IPL 2020 Preview: Perennial underachievers Royal Challengers Bangalore face familiar shortcomings

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With the 2020 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) all set to get under way in the UAE, the eight franchises have been busy with their preparations for the marquee T20 event.

Nearly two months of non-stop cricketing action will entertain fans around the globe as the very best from India and some of the biggest overseas stars take centre stage in the Emirates.

Here, we look at how perennial underachievers Royal Challengers Bangalore are shaping up for the tournament.

SQUAD

Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli (C), Parthiv Patel (WK), Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Washington Sundar, Pawan Negi, Pavan Deshpande, Shivam Dube, Shahbaz Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Aaron Finch, AB de Villiers, Chris Morris, Moeen Ali, Josh Philippe, Adam Zampa, Dale Steyn, Isuru Udana.

CAPTAIN – VIRAT KOHLI

 Image - IPL/Twitter.

Image – IPL/Twitter.

There is no bigger superstar in cricket and the same applies for Kohli in the IPL. The India sensation has been associated with the franchise since the tournament’s inaugural edition in 2008 and has been the poster boy of RCB for nearly a decade.

Kohli’s supreme batting abilities need no introduction and the right-hander has backed up his credentials with some immense performances in the IPL. Despite scoring a bucket load (5,412) of runs, the star man has been unable to lift the curse that seems to have gripped the franchise since its inception.

RCB’s bottling endeavours have become a running joke after multiple failures and only a title triumph will put an end to the memes. Kohli’s captaincy record with India is an excellent one when it comes to win rates, though the leadership has been found wanting in crux stages of ICC competitions. RCB’s title drought makes his captaincy credentials further suspect, and he will no doubt be itching to silence the detractors for good.

Kohli can certainly rise to the occasion, but whether he can extract the maximum from the rest of his team-mates remains to be seen.

OVERVIEW

Given the stellar support cast that has been put together over the years, RCB’s failure to clear the final hurdle is all the more painful. Thrice has the franchise faltered in the final, with the latest of those setbacks coming in 2016. While it was more a case of stumbling at the biggest stage in earlier editions, things have only been getting worse in recent times.

Twice in the last three editions has the franchise finished with the wooden spoon while only a lowly sixth-place finish was forthcoming in 2018. There is still cause for optimism ahead of the new edition for Bangalore, although there are some previously known vulnerabilities which have still not been addressed.

Big names such as AB de Villiers and Kohli have been retained in the batting department, while new Australian recruit Aaron Finch is arguably the most destructive opener in T20I cricket. England’s Moeen Ali adds some punch to the middle-order and his off-spin will also be a handy asset to have in UAE conditions.

RCB definitely have the machinery to thrive in the slow paced UAE tracks, with Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa and Washington Sundar providing some excellent spin options. However, it has been the pace depart which has been the franchise’s soft underbelly in recent times and things don’t look too promising this time either.

Image - @RCBTweets.

Image – @RCBTweets.

It will be asking too much from veteran Dale Steyn to carry a pace attack which has already suffered a setback after Kane Richardson pulled out of the IPL. Both Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj have proven to be expensive in past editions, and the pair will need to step up if Bangalore are to make amends.

Sri Lanka’s Isuru Udana is a canny addition to the pace battery, though it will be a tough task to fit him in the playing XI given the limitation of fielding just four foreign players.

What RCB need most desperately, is to find the right supporting acts to Kohli and de Villiers. The team has been far too dependent on both stalwarts previously and need to find the right combination to back up the star pair’s run-scoring.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Domestic – Yuzvendra Chahal

Image: BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

Image: BCCI/SPORTZPICS.

One man who will revel in the conditions on offer in the UAE is India spin spearhead Yuzvendra Chahal. The leg-spinner has been a consistent performer for Bangalore in the IPL despite playing most of his cricket on the flat pitches of the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The slower tracks in the UAE will suit Chahal’s style of imparting plenty of flight to the ball, while he also possesses a deceptive googly to bamboozle batsmen. Kohli will be expected to shine with the bat, but it could be Chahal who will be decisive to Bangalore’s fate with ball in hand.

With 100 IPL wickets under his belt, the leggie is an experienced campaigner. He will be the undisputed leader of a spin attack which carries with it plenty of promise for the upcoming season.

Overseas – AB de Villiers

0424 RCB vs KXIP

T20 batsmen don’t really come better than the South African who surprisingly hung up his international boots two years ago. ‘Mr. 360’ has been a reliable performer for the franchise for several editions running now and has accumulated nearly 4,400 runs at an astonishing strike-rate of 151.23.

His telepathic understanding with Kohli has been a treat to watch, with the pair racking up five century and two double century stands between them in nine previous editions.

Having become a T20 journeyman in the last two years, de Villiers should be fresh and raring to go in the IPL. All eyes will be on the batting position assigned to the South African and it is imperative that he gets the chance to bat for the majority of the 20 overs.

Youngster – Josh Philippe

Josh

Although the franchise does have a highly promising young Indian talent in the form of Devdutt Padikall, it is hard to not get excited by the prospect of watching Josh Philippe make his potential IPL debut.

The young Australia wicketkeeper batsman turned heads with his displays in the 2019 Big Bash League (BBL) which included a man-of-the-match display in the final. A maiden Australia call-up for the ongoing series against England is further proof of Philippe’s potential as a future star.

Like de Villiers, the Australian has a 360 degree range which allows him to play innovative shots all over the park. There is no guarantee that he will make the playing XI, with both de Villiers and Parthiv Patel also providing wicketkeeping options. However, the talent is clearly there in the Aussie who could take the tournament by storm if given the opportunity.

Predicted XI: Aaron Finch, Devdutt Padikall, AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli (C), AB de Villiers (WK), Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Navdeep Saini, Umesh Yadav.

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