Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) were the runners up OF IPL 10 © AFP
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) were the runners up OF IPL 10 © AFP

A fairytale-like journey but a not-so-happy ending, that is what happened to Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in IPL 2016. Captain Virat Kohli led the side by example, making and breaking plenty of records with his batting prowess but the team failed in the final showdown to David Warner’s Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). They witnessed the orange brigade lift their first IPL title but not them, which must have only made them even more eager to finish successfully in IPL 2017. In an urge of betterment, they cut off the burden they were carrying and as they revealed the list of released players, it included mostly bowlers and all-rounders. The intent of the RCB management is out in the open: they are looking for quality bowlers to match up to their enviable batting order.

Kohli and AB de Villiers did bulk of the work to take RCB to the final, which eventually went in vain. However, it was only fitting that they lost to a deserving team, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). Talking about IPL 10, the first question that comes to mind is: who is the current owner of RCB? Vijay Mallya’s scam is no news, and him being the first owner of the team leaves RCB fans in a lot of doubts about the fate of the team. News reveal that the owner being United Spirits and with RCB taking part in every IPL-related activity ensures the team will be present with all its glory in the upcoming season.

What RCB needed after a phenomenal season in 2016 was a sorted bowling, and the decisions indicate they are proceeding in that way. There was never any doubt about RCB’s batting. Chris Gayle along with Kohli and de Villiers at the top is a psychological pressure that a bowler has to deal with. Though Gayle failed to fire like he always does, Kohli and de Villiers were always there to back that up. With these two regulars, the newest addition was Shane Watson, who had just come after his retirement from international cricket. He was in a very good form and could hold fort if the top-order had failed. Plus, he has the ability to bat at various positions and perform consistently, which RCB utilised to the fullest. They also had an emerging star in KL Rahul.

The absence of any other RCB bowler apart from Yuzvendra Chahal in the list of top bowlers explains the point. While Chahal ended up at the second position in the list of the highest wicket-takers, Watson followed him closely finished at three.

Chahal has been putting up stellar shows in the domestic circuit, and with Iqbal Abdulla, around RCB’s spin-bowling looks good. The biggest name for RCB in the bowling department will be Mitchell Starc, who was absent in the previous season due to his injuries. Despite this, they need assistance with their pace attack. This is where releasing David Weise seems justified. In the last season, RCB did not make full use of, benching him for most games. Again, when offered a chance, he failed to shine either with ball or bat. For that matter, Watson already did better as a fast-bowling all-rounder for the team, which ticks off Weise’s place in the team.

A similar approach might have worked for Varun Aaron, who is capable of generating good pace but fails to maintain right line and length. Aaron was a massive disappointment for the runners-up, and has been rightly released, making space for a consistent performer.

Surprisingly, RCB had names like Abu Nechim Ahmed, Vikramjeet Malik, Praveen Dubey, Akshay Karnewar coming from India’s domestic circuit who were never seen playing even a single match in the season. RCB decided to release all these for a better opportunity (for them as well as for RCB).

A shocking decision was the one drafting out Parveez Rasool. The spinner-all-rounder from Jammu and Kashmir was the first one to bag an IPL contract, and has been one of the most consistent performers in the domestic circuit. With two star performers like Kohli and de Villiers, whom the RCB need invariably, it would have been wise for them not to let go of the domestic strength that they have.

Releasing Kane Richardson also defies logic. Richardson is a good player of the shorter formats, and will have played a full season of BBL before coming to IPL 10. However, the rule of not playing more than four overseas players might have acted behind it. Similarly, RCB had to bid a goodbye to Chris Jordan.

Wisest of RCB in the auctions will be to pick Ranji Trophy performers during the upcoming auction. This will have manifold results in favour of the team. International players will have a larger price cap, while the domestic players have a base cap of 10 lakhs. This will help RCB move economically, enabling them to pick more than one options who will be well aware of the playing conditions here in the country. With more options come the advantage of experimenting. The slot of four foreign players also remains intact with domestic pacers roped in.

All in all, it should be an ‘all bowlers’ buy for RCB in the auction, and most of their released players had valid reasons to have been released. Sure there are names like Kyle Abbott, the Morkel brothers, and Trent Boult will be up for grab, best will be the inclusion of more domestic talents.

Squad: Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Yuzvendra Chahal, Harshal Patel, Mandeep Singh, Adam Milne, Sarfaraz Khan, Sreenath Arvind, Kedar Jadhav, Shane Watson, Stuart Binny, Samuel Badree, Travis Head, Sachin Baby, Iqbal Abdullah, KL Rahul, Avesh Khan, Tabraiz Shamsi.