Yuvraj Singh’s addition to the already explosive Royal Challengers Bangalore batting unit will be sending shivers down the spine of opposing bowling attacks © IANS
By Sudatta Mukherjee
Over 154 players got sold in the two days of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014 auction. Among the eight teams, one of the franchises which spent the most amount (Rs 60,00,00,000 INR) was Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). However, the high point in this year’s auction for them was they got the costliest and most in-demand cricketer — Yuvraj Singh.
Royal Challengers retained only three players from their last year’s squad. Apart from Indian vice-captain Virat Kohli, who also acts as the captain of the Royal Challengers, RCB retained South African wicketkeeper-batsman One-Day International (ODI) captain AB de Villiers and the swashbuckling West Indian batsman Chris Gayle.
Previous year’s squad: Virat Kohli (c), Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, KP Appanna, Sreenath Aravind, Arun Karthik, Christopher Barnwell, Daniel Christian, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Moises Henriques, Sheldon Jackson, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan, Andrew McDonald, Abhimanyu Mithun, Abhinav Mukund, Muttiah Muralitharan, Karun Nair, Pankaj Singh, Prasanth Parameswaran, Harshal Patel, Cheteshwar Pujara, Lokesh Rahul, Ravi Rampaul, Sandeep Warrier, RP Singh, Sunny Sohal, Jamaluddin Syed Mohammad, Saurabh Tiwary, Jaydev Unadkat, Daniel Vettori, R Vinay Kumar and Vijay Zol.
Previous year’s strategy:
If one compares RCB’s 2013 squad with the squad that has been arranged for the IPL 7 edition, then the first distinctive difference one would realise is the number of players in last year’s squad and this year’s. If one looks at the squad and remembers RCB’s matches, one would clearly remember 90 per cent of the players having played once for RCB, with the exceptions of regular players.
While RCB banked largely on international players like Kohli, De Villiers, Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Ravi Rampaul, etc. the franchise has also used players like KP Appanna, Arun Karthik, Pankaj Singh, Abhinav Mukund, etc. in their journey to find their maiden IPL title. However, most players seem to have not left a good impression on the owners’ mind.
It was quite evident that RCB depended too much on few selected players. Out of the 16 matches that RCB played, Gayle, Kohli and R Vinay Kumar played all of them. De Villiers played 14 matches. Bangalore spent a lot of money on these players and like that stats show, Gayle, Kohli and De villiers were the top run-getters for the team. While Vinay Kumar was the top wicket-takers. RCB’s tactics of buying big players and depending a lot on them hit back. They depended largely on big names like Rampaul and Vinay Kumar in bowling and the big three – Kohli, Gayle and De Villiers in batting. Probably, where they lost out is having right kind of young Indian talents and big names from international circuit too. They bought too many overseas players rather than concentrating on local talent. Also, despite having Daniel Christian, Andrew McDonald, Moises Henriques, RCB really didn’t use them a lot.
This year’s squad: Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel, Albie Morkel, Mitchell Starc, Ashok Dinda, Ravi Rampaul, Muttiah Muralitharan, Nic Maddinson, Varun Aaron, Vijay Zol, Abu Nechim, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal, Shadab Jakati, Sandeep Warrier, Harshal Patel, Tanmay Mishra, Sachin Rana and Yogesh Takawale.
This year’s strategy: In this year’s auction, RCB bought total number of six overseas players. It is quite evident that RCB will use Kohli, Gayle and De Villiers full season. However, if RCB plays Gayle and De Villiers, then they have the option of using only two more overseas players. RCB have Yuvraj Singh, Kohli to support their batting line-up along with Gayle and De Villiers. Parthiv Patel comes in as a handy batsman. He can keep the wickets for RCB also, if De Villiers choses not to. He has played 67 IPL matches and scored 1,206 runs. Apart from these players, they have young India Under-19 captain Vijay Zol, who can learn a lot from Kohli who himself has been Under-19 World Cup winning captain. RCB bought Mitchell Starc, Albie Morkel, Ravi Rampaul, Muttiah Muralitharan and Nic Maddinson and on any given day they can’t use all five of them, even if Gayle and De Villiers isn’t available. If one looks at RCB’s squad, there are just too many bowlers and few batsmen.
One of RCB’s main concerns in the last few years has been their bowling line-up. However, have RCB taken a risk by having 10 bowlers in their side? Yuvraj can come handy as a part-time bowler and Vijay Mallya has clearly indicated that the all-rounder was bought in to strengthen their bowling department. Even Gayle can bowl. If it is to be taken the RCB has to select among Starc, Morkel, Rampaul and Muralitharan and Maddinson, one can guess that they will go for Morkel and Rampaul, who can hit the ball out of the ground and has finished the game for their sides. But that doesn’t solve their problem of bowling line-up. It is to be predicted that Ashoke Dinda, upon whom the RCB owners have shown interest for quite some time, will be used regularly, along with Varun Aaron. But will they be able to use Starc? The Australian pacer was bought for Rs 5 crore and keeping in mind the price that they spent on Starc and also Morkel, one would expect them to be used regularly also.
Undoubtedly, RCB’s surpise pick has been Muralitharan. RCB didn’t make the Sri Lanka spinner a single match in last year’s edition. In the last eight matches that Muralitharan has played, he has picked up only eight wickets. He hasn’t been at the top of his game as he used to be. With a lot of overseas players already in their wicket, it was quite a shocker for RCB going and buying Muralitharan for Rs 1 crore. For that money, RCB could have bought young Indian players like Kuldeep Singh Yadav, Anureet Singh or Shardul Thakur, who all have shown good prospect in recent times.
Haryana player Sachin Rana will be the dark horse for RCB. He has played seven matches in the 2013-14 season and has scored 588 runs at an average of 53.45. Despite being marked in the bowlers category, Rana has done well as a batsman. Rana has a bowling average of 19.44 in Twenty20 cricket and an economy rate fo 6.79, which is quite impressive for player who was sold at base price.
The RCB squad really doesn’t give much of an idea about how the management is going to use the players. However, it leaves the fans on their feet, with some major names from international arena in their kitty.
(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)