Royal Challengers Bangalore will sport a largely new look in the forthcoming Indian Premier League after the recent player auction
The winds of change have swept across Royal Challengers Bangalore and the team's fans have to tweak their player-loyalties and now cheer for a fresh batch of cricketers. It will be difficult what with true-blue Bangaloreans like Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Robin Uthappa missing from the ranks.
Kumble opted out of the auction as he did not want to face the embarrassment of being picked by a rival outfit while he occupies the chair of the Karnataka State Cricket Association president. In a fluid auction situation there was a distinct possibility of other teams bidding higher than the Royal Challengers and Kumble walked away with grace.
The former India captain smoothly slipped into the chief mentor's role with the Bangalore team and was an active presence during the auction here last weekend. In a reflection of Dravid's advancing age and Uthappa's potency with the bat, the former failed to draw a bid from his home team while the Kodava lad was pocketed by Pune Warriors at a whopping $2.1 million while Mallya backed out at the last-minute. Dravid did find a taker in cash-strapped Rajasthan Royals at $500,000 and did not suffer the ignominy of what happened to Sourav Ganguly, who remained unsold.
Mallya, who retained just Virat Kohli from the previous squad, is now pitching for youth through his team. “We wanted to have a young team and while investing in these new players, I am looking at the years ahead. I have the utmost respect and regard for Rahul's cricketing ability, but I am looking at a young team and could not afford him at the initial price he came in ($400,000). I wish him the best at Rajasthan Royals. Kumble, who is such a legend and our mentor also pointed out the merits of having a young team,” Mallya said.
For the record, at present the lone Karnataka player in the squad is Abhimanyu Mithun while fellow seamer R. Vinay Kumar will turn out for Kochi after the Kerala team edged past the Royal Challengers' bid. The disappointment of losing Vinay was evident on Kumble's visage. Vinay, an astute medium-pacer was an asset and his loss will be felt, though the team can draw strength from the return of Zaheer Khan. The fans will also miss a quartet of overseas players whom they had readily embraced as one of their own in the previous years. Ross Taylor, the most popular among the lot along with Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Cameron White are all part of other teams.
Hopefully the Karnataka contingent will rise beyond Mithun as Mallya and company scout for players within the hinterland to complete the 30-member squad.
Among the players on the Royal Challengers' wish-list is Manish Pandey, who is getting counter-offers from other teams. The man, who became the first Indian to score a century in the IPL, is much in demand and Mallya cautioned, “some of our young cricketers are getting expensive ideas.”
Just as the team is sporting a new look, there are also subtle changes in the administrative set-up with Siddharth Mallya now taking an active interest though it will take years for him to step out of his father's shadow.
Mallya Junior did stir up things a bit during the auction when during the confusion about who bid higher for Saurabh Tiwary, he walked up to the King's XI Punjab table and debated a few points with Preity Zinta. The dimpled actor later flashed her smile and said: “all's well that ends well.”
Tiwary proved to be the most expensive buy for Royal Challengers at $1.6 million. Time now to focus on April and May when the IPL caravan will merrily chug across India and for the Bangalorean, it's time to root for the Kohlis, the Tillakaratnes and the AB de Villiers. Hopefully the new team will live up to the achievements of its predecessor that finished second and third in 2009 and 2010 respectively.