RCB looks to go one better amidst new challenges

Bangalore – There is a set of motifs that one associates the city with.. Like Lalbagh, cool weather, Brigade road and Vijay Mallya to name a few. The chants of ‘Aaaar…Ceee..Beee..’ and ‘A..B..D..’ seem to have widened that collective imagination!

Coming to the moot point, just what does Royal Challengers need to do to win an IPL edition? It seemed the dispensation at RCB believed, for a long time, that T20 was all about big hitting. They had a conglomeration of international superstars to do this job. The management was more than willing to empty the coffers on these heavy-weights , forgetting the relevance of impact bowlers, something Gautam Gambhir seems to have mastered over the years at KKR. It was almost as if they were prepared to win games through  ‘bat-outs’. The bowlers at RCB must have been the happiest of the lot, for whenever they had a bad day, all they had to do was to look around the ground to find one of Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers and Chris Gayle fielding at different corners, reassuring that no chase was insurmountable. To their credit, they did pummel the oppositions into submission, more often than not. But that approach was not sustainable when you had to play around 16 to 17 games to win the tournament. It took them a while to realize this when they went to the auctions and brought Mitchell Starc home. They reaped rewards almost instantly with a finish in the playoffs in 2015 and followed it up with a runners-up position in 2016. But just when the team looked ominous and poised to go for the final kill, they slithered away and fell apart in the crucial moments. So then, what exactly can the ‘chokers’ of the franchise cricket world do this year, especially with Starc pulling out of the season?

They seem to have done their job at the auction table this year by acquiring the services of Tymal Mills, who is a T20 specialist. He made heads turn in the three – match T20 series against India with his raw pace and his ability to bowl the back of the hand slower deliveries that just about reach the batsman. None of the famed Indian batsmen could get going against him. It was almost as if he was auditioning for that vacant slot left by Mitchell Starc in the team, with Virat Kohli facing him out in the middle.

Apart from Yuzvendra Chahal’s steady rise in stature as a wicket taking bowler for India in this format, what enthuses RCB is the resurgence of Kedar Jadhav, the batsman. It’s not every day that someone who is into his thirties suddenly displays a facet of his game that’s both astonishing, given how late it has come in his overall cricketing career, as well as outrageous, given how young he is at the international scheme of things. His maturity and ability to finish off games were almost ‘Dhonisque’ in the series against England. He finished the bilateral with scores of 120, 22 and 90. The fact that the sleeping giant is in their ranks now gives RCB more options to play with, especially in their lower middle order. This is their ‘Achilles heel’ which the team management had either overlooked or didn’t have the resources to cater for. Last year saw Virat Kohli dabbling between Sachin Baby and Sarfraz Khan, with not much success. It’s unfortunate though that the captain decided to bench Sarfaraz deeming him physically unfit, especially after the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad,where he enthralled the critics and the crowd equally with those scoops and reverse scoops to good effect, pocketing four boundaries and a six in a single over against Bhuvneshwar Kumar. This seems to have affected his confidence and his overall game ever since. In the Ranji season that followed, he failed to play any significant knock when he turned up for Uttar Pradesh. In fact, both the batsmen have failed to do anything noteworthy even in the Vijay Hazare tournament that concluded recently. Now, with the emergence of Kedar Jadhav, RCB would believe they have found the answer for that crucial number six slot. This is imperative given the team’s tendency to fall like nine pins when one of Virat, AB and Gayle doesn’t stay till the end.

K.L Rahul, who is officially ruled out from IPL 10 due to a shoulder injury, could have provided a solid yet brisk opening option for RCB. From a player who was called up to the national team when a senior player was rested to almost cementing his position in all three formats of the game, the hugely inspiring growth of KL Rahul would have pleased RCB to no ends. But with his unavailability and Kohli’s absence from the initial part of the tournament, it would be interesting to see who would open the innings with Chris Gayle.

RCB also seems to have their bases covered even in the slow bowling department. Given they would be playing half of their games at the Chinnaswamy stadium, where fast bowlers rarely stand a chance to tie a batsman down, Yuzvendra Chahal and Tabraiz Shamsi’s roles could prove vital at some stage in the tournament.

As always, RCB looks the real deal this time as well! But can they deliver the final knockout punch? We will have to wait and watch.

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