For RCB the long wait for a first IPL title continues. Here we preview whether the 2021 season will finally see them shake off the tag of perennial underachievers in the Indian Premier League.
RCB, as always seems to be the case, were one of the busier teams in the 2021 IPL auction so this will be one of the more speculative previews I’ve written as there are a few players with very little in the way of IPL records if not T20 records in general within their squad.
RCB Team Preview IPL 2021 – Batting
The familiar big names of Virat Kohli and AB deVilliers will once again be responsible for the bulk of the run scoring during RCB’s 2021 IPL campaign. The pair, alongside youngster Devdutt Padikkal all managed to break the 450 run mark in last season’s competition which is the gold standard for any top order batsmen.
However, the drop off to the rest was very evident and that problem alongside the question of who bats where in the top order are the main issues for RCB to address if IPL 2021 is to be a success.
We’ll start by considering what the RCB top order might look like in IPL 2021. Last season saw Australian duo Aaron Finch and Josh Phillipe partnering Padikkal as openers but neither particularly impressed and neither will be playing in this season’s IPL. RCB have brought in Kiwi youngster Finn Allen who has a very good record in domestic T20 cricket in his home country but very little experience or form elsewhere. My major concern about judging Allen on his career to date is the well known fact that New Zealand grounds as a whole see the highest scoring T20 matches in world cricket largely as a result of short boundaries and the general quality of the wickets.
As a result of this, I fear that RCB and their larger than life captain are about to go down a route that has not worked in the past with Kohli promoting himself to open. A full analysis of why Kohli shouldn’t open for RCB will probably be a blog in its own right but the bottom line is that he is not a powerplay hitter and RCB probably don’t want him to try and play like one. That is not so much a problem if you have a couple of other guys in the top 3 who are willing to play that role as for example we saw during the 5th T20 match between India and England where Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav’s agressive play allowed Kohli to bat at his natural tempo. While the Indian national team may have the talent to compensate for Kohli’s lower strike rate in the powerplay, I don’t believe that RCB can say the same.
Padikkal is more of a stroke maker than a hitter and if he and Kohli were to open together it would put more pressure on the youngster to play against his natural instincts in order to compensate. Equally, it would inevitably put more responsibility on those to come if these 2 are unable to break par in the powerplay. Of those to come, RCB don’t really have an established number 3 in their ranks if Kohli opts to move up to open. As we’ve seen with previous experiments, AB is at his best batting number 4 and you’d have thought Maxwell would be most effective as a number 5.
All-in-all it seems strange to me that RCB are looking to break up a top 4 that apart from that one opener slot, functioned very well last season. Their primary aim at the auction should have been to find another opener to compliment Padikkul and allow them to field a top order of Kohli 3, AB 4 and Maxwell 5. There were plenty of options in the form of Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Martin Guptill, Evan Lewis, etc. etc. but RCB opted to spend a huge amount of money strengthening their all round options instead.
There are a couple of younger players for RCB to consider here namely Rajat Patidar who has had a good domestic season or they could even think about deploying the talented Washington Sundar up the order. Such a move wouldn’t rob RCB of options lower down the order given the number of all-rounders and late order finishers like Glenn Maxwell that RCB have on the books.
Maxwell himself has done very well to earn such a high salary given his poor returns over the last couple of years in IPL. There is no doubt that he is a match winner on his day but it’s been a long time since anyone has seen one of those days at least while playing in the biggest T20 franchise tournament in the world. RCB need him to rediscover his form to fill the void in the middle order that has been apparent for far too long.
Moving down the order, RCB are blessed with any number of all round options although again how effective some of these players will be in subcontinental conditions remains to be seen. Daniel Sams has joined after leaving Delhi Capitals where he received only limited playing time and while his left-arm seamers and power hitting have proved successful in the BBL he’s still an unknown quantity in this league.
Then of course comes the very big (in more ways than one) signing of Kyle Jamieson. The New Zealand all-rounder has made a fast start to his Test career but there are serious questions that need to be raised about the amount of money RCB have paid for a man who has very limited T20 experience and in the games that he has played in that format has looked a little out of his depth.
A polar opposite, at least in the experience stakes, is the acquisition of Dan Christian who at the ripe old age of 37 (he’ll be 38 by the time the tournament finishes) continues to win T20 titles at pretty much any franchise he plays for. One can only assume that RCB are hoping that Christian will bring that Midas touch with him so that Bangalore can finally break their tournament duck. However, Christian’s problems vs slow bowling, particularly at the start of his innings are well documented and so again he is not a signing that really makes that much sense in the grand scheme of things.
RCB Team Preview IPL 2021 – Bowling
Bowling wise RCB do have some good home grown options in the way of pace bowlers Siraj and Saini as well as wrist spinner Chahal. This is a particularly important factor when considering their reliance on overseas stars higher up the order. Siraj is likely to be used most in the powerplay overs, Chahal during the middle overs and Saini at the death. Kohli will then have the luxury of rotating his other bowlers around these 3 bankers.
For the sake of variety, you would imagine that Daniel Sams as a left-armer is likely to see more game time than he achieved at Delhi last year. He is certainly an improving player at this level but I have my concerns about him bowling at the death and with the loss of Chris Morris, RCB might find themselves struggling to contain the scoring rate when it comes to those crazy final few overs at the end of an innings.
In the finger spinning department RCB have Washington Sundar who is also a useful option in the powerplay overs as well as left-armer Shahbaz Ahmed who debuted in last season’s IPL and has performed well with both bat and ball during the domestic season in India.
Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa provide some international alternatives but with RCB likely to use up their quota of overseas spots filling their top 6 then I’d imagine that both will be spending the majority of the tournament carrying the drinks as was the case last year. RCB also welcome back the perennial 12th man in Harshal Patel whose 9 seasons in the IPL to date have seen him play just 48 games.
RCB Team Preview IPL 2021 – Venues and Fixtures
Perhaps one of the most alarming stats about the squad that RCB have put together is their collective lack of experience at many of the venues they will play at during IPL 2021. Even at fairly established venues such as Chennai it’s only Kohli and deVilliers amongst the batsmen that have any kind of record to fall back on with the rest of the side having collectively faced just 42 balls between on a track that has challenged most over the years. Similarly on the bowling front, RCB have just 4 bowlers who have played in Chennai before in the IPL. Given that RCB face tough opponents in the form of Mumbai Indians and SRH in their first 2 matches that lack of experience could come back to bite them.
Moving on, RCB will certainly be looking forward to getting off the slow low wicket at Chennai and onto a pitch in Mumbai that has seen their star batsmen dominate. Both Kohli and AB must be wishing that RCB had more than just the 2 games at this venue in IPL 2021.
4 games in Ahmedabad follow and here RCB do at least have the advantage that a few of their number have been involved in the T20 series that was recently played at the new stadium giving them valuable experience of the changable conditions on offer.
RCB’s final 5 games then take place at Eden Gardens which is generally a venue that seam bowlers enjoy. While RCB’s mainstays in Siraj and Saini have made little impact on their previous vists here this could be the kind of wicket where big money signing Kyle Jamieson is at his most effective.