If Chris Gayle (left) is the fire for attacking, then Virat Kohli will be the ice for anchoring the innings © AFP
If Chris Gayle (left) is the fire for attacking, then Virat Kohli will be the ice for anchoring the innings © AFP

 

By Dileep V

 

The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) enter the Champions League T20 tournament as the only team to have qualified for the past three tournaments. Considering RCB would be playing their matches on their home ground and their batting form, makes them one of the favourites for the tournament. RCB made it to the semis in the last edition, losing to eventual champions Chennai Super Kings

 

RCB’s record in CLT20 tournament

 

M W L     Bat Avg      Bowl Avg     RR     Eco Best finish
9 4 5      30.46       24.89   7.76    7.81 Semi-final

 

The key to Bangalore’s success will be the form of their talismanic opener Chris Gayle. Bangalore were struggling to get in grips with IPL last year, till Gayle arrived as replacement for the injured Dirk Nannes. His marauding of opposition bowlers at the top of the order ended the team’s four-match losing streak and set up a record seven-match victory run that eventually took them to the final. No surprise that he ended up with the orange cap, for being the top run- getter in the tournament.

 

Gayle will not only tick the scoreboard at a furious pace fast but also make sure that his batting partner at the other end is under no pressure. Besides, his fast off-break is both productive and difficult to score off.

 

Virat Kohli will be the other important cog in Bangalore’s batting armour and the key if RCB have to mount a serious charge at the tournament. He has matured a lot as a cricketer since joining the IPL team in its inaugural season in 2008. The fact that he captained the side in the absence of Daniel Vettori last season is a testimony to his growing stature. If Gayle is the fire for attacking, then Kohli will be the ice for anchoring the innings. If he carries forward his India ODI form into the tournament, then there is no denying he’ll be up with the top run-getters in this tournament.

 

Tillekaratne Dilshan and AB de Villiers didn’t have a great IPL last season and will be trying to make amends for that. Both are high quality and experienced players and their presence at the top of the order makes RCB formidable.

 

The No 5 and No 6 positions pose concern to RCB as their highest-paid player Saurabh Tiwary hasn’t delivered and Mohammad Kaif isn’t in the best of form. The lack of quality all-rounder  also hurts the team. Playing Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order and pushing Kohli and de Villiers down the order will make up for a better balance.

 

The bowling, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same spark as batting. The team has already suffered a blow even before a ball has been bowled in the tournament, losing their pace spearhead Zaheer Khan to injury. His injury has got back Nannes – a good replacement considering that the Australian is a specialist in this format. Vettori is a thinking captain and has the ability to dry up runs at one end, and is one of the most economical bowlers in T20 cricket. His bowling in powerplays were the feature of last editions IPL.

 

Last season’s surprise package Sreenath Aravind would be hoping for the repeat performance in this tournament, while Abhimanyu Mithun would want to show he merits a place in the side. Vettori can also turn to spinners Asad Pathan or Syed Mohammad if the conditions suit them.

 

The one headache the team would have will be regarding which of the foreign players to put on bench. Gayle and Vettori pick themselves up and considering that they are lacking a spearhead in attack, the team would go with Nannes leaving Dilshan and de Villiers to fight for the remaining spot. It would be a tough call for the management and would have a bearing on their chances in the tournament.

 

How Gayle and de Villiers shape up remains to be seen as they haven’t played any competitive cricket since the IPL ended in May.

 

With all the flamboyance associated with the team and their past records in IPL and CLT20, one thing that is missing in their cabinet is trophies. Hopefully, this CLT20 should end the drought.

 

(Dileep.V is a Scouser fan, Sports freak, Movie buff, Laggard Quizzer and dreams of setting foot on Anfield one day)