Can Royal Challengers Bangalore end their long wait for an elusive wait for an Indian Premier League (IPL) title? This has been an often-repeated question over the years and RCB's performances inspired little confidence. However, with a revamped coaching set-up and a core group of players at their disposal, RCB came close to achieving the feat when they made it to the play-offs last year in the UAE.
A lot is expected of RCB once again. Their loyal group of fans would want Virat Kohli and his team to go one step further than what they managed last year. Do they have the firepower to do so? The answer is yes.
Royal Challengers Bangalore released as many as 10 players despite making it to the play-offs for the first time since 2016 in IPL 2020. RCB brought in new faces to the set-up while retaining a core group. However, Director of Cricket Mike Hesson, speaking to the press last week, insisted that RCB did not go for an overhaul but managed to rejig their combination to make sure they mount a title challenge this year.
Mike Hesson and Simon Katich forged a good combination as they helped Royal Challengers Bangalore make good use of the talent at their disposal. Having done good homework in the lead-up to the new season, all eyes will be on Hesson and Katich as they will be looking to help fine-tune RCB's resources.
On the other hand, captain Virat Kohli, would want to extend his winning run into the IPL. A good performance as the skipper of the much-followed and popular franchise will hold him in good stead in the lead up to the T20 World Cup, which will be played in October-November in India.
RCB let go of some established players, including Aaron Finch, Umesh Yadav, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn and handy talents like Shivam Dube and Isuru Udana. Wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Philippe pulled out of IPL 2021, forcing the Bengaluru-based franchise to look for replacements.
RCB were quite active in the auction as they went after players who they needed for specific roles. They bought as many as 8 players at the auction and also signed New Zealand's big-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Finn Allen as Philippe's replacement.
Players bought at Auction: Glenn Maxwell (Rs 14.25 crore), Sachin Baby (Rs 20 lakh), Rajat Patidar (Rs 20 lakh), Mohammed Azharrudeen (Rs 20 lakh), Kyle Jamieson (Rs 15 crore), Daniel Christian (Rs 4.8 crore), KS Bharat (Rs 20 lakh), Suyash Prabhudesai (Rs 20 lakh).
The arrival of the Big Show
Can Glenn Maxwell's arrival work in favour of RCB? (AFP Photo)
While a few eyebrows were raised when RCB paid Rs 14.25 crore to secure the services of Glenn Maxwell who has rarely found success in the IPL, RCB Director of Cricket Mike Hesson is confident that the franchise will be able to bring the best out of the all-rounder.
Unlike last year when Maxwell struggled to get going at Punjab Kings, Hesson said the Australia star will get a specific role to perform. No doubts that Maxwell will play in the middle-order as RCB eye a two-pronged attack along with AB de Villiers in the middle-overs. Maxwell's addition also gives Virat Kohli, who confirmed he will open for RCB, the additional freedom to express himself at the top.
Over the years, RCB have paid the price for being over-reliant on AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli but the addition of Maxwell is a move towards reducing the burden of expectations from their star duo.
All eyes will be on young new recruits Kyle Jamieson, Mohammed Azharudeen, Sachin Baby and Rajat Patidar. While Jamieson has made heads turn with his performances for New Zealand, the all-rounder will be looking to add firepower to the lower-middle order, something that RCB lacked last year.
In the absence of Devdutt Padikkal, who is expected to miss the first few games after contracting Covid-19, Azharudeen, who struck at over 190 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy might get a look in at the top. Patidar has been impressive in the practice games for RCB.
Don't discount the experience that Dan Christian will bring to the RCB side, especially in the absence of experienced fast bowlers. Daniel Sams is also an option RCB will consider, providing the variety the left-arm pacer brings to the side.
While RCB have a settled top-order and a power-packed middle-order, they have plenty of options in the spin department as well. While Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar will be expected to start as the two spinners, RCB also have the option of using Maxwell's overs whenever needed.
RCB also retained leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who can be used in spin-friendly conditions depending on the team balance.
However, RCB have to deal with the inexperience in the Indian pace attack which will be led by Mohammed Siraj and Navdeep Saini. RCB also have Harshal Patel at their disposal. RCB though will have the firepower of Jamieson in the pace department and the experience of Christian and Sams, if needed.
RCB Full Squad for IPL 2021: Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Devdutt Padikkal, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Siraj, Kane Richardson, Washington Sundar, Pavan Deshpande, Finn Allen, Shahbaz Ahamad, Navdeep Saini, Adam Zampa, Kyle Jamieson, Glenn Maxwell, Rajat Patidar, Sachin Baby, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Daniel Christian, KS Bharat, Suyash Prabhudessai, Daniel Sams, Harshal Patel.
IPL 2021: RCB Full Schedule, Fixtures, Dates, Time and Venues
1. April 9, 7.30pm - Chennai - Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
2. April 14, 7.30pm - Chennai - Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
3. April 18, 3.30pm - Chennai - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Kolkata Knight Riders
4. April 22, 7.30pm - Mumbai - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Rajasthan Royals
5. April 25, 3.30pm - Mumbai - Chennai Super Kings vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
6. April 27, 7.30pm - Ahmedabad - Delhi Capitals vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
7. April 30, 7.30pm - Ahmedabad - Punjab Kings vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
8. May 3, 7.30pm - Ahmedabad - Kolkata Knight Riders vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
9. May 6, 7.30pm - Ahmedabad - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Punjab Kings
10. May 9, 7.30pm - Kolkata - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Sunrisers Hyderabad,
11. May 14, 7.30pm - Kolkata - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Delhi Capitals
12. May 16, 3.30pm - Kolkata - Rajasthan Royals vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
13. May 20, 7.30pm - Kolkata - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Mumbai Indians
14. May 23, 7.30pm - Kolkata - Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Chennai Super Kings.