The Bengaluru side has to solve two of its most pressing problems — an over-reliance on Kohli-de Villiers and a tendency to leak runs at the death
Season after season, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) has suffered from one glaring problem — an over-dependence on captain Virat Kohli and A.B. de Villiers. When the two star batsmen click, all is well with RCB, but more often than not, the burden is too heavy to bear.
The support cast — which has included the likes of Gurkeerat Singh, Colin de Grandhomme, Marcus Stoinis, Shimron Hetmyer, Aaron Finch, Chris Morris, Moeen Ali and Shivam Dube in the last few seasons — simply has not delivered. The 2021 IPL auction was another chance for RCB to address this concern, but once again, it does not appear as if the right answers have been found.
The franchise invested heavily in Glenn Maxwell, with the Australian being touted by Director of Cricket Operations Mike Hesson as the ‘X-factor’. A look at Maxwell’s IPL record, however, does not inspire confidence. In his last two seasons, Maxwell has averaged 15.42 (2020) and 14.08 (2018), with a highest score of 47. And yet, RCB thought it wise to acquire his services for ₹14.25 crore.
There were more surprise picks in the auction, with Dan Christian, Sachin Baby, Rajat Patidar, Suyash Prabhudesai and Mohammed Azharuddeen added to bolster a frail middle- and lower-order. None of these signings — some experienced and others untested — count as consistent match-winners.
RCB also has to contend with Kohli’s tendency to make impulsive selection and tactical decisions, all in the name of playing free, flexible cricket. Kohli himself is set for a big change, with the skipper announcing recently that he will open the batting for RCB. If the middle-order was deemed weak despite Kohli’s presence, one can imagine the panic that will set in if he is dismissed cheaply at the top.
Classy opener Devdutt Padikkal could prove the bright spot in this batting line-up. The Karnataka southpaw — retained by RCB after some fine performances in the IPL and domestic tournaments last year — can provide good starts in the PowerPlay.
The bowling attack has a familiar feel to it. Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini — both have not played too many T20Is in recent times — lead the pace attack, and Washington Sundar can keep things tight with his flat off-spin. Death bowling has been another old crack left without a fix. While Saini can consistently deliver yorkers, the others could face the music in the final overs.
Hesson and the team management are fond of spreading cheesy buzzwords like ‘Play Bold’ to whip up positive sentiment. Last year, players made references to ‘positive vibes’ and ‘different feeling’ in nearly every media interaction, in an attempt to erase bad memories from repeated failures of the past. It will take much more than catchphrases and eternal optimism, however, for RCB to break the long jinx and win a maiden IPL trophy.