Jennings and Vettori bet big on freshness
Their key players may be coming off lengthy lay-offs, but the Royal Challengers Bangalore think-tank believes that won't affect their Champions League campaign. Their captain Daniel Vettori, like talismanic opener Chris Gayle and South Africa import AB de Villiers, has not played any competitive cricket since the IPL ended in late May, but Vettori and coach Ray Jennings reckon the freshness can work in the team's favour.
"Too much cricket could put you in a bad state of mind, and that's a big issue for me as the coach," Jennings said in Bangalore. "Players never lose their talent. The fact that these guys are coming in fresh could be a blessing in disguise. Freshness is a very funny thing - if you are fresh in the mind, you could be fresh in expressing talent."
Vettori also stressed on the freshness aspect, insisting his four-month off-season - time he spent "looking after the kids" - could work in his favour going into the tournament. "Sometimes freshness of mind is the best thing coming into a tournament like this. Myself, AB and Chris haven't played in a long time and are actually excited about playing cricket again. And you will see that intensity going into the first game."
The Bangalore players assembled from various parts of the world on September 18, and have their first full practice session only four days before their first game. Jennings underplayed the impact of the quick turnaround, and the potential disadvantage faced by his side compared to teams from other countries that have the luxury of spending most of the year together.
"On the day, the team that connects better with the game technically and mentally will win in this format," Jennings said. "There is a very good culture and unity in the team, everyone enjoys each other's company. The local sides from other countries have certain problems - they don't have a blend of different ideas [from around the world] like we do. Some of our guys have played in Indian conditions a lot more than the other sides."
Bangalore's campaign has already suffered a huge blow, with pace spearhead Zaheer Khan missing the tournament due to the injury he picked up on India's tour of England. Zaheer was one of many players to break down in England, a tour that brought cramped cricket schedules under scrutiny once again.
"That is a problem, especially in Indian cricket," Jennings said. "Unfortunately the pressure on India players is a lot more than others, especially fast bowlers like Zaheer. There's not much we can do about it, we have given Virat Kohli [who joins the Bangalore team straight after the ODI series in England] some time off. The last thing I want to do is bring him to a net session to sharpen him up, since he has played so much. I need him to rest, get away from the cricket and come back fresh after 3-4 days. I am sure he will be ready for the game on Friday."
Bangalore are set to become the only side to feature in each of the first three editions of the Champions League, but they have no silverware to show for their efforts so far. Even in the IPL, they have made two finals and one semi-final without managing to go all the way. They will hope to change all that in this tournament. Bangalore begin their campaign with a match against Warriors on September 23.
Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo