest stars over the years, to not win a single title must hurt.
RCB's record over the years in IPL
|Season||League stage finish||Playoff result|
|IPL 2009||3rd||Lost final|
|IPL 2011||4th out of 10||Lost final|
|IPL 2012||5th out of 9|
|IPL 2013||5th out of 9|
|IPL 2015||3rd||Won Eliminator, Lost Qualifier 2|
|IPL 2016||2nd||Lost final|
|IPL 2017|| 8th|
|IPL 2018|| 6th|
After a below-par IPL 2019 where they finished bottom of the table, it was expected that RCB will reboot... they will do whatever it takes to turn things around. After all, they haven’t made the playoffs in the last three seasons. But apart from getting a new logo and bringing in Mike Hesson and Simon Katich into their coaching staff, not a lot has changed for the men in red.
At the IPL 2020 auctions late last year, RCB’s tactics left a lot to be desired and did little to strengthen their biggest weakness – the bowling department.
RCB's squad for IPL 2020
|Virat Kohli||Yuzvendra Chahal||Moeen Ali||Parthiv Patel|
|AB de Villiers||Mohammed Siraj||Pawan Negi||Shahbaz Ahmed|
|Gurkeerat Mann||Umesh Yadav||Shivam Dube||Joshua Philippe|
|Devdutt Padikkal||Navdeep Saini||Washington Sundar|
|Aaron Finch||Adam Zampa||Christopher Morris|
|Dale Steyn||Isuru Udana|
Players in action post lockdown
RCB have four players in their squad who have played professional cricket since the lockdown began. Both Aaron Finch and Adam Zampa played all three One-Day Internationals and three T20Is against England.
Captain Finch had a decent run in the T20Is with 125 runs in total, but he could manage just one half-century in the following ODI series. However, he looked in good hitting touch during the series.
The fact that he led Australia to a series win against the formidable England will give him confidence heading into the IPL.
Zampa, meanwhile, had an impressive ODI series but didn’t do much in the shortest format. The leg-spinner picked up 10 wickets across the three 50-over games and just three wickets in the T20Is.
Then there’s England’s Moeen Ali who has played a number of white-ball games for England over the past two months. Starting with three ODIs against Ireland, the 33-year-old featured in three T20Is each against Pakistan and Australia and finally one ODI versus the Aussies. He also captained England in one of the T20Is.
Despite flashes of brilliant strokeplay, consistency eluded Ali. Barring a knock of 61 runs in a T20I against Pakistan, the all-rounder didn’t have any noteworthy outing in England’s home season. He was eventually not selected for the last two matches of the summer.
In heartwarming news for RCB fans, de Villiers played in the unique 3-Team event in South Africa and blasted a half century to take his side to the top of the podium.
Finally, there’s Isuru Udana who has played two first-class games in Sri Lanka over the past month. The left-arm medium-pacer could pick just three wickets in the four innings that he bowled.
With Kohli, AB de Villiers and Finch in their ranks, RCB’s biggest strength – as has traditionally been the case – remains their batting. While as always a lot will depend on Kohli and de Villiers, the presence of Australia captain Finch will give them much-needed experience and flexibility in the order.
RCB could go with Devdutt Padikkal, Finch, Kohli and ABD in the top four which would give them arguably the strongest top order in the tournament. But things seem a little shaky thereafter. They have Punjab’s Gurkeerat Mann and the all-rounders as options. Having spent a whopping Rs 10 crore on Chris Morris, it seems unlikely they will leave him out.
With the pitches in the United Arab Emirates likely to favour spinners, the likes of Ali, Pawan Negi and Washington Sundar could get more game-time than Shivam Dube and Udana.
In terms of the batting department, another interesting selection will be that of the wicketkeeper. They have three options – India’s Parthiv Patel, Australia’s Joshua Philippe and de Villiers – and going by the indications from RCB’s training sessions in the UAE, the South African veteran might well be the first choice ‘keeper to help balance the squad. With de Villiers, Finch, Morris likely to take up three sureshot overseas spots, the South African keeping wickets can allow RCB to make the fourth overseas pick purely based on conditions without comprising the batting order.
To put it plainly – RCB don’t seem to have enough depth in their bowling department to win consistently in a long tournament like the IPL.
They brought in Morris, Udana, Kane Richardson and Dale Steyn (re-signed) in the auctions. With no disrespect to any one of them, they just aren’t go-to bowlers who can win you a title.
In Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini, RCB have three solid Indian fast bowlers. But with the pitches set to be slow and dry, their skills/variations will be put through a stern test.
Which brings us to the spinners – the most vital cog in the bowling unit for each team this year. With Yuzvendra Chahal, Zampa, Ali, Negi, Sundar and Pavan Deshpande, RCB have plenty of options. But just like the pacers, it’s hard to pick a consistent match-winner among these names except Chahal. The Indian leg-spinner and Zampa are the best spinners in the squad but it remains to be seen how often the two leggies will be played together.
Most Valuable Player
Kohli and de Villiers would perhaps be the biggest draws no matter which team they play for. As has been the case for many years now, RCB’s hopes will rest firmly on the shoulders of these two batting superstars.
The India skipper has been with RCB since the very first season of the IPL in 2008, having scored 5412 runs for the franchise in 177 matches. But with the lengthy break due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be interesting to see how quickly the 31-year-old gets out of the gates.
In India’s last T20 International series – in New Zealand at the start of 2020 – Kohli had a poor run by his standards, scoring just 105 runs in four games. Having said that, a rejuventaed Kohli could be a handful for opponents and his team will be hoping he has a record-breaking run this season like he did in 2016.
Just like Kohli, de Villiers has been a firm pillar of RCB since he joined the side in 2011. The 36-year-old may have retired from international cricket but his performances in the BBL and the Mzansi Super League over the past 10 months suggest he’s far from over.
De Villiers’ batting position will be crucial for RCB. One would always want a match-winner like him to face as many deliveries but with the lower order lacking firepower, RCB may be tempted to hold him back every now and then.
Potential breakout star
In Devdutt Padikkal, the Royal Challengers have one of the most exciting young batting talents in India. The left-handed opener from Karnataka was the standout performer in the two premier domestic white-ball tournaments last season.
Padikkal helped his state team win the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy by scoring 609 runs in 11 matches – the most by any batsman in the tournament. He followed that up by top-scoring in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy as well – 580 runs from 12 games at a superb strike-rate of 175.75.
RCB fixtures for IPL 2020
|SRH vs RCB||21 Sep, Mon (1930)||Dubai|
|KXIP vs RCB||24 Sep, Thu (1930)||Dubai|
|RCB vs MI||28 Sep, Mon (1930)||Dubai|
|RCB vs RR||3 Oct, Sat (1530)||Abu Dhabi|
|RCB vs DC||5 Oct, Mon (1930)||Dubai|
|CSK vs RCB||10 Oct, Sat (1930)||Dubai|
|RCB vs KKR||12 Oct, Mon (1930)||Sharjah|
|RCB vs KXIP||15 Oct, Thu (1930)||Sharjah|
|RR vs RCB||17 Oct, Sat (1530)||Dubai|
|KKR vs RCB||21 Oct, Wed (1930)||Abu Dhabi|
|RCB vs CSK||25 Oct, Sun (1530)||Dubai|
|MI vs RCB||28 Oct, Wed (1930)||Abu Dhabi|
|RCB vs SRH||31 Oct, Sun (1930)||Sharjah|
|DC vs RCB||2 Nov, Mon (1930)||Abu Dhabi|
Where do you think RCB will finish this year? Will this be their season after all? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @thefield_in.