Support for Kohli-AB, Maxwell & Death Bowling in Focus for RCB
Royal Challengers Bangalore take on defending champions Mumbai Indians in the opening game of IPL 2021 on 9 April.
For the Royal Challengers Bangalore side, the IPL title has remained elusive and ahead of the 2021 edition of the tournament, they chose to overhaul their squad.
The Virat Kohli-led team started off the season well last time round before the form tapered off with a string of defeats. However, they had done enough to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
At the mini-auction, RCB, who had released quite a few of their players, made some big buys, placing their faith in the likes of Dan Christian, Glenn Maxwell and Kyle Jamieson, among others.
RCB, who made 8 buys at the auction, will wear a very different look right from the top of the order this season with the skipper having made it clear that he intends to open. And first up for Kohli will be the Mumbai Indians in the season opener on 9 April.
While the team will continue to depend heavily on their superstar batsmen in Kohli and AB de Villiers, RCB will need their newcomers to step up as they look for their best ever finish.
Who Are the Supporting Cast for Kohli-AB?
Whichever way one looks at it, this is no easy job at any point in time. Like always the best friends will lead the charge with the bat with Kohli opening the innings along side Devdutt Padikkal.
Coming off the back of good form in the recent England series, Kohli will undoubtedly look to keep that going and hope that ABD can roll back the years as well. Along with them however, the focus to pile on the runs will be on the likes of Padikkal, Glenn Maxwell and Dan Christian, a serial winner of T20 titles.
Washington Sundar, Finn Allen (replacement for Josh Philippe) and Mohammed Azharuddeen will also be expected to keep their good form with the bat going. While Sundar has scored most of his big runs in Tests since the last IPL, Allen and Azharuddeen have been doing well domestically – all of which gives Mike Hesson and Kohli a happy problem of plenty.
The Glenn Maxwell Factor
The Australian all-rounder’s abilities are well documented and much like Kohli or ABD can single-handedly take the game away from the opposition with his power hitting.
Maxwell is also a more than useful off-spinner and a good fielder too, promising RCB quite a package. However, in recent years, Maxwell has not lived up to the promise and has not reached the same highs as he did in 2014 when he scored 552 runs in 16 games.
Last season saw his worst returns with 108 runs and 3 wickets from 13 games before he was released by Punjab Kings.
The Australian spoke about a lack of clarity in his role with Punjab as compared to the Australian side, and it is this aspect that Hesson has decided to focus on.
"We need to use him in a space where we can maximise his skills and we've certainly spent some time looking at how we can do that. Really looking forward to working with him and preparing over the next few days to be clear around his role.
"He is [clear], but just want him to spend a few days amongst his peers, the people he's going to be batting with to understand that role implicitly. It's really important we do that. Also, from a bowling point of view, we know he adds some good skills in that area. He's an amazing fielder, also adds some leadership in terms of how he goes about things," Hesson said earlier in the week.
RCB had their issues with middle-overs batting in the UAE and scored at just 6.93 between overs 7 and 15, the lowest among all franchises. But have they done enough to solve it with Maxwell?
Young Players to Watch This IPL 2021
The likes of Harshal Patel, Washington Sundar, Dan Christian and Dan Sams are most likely to fight out through the season.
This has been a department where RCB have suffered and have the wherewithal to fix that in IPL 2021. While Sundar’s role is likely to involve a little more responsibility in terms of getting runs, Christian is likely to be key for RCB.
Since his last season in IPL (2018), he has been one of the most explosive batsmen in the final phase of the innings and has 259 wickets from 347 games in the format. Also the fact that he has won nine finals means the Australian is expected to do a bit of heavy lifting for his side. Last time he was at RCB, Chris Gayle scored 175, there’s no doubt he’d love to do something similar!
Harshal Patel on the other hand provides an Indian pace bowling all-rounder option, having picked 98 wickets in 96 games with a batting strike rate of 150.76 coming in lower down the order.
Sams is likely to be seen less frequently in the playing XI also provides a pace bowling option and has been among the wickets for Australia in recent games against New Zealand.
Bowlers Have Task Cut Out
While RCB have strengthened the top order and have addressed the problems about balance with all-rounders, their bowling department will have quite a task on hand, especially in the death overs.
Out of form in recent weeks, Yuzvendra Chahal will lead the charge for the spinners while Siraj and Saini, who can be expensive, are the other frontline Indian bowlers in the mix.
In the form of the expensive Kyle Jamieson, RCB have taken a chance with Hesson backing the New Zealand quick to the hilt. Jamieson caused India a fair bit of trouble when Kohli and co had toured but is inexperienced and has never played and franchise cricket. Given the price tag it will be difficult to leave him out as the fourth overseas player, putting a fair bit of pressure on someone who hasn’t played outside New Zealand.
RCB also have Australians Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa, both of whom are more than capable with the ball but might find it difficult to get too many games in the tournament.
For Kohli and RCB, the Indian bowling contingent holds the key and with no seasoned death bowler in the mix, they might have left a key aspect unaddressed.
But given his luck with new players in recent games with the Indian team, who knows?
Probable XI: Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers (wk) Glenn Maxwell, Washington Sundar, Dan Christian, Harshal Patel, Kyle Jamieson, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini.
Squad: Virat Kohli (c), Devdutt Padikkal, Finn Allen (wk), AB de Villiers (wk), Pavan Deshpande, Washington Sundar, Daniel Sams, Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa, Shahbaz Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Kane Richardson, Harshal Patel, Glenn Maxwell, Sachin Baby, Rajat Patidar, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Kyle Jamieson, Daniel Christian, Suyash Prabhudessai, K.S. Bharat
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