By Nishad Pai Vaidya
With copious potential and numerous match-winners, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) are serious contenders for supremacy in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013. RCB always had the X-factor to go all the way. While their core line-up is intact, they come into season with new ideas and a fresh mind at the helm.
The move to appoint Virat Kohli as captain makes sense for Bangalore as they can now diversify their foreign players in the eleven. With Daniel Vettori leading, they were an option short and had to persist with him on occasions when he wasn’t at his best. Kohli has risen through the ranks and is already being spoken off as the future India captain.
It is evident that Bangalore are dependent heavily on their batting; particularly on the King of T20 cricket — Chris Gayle. The West Indian has single-handedly been a huge force for RCB in the last two seasons, and his early fall has often been a debilitating setback. His phenomenal consistency is mindboggling as it isn’t easy to sustain such high standards in T20.
Gayle towers in the line-up, but the importance of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kohli and AB de Villiers cannot be underestimated. Dilshan has played more of a supporting role and it is interesting because Gayle actually makes him look slow. Kohli is the glue that binds the line-up and holds the innings together. Ab de Villiers is the finisher in the middle who can take apart the best bowlers. Dale Steyn would have a thing or two to say about that.
The only problem Bangalore might have is the batsmen to follow the formidable top order. Saurabh Tiwary has to raise his game and deliver more consistently. Mayank Agarwal is a floater and has been used a few times lower down the order as well. It would also be intriguing to see how Bangalore would use Cheteshwar Pujara — who has been in prime form and can carry it forward. Stereotyped as a Test player, Pujara has the goods to succeed in the shorter versions and has shown the tendency to play aggressive cricket.
While choosing the fourth foreign player, Bangalore would have to take many factors into account.
The choice would be between an all-rounder and a spinner. Moises Henriques, Andrew McDonald, Christopher Barnwell and Daniel Christian can add value in both departments and that would strengthen their case. On the other hand you have world-class spinners in Muttiah Muralitharan and Vettori; it’s not easy to leave out such quality players. However, Murali Karthik gives Bangalore the Indian spinner and he might pip the other two in the race.
The most fascinating thing is that Bangalore have packed their roster with Indian fast bowlers. Here is the long list: Zaheer Khan, Vinay Kumar, Sreenath Aravind, Jaydev Unadkat, Rudra Pratap Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun, Pankaj Singh, Harshal Patel, Sandeep Warrier and Prasanth Parameswaran. That makes it a total of ten pacers to choose from and perhaps the more established international stars would be the safer bets. They have a Ravi Rampaul as well, but given the battery of Indian pacers, his chances of playing are slim.
The key for Bangalore would be to strike the right balance in the side. They shouldn’t put too much pressure on their batting as that wouldn’t help them in the long run. The make-up of the squad is good and going by their history, they have done well to strengthen their bowling resources. However, it is imperative that they have a stable combination as some of the other franchises have suffered as a result of chopping and changing.
When you discuss Bangalore, Gayle is the automatic focus. In the short history of T20 cricket, he is undoubtedly the greatest batsman as he has mastered the art of pacing the innings. Bangalore would want the team to rise to the occasion, but if the hard-hitting West Indian does his bit, they are on their way to bigger things. The whole unit has to back its formidable warrior in their fight for the title.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)