The CricViz preview of Royal Challengers Bangalore.
After an excellent auction—where they picked up a superb set of overseas players to complement their increasingly impressive Indian core and their retained overseas duo of AB de Villiers and Moeen Ali—RCB have assembled arguably their strongest squad in many years and perhaps ever. At the auction Bangalore picked up Aaron Finch—one of the world’s best batsman who also brings leadership and tactical expertise, and a trio of fast bowlers in Chris Morris, Dale Steyn and Isuru Udana—who bring varied and versatile skill-sets. They also signed one of world cricket’s most exciting talents in Josh Philippe and after the auction replaced Kane Richardson with Adam Zampa—arguably the best spin bowler who remained unsold, a move that suits the relocation of the IPL to the more spin-friendly UAE. These excellent additions join an Indian core led by Virat Kohli and supported by Yuzvendra Chahal but also punctuated by young Indian talent on the rise, the likes of left-handed opener Devdutt Padikkal, all rounders Shivam Dube and Washington Sundar and the quick Navdeep Saini.
Versatility of skills
RCB’s squad is notable because not only is it made up of a coterie of high quality players but they fit well together in a squad that boasts impressive versatility. With eight left-handed batsmen or all rounders (Moeen, Padikkal, Parthiv Patel, Washington, Shivam, Shabhaz Ahmed, Pawan Negi and Pavan Deshpande) and six right-handers (Kohli, de Villiers, Finch, Morris, Philippe and Gurkeerat Mann Singh) Bangalore have perhaps the best mix of right-hand, left-hand combinations in the league which enables their batting to play to match-ups. Their batsmen also boast an encouraging balance of preferences for facing pace and spin bowling. The bowling attack displays similar variety of options with two left-arm spinners (Negi and Shabhaz), two off spinners (Washington and Moeen, two leg spinners (Zampa and Chahal), one left-arm quick (Udana) and six right-arm quicks (Steyn, Morris, Saini, Mohammad Siraj, Umesh Yadav and Dube). Among the quicks there is a good spread of skill-sets too: Saini’s raw pace and aggression make him well-suited to the enforcer role while Umesh is a Powerplay specialist. Steyn and Morris are both classic top-and-tailers while Udana’s cutters and deception are likely to be well-suited to the tired UAE pitches.
Surplus of options
This Bangalore squad is reminiscent of their 2018 squad when post-auction one of the primary takeaways was that they had a huge variety of options and seemingly all bases covered. The issue then was that a clear lack of clarity around what their best team was plagued their campaign and what initially appeared to be a strength quickly turned into a weakness as RCB made regular changes to their team and their batting order. This is a common trait of Virat Kohli-led teams and is often very apparent with India’s sides as well. Playing to match-ups and adjusting teams according to conditions should generally be encouraged but too often RCB have seemingly made reactionary changes—often in response to a defeat—rather than because the change strengthens their team. However, this season promises to be different for two reasons. Firstly, the options RCB have at their disposal this year are superior players to those that they had in 2018, meaning errors in selection are likely to have less damaging repercussions and secondly, a new management structure of Simon Katich and Mike Hesson may prove more effective at managing the many options they have at their disposal.
Death overs bowling
Death bowling has been RCB’s perennial problem over the years and while this year, the overseas trio of Morris, Steyn and Udana, offer cause for encouragement it remains a slight concern with all three bowlers good—but not exceptional in the phase. RCB’s Indian quicks are also better suited to other periods of the innings. This challenge is exacerbated by the issues RCB are likely to face around balancing their side that may seem them adopt a 3-1 overseas balance and only able to select one overseas bowler. Two would at least give them additional cover in the phase. One reason to be optimistic at least is that the move away from India and to the UAE means Bangalore won’t need to deal with the death bowing graveyard that is the Chinnaswammy Stadium. Conditions in the UAE will be far less troublesome for Bangalore than they are used to back at home.
Death overs batting
Bangalore may also face issues in the death overs with the bat as well. Their batting is a little top heavy with a handful of superb openers and top order batsmen but they are conspicuously lacking in established power-hitting finishers. A lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Dube, Sundar, Deshpande and potentially Morris—something that may force RCB’s hand around the identity of their overseas bowler with Morris able to contribute with the bat in a way that Steyn and Udana cannot. Moeen has performed a finisher role for England of late but he is far better suited to the middle overs. Bangalore may need one of de Villiers, Finch or Kohli to bat deep to bolster their death overs hitting.
The Finch question
Finch is one of the world’s best T20 batsman and is almost certain to start for RCB. However, there are some questions surrounding Finch’s performance in the IPL where he has historically struggled. Bangalore will be his eighth IPL team and his record in the league is incomparable to his career record. It is likely that this is a question of sample size, inconsistent selection and fluctuating roles (he has batted in the middle order and as an opener). However, RCB will be keen for Finch’s IPL returns to finally live up to his performances elsewhere.
- Aaron Finch (RH)
- Parthiv Patel (LH & WK)
- Virat Kohli (RH)
- Moeen Ali (LH & OB)
- AB de Villiers (RH)
- Shivam Dube (LH & RMF)
- Chris Morris (RH & RFM)
- Pawan Negi (SLA)
- Umesh Yadav (RF)
- Navdeep Saini (RF)
- Yuzvendra Chahal (LS)
Who will keep wicket?
RCB will be keen to select the talented left-handed opener Padikkal. However, if they pick Padikkal, alongside Finch at the top, it makes it more difficult to select Parthiv who would otherwise keep wicket. One tantalising option would be to give de Villiers the gloves, enabling Padikkal to play and solving the keeping problem. Between February 2016 and November 2019 de Villiers did not keep wicket in a single T20 match. Since November he has done so on three occasions and has been keeping in Bangalore’s training sessions. de Villiers taking the gloves runs the risk of him aggravating his troublesome back but would present exciting options for Bangalore around their top order.
Moeen v Washington & the overseas balance question
Moeen and Washington are players who could fulfil a very similar role. Both are left-handed batsmen and are good hitters of spin and both are off spinners capable of bowling in the Powerplay. However, Moeen is—at this stage of his career—a superior player in both departments. Bangalore need to make a call as to whether they back Moeen’s clear quality or whether they take more of a risk with the role with Washington but in doing so enable an additional overseas selection elsewhere. With Finch and de Villiers likely to be locks for selection and one overseas spot sure to go to a bowler (one of Morris, Steyn and Udana – or potentially Zampa later in the tournament), Moeen’s pick represents a tipping point in whether RCB go for a 3-1 batsmen/all rounder to bowler overseas balance or whether they go 2-2 and pick two of their overseas bowlers. The issue for RCB is that leaving out Moeen further weakens their death overs batting but picking him means they are likely to weaken their death overs bowling. This selection debate could well be one that defines RCB’s season.