PREVIEW: On cricketbadger.com over the next few days we preview each of the IPL franchise – here’s our appraisal on the chances of the Virat Kohli led Royal Challengers Bangalore…
If you were to create a fantasy IPL XI from scratch the Royal Challengers Bangalore would have more than their fair share of chosen players. In their current squad they have genuine world T20 stars like Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Mitchell Starc, yet they are the perfect example of a team being less than the sum of its parts.
RCB should, on paper, be challenging for silverware every season, but they are yet to win the IPL. In fact they have failed to progress beyond the group stages for the last three seasons. It defies belief.
Their best effort was runners up in 2009 and 2011. In 2011 they lost to Chennai Super Kings in the final, a charge inspired by Gayle, who as a late replacement for the injured Dirk Nannes smashed runs galore.
On debut against Kolkata Knight Riders Gayle walloped 102 in 55 balls – the IPL was never the same again. By the end of that campaign he’s bagged 608 runs in 12 games with a strike-rate of 183.13. The final was one match too far – he was out for a duck and RCB lost by 58 runs.
In 2012 Gayle added 733 more runs. In 2013 he scored a further 708 and Virat Kohli scored 634. AB de Villiers hit 391 and 360 respectively, but RCB didn’t get past the groups phase. They can beat anyone with a list of match winners like they have, but they have been too inconsistent to string a sufficient run of wins together to make anything more than a fleeting impact.
This season they are one of only two franchises that have a 26-man squad. They are short of Mitchell Starc (knee) and Adam Milne (ankle) for the initial part of the group phase, so that squad is going to come in handy.
While they have invested heavily on star hitters, their bowling has always been considered lightweight. In IPL8 they can call upon Starc, Sean Abott, Milne and Varun Aaron.
They may finally have the balance right.
GENERAL TITTLE TATTLE
Daniel Vettori has joined RCB as their head coach for IPL8. The veteran Kiwi spinner, fresh from a glorious swan song at the ICC Cricket World Cup, will be an interesting appointment. He knows the game inside out, but his experience of coaching an IPL franchise is a new one.
Previous record: Runners Up in 2009 and 2011, 3rd in 2010.
THE KEY MAN – AB de Villiers
Ask most people this question – if you could undergo a metamorphosis and become any cricketer from the modern game who would it be? – we’d expect AB de Villiers to be high on the list of answers. He has everything – the ability to score a 300-ball Test hundred, or crack runs at express pace in the one-day arena.
He holds the record for the fastest 50 (16 balls), 100 (31 balls) and 150 (64 balls) in one-day internationals. He’s a modern day cricketer and plays shots few would dare to dream of playing. If he fires you need to be watching.
He can literally do anything, hit the ball to all 360 degrees of the ground. And he can win games on his own.
ONE TO WATCH FOR – Sarfaraz Khan
At the tender age of 17, Sarfaraz Khan was the youngest man in the IPL auction and was picked up by RCB for INR5 million by RCB. He’s scored a ridiculous amount of runs in age group tournaments and there is a lot expected from him over the next few years. Perhaps this is a tournament too soon, but it would be great to see him get a chance to impress.
BEST OF THE REST
Virat Kohli has some ground to make up in IPL8 after disappointing with the bat last season. Some people suggested the weight of captaining the side affected his game. He’s a match winner though and too good a player not to bounce back.
Can Chris Gayle overcome the back problems that have dogged him in recent months? When he’s in the mood he can destroy any attack in the world. RCB need to feed him raw meat, wrap him in cotton wool and make sure he’s in the right mood more often than not.
Mitchell Starc will miss the first few matches of the IPL with a problematic knee injury sustained as he became the leading wicket-taker in the Cricket World Cup. He is a huge asset for RCB and they will desperate to get him firing and on the pitch quickly.
Sean Abbott received support from the entire cricket world after bowling the bouncer than led to the death of Phillip Hughes. He’s shown enormous character to continue in the game, taking a 5-wicket haul in his comeback match. The Indian public are bound to give him a big welcome and it could be a big competition for the young Aussie.
FULL RCB SQUAD
Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villers, Chris Gayle, Mitchell Starc, Nic Maddinson, Varun Aaron, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal, Rilee Rossouw, Vijay Zol, Yogesh Takawale, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Harshal Patel, Ashok Dinda, Sandeep Warrier, Manvinder Bisla, Iqbal Abdullah, Dinesh Karthik, Subramaniam Badrinath, Darren Sammy, Sean Abbott, Adam Milne, David Wiese, Jalaj Saxena, Sarfaraz Naushad Khan, Shishir Bhavane.
This is a tough one. We want to say ‘look at that side and imagine it in full flow – it will take some stopping’ but we could have said that in each of the last three seasons and been proved massively wrong. While RCB have all the players at their disposal there are other teams that heave learned how to win. It could be another year of frustration for the boys from Bangalore.
As the editor of Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
He's unsurprisingly a complete cricket badger!