Is this the year?

For Royal Challengers Bangalore, the challenge once again is to bring home the Indian Premier League title for the first time. Thirteen editions have gone by, and the wait continues for Virat Kohli and Co ahead of the 2021 season.

It is not surprising that once again, on paper, Kohli’s RCB look to be a strong batting unit but the bowling remains an area of concern.

IPL 2020, lest anyone forgets, was a good one for RCB because they got to the playoffs. It is no mean feat in the toughest T20 competition in the world. But the season ended in much the same way as the previous three: no trophy to show for and plenty of questions about Kohli’s captaincy.

Clearly, Kohli’s captaincy is a topic of debate only for those on the outside as the franchise embarks on another season towards their elusive quest for the trophy under the Indian superstar’s leadership.

Squad for IPL 2021

Players bought by RCB at auction

Kyle Jamieson All-Rounder Rs 150000000
Glenn Maxwell All-Rounder Rs 142500000
Dan Christian All-Rounder Rs 48000000
Sachin Baby Batsman Rs 2000000
Rajat Patidar Batsman Rs 2000000
Mohammed Azharuddeen Wicket Keeper Rs 2000000
Suyash Prabhudesai All-Rounder Rs 2000000
Kona Srikar Bharat Wicket Keeper Rs 2000000

RCB squad for IPL 2021

Batsmen Bowlers Wicketkeepers Allrounders
Virat Kohli Mohammed Siraj AB de Villiers Washington Sundar
Devdutt Padikkal Navdeep Saini Kona Srikar Bharat Harshal Patel (trade)
Pavan Deshpande  Yuzvendra Chahal Mohammed Azharuddeen Daniel Sams (trade)
Sachin Baby Pavan Deshpande Kyle Jamieson
Rajat Patidar Shahbaz Ahmed Glenn Maxwell
Finn Allen Adam Zampa Dan Christian
Kane Richardson Suyash Prabhudesai

“It’s case of supply-demand” is a phrase we hear often at the IPL auction. For the 2021 edition, the word was mostly associated with RCB who splurged nearly Rs 30 crore on two players. One an enigma wrapped in a mystery, in the form of Glenn Maxwell. The other a rookie who just had a breakthrough season and with no international experience outside New Zealand, in the form of Kyle Jamieson.

Quite how Maxwell attracts that sort of attention despite years of under-performing in the IPL is a puzzle but the upside to him coming good is unarguable. When he does have a consistent, impactful season that his reputation suggests he should, he is undoubtedly MVP potential. And that is what Kohli and the RCB think-tank must be banking on. In the days after auction, they posted videos to show how clear their thought process was in making Maxwell their main target because in 2020, their biggest issue was accelerating in the middle overs. The Aussie maverick has been brought in to address that area.

But quite how Jamieson, who has not played competitive cricket in India let alone making his IPL debut, will fare for the prize tag is a bigger mystery with RCB. There is no doubting his talent, but whether RCB have backed themselves into a corner by overpaying for an untested player when they could have retained for Chris Morris for cheaper remains to be seen.

The franchise, however, must be commended for some shrewd domestic recruitment. The likes of Mohammed Azharuddeen, Sachin Baby, Rajat Patidar are solid signings and could provide fireworks in the lower order that the team has been sorely lacking when their big guns needed help.

Harshal Patel and Daniel Sams are two smart trades from Delhi Capitals while Finn Allen could be a bit of a masterstroke as a replacement for Josh Phillippe, with the Kiwi batsman coming into the tournament in great form.

Coaching staff:

The Trans-Tasman combination of Hesson and Katich made the right noises ahead of the 2020 season and during the tournament too, employed match-up tactics that we usually did not see with the franchise. There was not much time for them to get their plans in place for IPL 2020, given the lack of preparation mid-pandemic. But with more time at the helm, the duo should get more of their plans executed well this year. With Sanjay Bangar on board, Kohli has another trusted name in his backroom. Adaptability to venues is going to be key, and this think-tank certainly has the nous to get it right.

  • Director: Mike Hesson
  • Head coach: Simon Katich
  • Batting consultant: Sanjay Bangar
  • Bowling: Sridharan Sriram
  • Others: Adam Griffith, Basu Shanker, Navnita Gautham

India’s T20 World Cup plans

A sidetrack during IPL 2021 is going to be seeing how India’s T20 World Cup squad probables / hopefuls / outsiders perform.

  • Of course, there is Kohli and all eyes will be on him opening the batting with the Indian captain suggesting that is on the radar for the World Cup. (More on that below.)
  • Washington and Chahal both need a good season to reiterate their skills in the shortest format, with the latter especially struggling in international cricket in the recent times. India’s wrist-spin cupboard is not exactly brimming at the moment, Chahal having a good season is as important for RCB as it is for India.
  • Siraj has had a breakthrough in international cricket but still has a point or two to prove in the white-ball formats while Saini is just starting to slip away from the core. Both are on India’s radar.

The Big Question

  • Virat Kohli gave the world a headline when he said at the end of England series: “I am going to be opening in the IPL as well.” Kohli averages 47.86 in 61 innings in the IPL as opener, striking at 140.17. All his five centuries have come at the top of the order. At No 3, he has played 85 innings, scoring at an average of 36.93 and a strike rate of 123.84. But when Kohli opened and had great success, it was in the presence of bigger hitters around him. Will opening with Padikkal mean Kohli takes a different approach? Surely RCB cannot afford to have two anchors in the batting powerplay? It’s going to be fascinating to watch.

Pause, rewind, play: When Virat Kohli shattered batting records in the IPL in 2016

Most Valuable Player

  • AB de Villiers has been called Alien de Villiers by Kohli and it felt so when he was, at times, single-handedly keeping RCB on course to reach playoffs last season. He is likely to be rusty this season but whether such trivial things apply to the genius of ABD is up for debate. On paper, he has help around him in the big-hitting department this year, but once again plenty will ride on him providing the fireworks in the middle order.

Uncapped player to look out for

  • There was a possibility that Padikkal might not even be eligible for this section when he was scoring runs for fun in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and an India call-up seemed a possibility for the England series. That did not quite happen so he remains an uncapped player, but certainly not untested. He has recovered from Covid-19 and joined the camp and RCB will count on him carrying his stellar domestic form into the IPL. A matter of concern, however, will be his strike rate. Keep an eye out for Rajat Patidar, should he get a consistent run in the side.

IPL 2021 RCB schedule

# Date Team1 Team 2 VENUE DAY TIME
1 9-Apr MI RCB Chennai FRI 7:30 PM
6 14-Apr SRH RCB Chennai WED 7:30 PM
10 18-Apr RCB KKR Chennai SUN 3:30 PM
16 22-Apr RCB RR Mumbai THU 7:30 PM
19 25-Apr CSK RCB Mumbai SUN 3:30 PM
22 27-Apr DC RCB Ahmedabad TUE 7:30 PM
26 30-Apr PBKS RCB Ahmedabad FRI 7:30 PM
30 3-May KKR RCB Ahmedabad MON 7:30 PM
33 6-May RCB PBKS Ahmedabad THU 7:30 PM
38 9-May RCB SRH Kolkata SUN 7:30 PM
44 14-May RCB DC Kolkata FRI 7:30 PM
46 16-May RR RCB Kolkata SUN 3:30 PM
51 20-May RCB MI Kolkata THU 7:30 PM
56 23-May RCB CSK Kolkata SUN 7:30 PM

Ideal playing XI

Virat Kohli, Devdutt Padikkal, Washington Sundar, AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Kyle Jamieson, Harshal Patel, Dan Christian / Daniel Sams, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Siraj / Navdeep Saini

RCB in IPL over the years

Season League stage finish Playoff result
IPL 2008 7th
IPL 2009 3rd Lost final
IPL 2010 4th Lost in semi-final
IPL 2011 4th out of 10 Lost final
IPL 2012 5th out of 9
IPL 2013 5th out of 9
IPL 2014 7th
IPL 2015 3rd Won Eliminator, Lost Qualifier 2
IPL 2016 2nd Lost final
IPL 2017 8th
IPL 2018 6th
IPL 2019 8th
IPL 2020 4th Lost in Eliminator