Agarkar: RCB still trying to address their bowling
Royal Challengers Bangalore were ousted in the second Qualifier by Chennai Super Kings in a last-over finish in Ranchi.
How a team boasting of all the T20 riches in the world doesn’t have a single IPL trophy to show after eight seasons can perhaps make for a good case study. While it underlines the unpredictability of the shortest format, Royal Challengers haven’t helped their cause by being over-reliant on Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to cover up for the vacuum in the middle.
If there is a lesson in how to not run a marathon, Royal Challengers offer the best example. They’ve often begun like a 100 meter dash, only to lose momentum before making a desperate bid to the qualifiers. The end result: runners-up in 2009 and 2011, and vast stretches of inconsistency in between.
They head into the new season, like they do most times, with a well-balanced team. They will welcome into their ranks the recently-retired Shane Watson and Stuart Binny, who offer the all-round depth they have often missed in the middle, although not everything is hunky dory in the bowling department. They will miss Mitchell Starc, the team’s second-highest wicket-taker last season, because of a foot injury, while there is an injury cloud over Samuel Badree, who hurt his shoulder in the World T20 final.
That means the bowling will largely depend on their local talent – the pace duo of Varun Aaron, S Aravind and legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Starc’s absence could give the injury-prone Adam Milne an opportunity to build on his gains from the World T20 – where he picked up three wickets in four matches at an economy rate of 7.43. Should the surfaces aid slow bowlers, they could consider including David Wiese, the South Africa allrounder, who offers batting muscle lower down along with his handy medium-pace and offcutters.
There has been some turmoil off the field, with Vijay Mallya – chairman of the franchise until recently – no longer part of the management. But it is unlikely those matters would affect on-field performances. Over to the men in red and gold to prove they are not just about their ‘Big Three.’
While batting is their stronger suit, an abundance of riches has left them with more questions. With Dinesh Karthik released before the auction, the team needs to decide if they go back to de Villiers as their immediate choice as wicketkeeper. If de Villiers is freed of the responsibility, do they turn to KL Rahul, Travis Head or Kedar Jadhav?
Rahul’s IPL numbers aren’t impressive. While he is best suited in the top three, would the team risk having him open with Gayle or prefer the lower-order hitting ability of Jadhav?
Where does that leave Shane Watson? Do they slot him in the middle to shore up the batting or have him as a floater? And how will they manage Mandeep Singh and Sarfaraz Khan, who delivered last year at crunch moments, in a robust batting line-up?
Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle form a powerful RCB batting line-up, but the team’s failure to cash in during crunch moments has cost them in the past © BCCI
The go-to men
Kohli’s appetite for runs only continues to get bigger. He scored 273 runs in five matches at the World T20, and was adjudged Player of the Tournament. He single-handedly carried India’s batting hopes, and would be expected to do more of the same, even though Gayle, de Villiers and Watson offer him some respite in what is largely a blink-and-miss format. Kohli brings more to the table than just as a batsman. His fitness and freshness will go a long way in dictating Royal Challengers’ campaign.
Travis Head, who set himself a base price of INR 30 lakhs, was snapped for INR 50 lakhs. The Adelaide Strikers batsman, who was released by Delhi Daredevils, has since made his Australia debut in the home series against India. But his form in the BBL, where he finished as the fifth-highest run-scorer with 299 runs at a strike rate of 155, makes him a like-for-like replacement for Gayle, who has been plagued with a number of back injuries in the recent past.
The team is yet to announce a replacement for Starc, while they are waiting for a medical update from Badree, who has flown back to Trinidad to see a shoulder specialist.
Head coach – Daniel Vettori, Assistant coach – B Arun, Batting coach – Trent Woodhill, Bowling coach – Allan Donald, Physiotherapist – Evan Speechley, Strength and conditioning coach – Shankar Basu
“We will miss Starc. It’s difficult bowling at the Chinnaswamy and so whenever we had him in the team we knew we had those four overs up our sleeve. That’s a loss but it’s an opportunity for the likes of Adam Milne and Kane Richardson to step up and fill in that slot. We are also hoping Badree recovers from his shoulder injury and gets back to the team as soon as possible.”
Royal Challengers Bangalore coach Daniel Vettori
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo