PREVIEW: The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have been close but never smoked the IPL cigar of victory. Can 2017 finally be their year?
When you look through their squad it is star-studded and they can out-bat any opposition, as they did throughout the last season when they finished runners-up. They should have won, but as before fell short. The beaten finalists in 2009, 2011 and 2016 have everything required to go one better this time.
If injuries allow, and that’s a concern we’ll get to shortly, their top six would keep any opposition bowler awake at night. Chris Gayle (main photo), AB de Villiers, Kedar Jadhav and Shane Watson seem likely to be the starting batters, but they’ve also got Aussie Travis Head waiting in the wings who can also had bowling if required.
On to the injuries. Any side in the T20 world would miss Mitchell Starc who you can guarantee would have taken wickets and bowled well at the death. Starc was injured during the recently concluded India-Australia Test series. RCB have turned to Tymal Mills at the 2017 auction, making the Englishman the second most expensive acquisition in a bid to find their new death bowler. Mills is quick, gets bounce and will surprise a few, but he can also go the distance.
We’ve mentioned Travis Head. With talisman and slipper Virat Kohli likely to miss the first two weeks of the event due to a shoulder injury, Travis may be given his head alongside Gayle at the top of the order. KL Rahul was outstanding for RCB in IPL 2016, averaging over 40 for the season and playing a big role in helping the team to the final, but he looks set to miss the entire tournament, again with a shoulder injury.
While Kohli will only miss the first few matches his absence is huge. Last season he scored 973 runs in 16 innings at a colossal 81 average. That included four centuries and 38 sixes. He’s a tough hole to fill and the success of the team without him is crucial. Others need to step up. AB de Villiers will skipper the team until Kohli is fit again.
It will be the bowling where RCB succeed or fail. For the trophy to end in Bangalore for the first time Mills needs to fire, but there are others who can turn the screw. You know what you are going to get with Shane Watson’s seam bowling, Harshal Patel brings pace and Sreenath Arvind mixing pace with slow variation. The leg-spin of youngster Yuzvendra Chahal is ever improving and they have purchased Pawan Negi at auction to add to their spin ranks.
Opening Game for RCB
It’s a mouthwatering encounter against last season’s IPL champions Sunrisers Hyderabad. It’s the opening game of IPL10 on 5 April at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.
The Badger says…
If RCB get their bowling right then they will win IPL2017. Simples! But it’s a big if.
Best Finish in the IPL: Runners-up in 2009, 2011 and 2016
Leading 2016 run scorer: Virat Kohli (973)
Leading 2016 wicket-taker: Yuzvendra Chahal (21)
Royal Challengers Bangalore Squad for IPL2017
Captain: Virat Kohli
Coach: Daniel Vettori
Indian Players: Virat Kohli, Yuzvendra Chahal, Harshal Patel, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, Sreenath Arvind, Kedar Jadhav, Stuart Binny, Sachin Baby, Iqbal Abdulla, Lokesh Rahul, Avesh Khan, Pawan Negi, Praveen Dubey, Aniket Choudhary
Overseas Players: Tymal Mills (England), Billy Stanlake, Travis Head, Shane Watson (Australia), Tabraiz Shamsi, AB de Villiers (South Africa), Samuel Badree, Chris Gayle (West Indies), Adam Milne (New Zealand)