The team’s strategy, polished over the last few years, seems set in stone
Be it Chris Gayle’s booming sixes or the Rs. 14 crore that Vijay Mallya spent to successfully bid for Yuvraj Singh, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) has often made news that creates the maximum ripples.
Just that the news which really matters — a title triumph in the Indian Premier League — has remained elusive although it came within touching distance in 2009 and 2011 before stumbling at the final hurdle.
Now set for a fresh season, RCB’s strategy, polished over the last few years, seems set in stone.
It is an approach that hinges on muscular batting shaped by Gayle (strike-rate of 160.20), skipper Virat Kohli (124.13) and A.B. de Villiers (134.90). And if you had Tillakaratne Dilshan adding value in the past, the immediate future is about Yuvraj’s (130.76) ability to demolish rival attacks.
The southpaw may have turned dull in the recent World Twenty20 final at Dhaka but there is no mistaking his ability. He is now part of a batting order that can gift insomnia to bowlers.
Besides the blistering willows of his batting colleagues, Kohli will also bank on his indomitable will that has shaped most of India’s productive endeavours in limited-over cricket.
His leadership skills too were fine-tuned while helming RCB in the past with the then coach Ray Jennings overwhelmingly backing the youngster.
Jennings will be missed but in current coach Daniel Vettori (a former RCB skipper) and new bowling coach Allan Donald, Kohli has two men with whom he shares a warm rapport.
The bowling, meanwhile, has Mitchell Starc, Ravi Rampaul, Muttiah Muralitharan and Albie Morkel, who also lends an all-round presence.
The Indian component has Varun Aaron and Harshal Patel, to name two but R. Vinay Kumar remains the most glaring absence in the ranks.
Karnataka’s leading bowler and RCB’s highest wicket-taker (72 wickets) was overlooked as Mallya struggled with a depleted purse after wagering most of his riches on Yuvraj.
Vinay and other Karnataka players were strangely cold-shouldered by the RCB management.
Fans at the Chinnaswamy Stadium will miss the thrill of saying idhu namma huduga (he is our lad) though they have embraced Gayle and company as their own.
In the last two editions, RCB gasped during the last stretch and missed a playoff berth. Kohli’s men have to correct that blemish while hoping to go past the heart-breaks suffered in the 2009 and 2011 finals.
As always, the fresh journey will also depend a lot on the man at the starting-blocks — Gayle.
The squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Chris Gayle, Varun Aaron, A.B. de Villiers, Yuvraj Singh, Abu Nechim, Yuzvendra Chahal, Ashoke Dinda, Shadab Jakati, Nic Maddinson, Tanmay Mishra, Albie Morkel, Muttiah Muralitharan, Harshal Patel, Parthiv Patel, Ravi Rampaul, Sachin Rana, Sandeep Warrier, Mitchell Starc, Yogesh Takawale and Vijay Zol.
BEST FINISHES: Runner-up in 2009, 2011); third in 2010.
WIN-LOSS RECORD: Played: 94, won: 47, lost: 44, tied and won: 1, tied and lost: 1, No-result: 1.
TOP PERFORMERS: Leading run-getter: Virat Kohli (2273 in 93 matches); highest wicket-taker: R. Vinay Kumar (72 in 64).
WATCH OUT FOR
A man who rained sixes at will is now subjected to needless scrutiny.
Yuvraj Singh has battled harder tests in life and emerged unscathed.
Now when his core competence of being a lord in the limited-over arena is being questioned, the left-hander has a chance to snub those rude critics through his stint with RCB.
As a link batsman between a pulverising top-order and the bottom-half, he has to lend both aggression and solidity. It should help that Virat Kohli, his one-time protégé and now friend, insisted on his inclusion in the RCB ranks. It is time to repay the skipper’s faith. Some handy left-arm spin and agile fielding will help too!