Indian Premier League 2011 April 8, 2011

Bangalore lack domestic punch

Big Picture

Royal Challengers Bangalore have mostly stayed clear of the plethora of controversies that hit the IPL since the last season. They have persisted with their coaching set-up of the past season as well, but the team itself has undergone a total change - Virat Kohli the only one to be retained with many big names let go. A team which typically had six Karnataka players in the XI, including stalwarts Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid, now only have Abhimanyu Mithun as a recognisable name from the home state.

The lack of local players though, isn't as big a worry as the paucity of domestic talent to choose their seven Indian players from, is. Kohli, Zaheer Khan and Saurabh Tiwary are automatic selections but the remaining four slots remain a concern. Cheteshwar Pujara and Mithun haven't yet shown their Twenty20 mettle, while Mohammad Kaif's best days seem long in the past. The good news for Bangalore is that they have four world-class Twenty20 overseas players in the squad. Still, they don't look to be among the better squads in the competition and making the semi-finals could prove a challenge.

Key players

Tillakaratne Dilshan had an outstanding World Cup, playing a big role with the new ball - either belting it around while batting, or checking the runs when bowling his offspinners. Bangalore will look to him to provide the early momentum with the bat, and his livewire presence in the field will also be important in a team carrying several slow movers.

Virat Kohli has established himself as the leading young Indian one-day batsman over the past few months, and Bangalore have placed a lot of faith in him by retaining his services prior to the auction. The team coach Jennings has long been a fan of Kohli, repeatedly proclaiming him as a future India captain. The time has come for Kohli to repay that faith.

Zaheer Khan was the man India turned to every time a wicket was needed, or the runs needed to be stopped in the World Cup. Nearly always, he delivered. Bangalore will want a similar show from Zaheer in the IPL, but given how often he gets injured, they will need to use him judiciously.

Big name in

Over the past year, few batsmen have been in better form than AB de Villiers, who is firmly on his way to establishing himself as a great in all three formats of the game. He comes into the tournament on the back of two centuries in the World Cup, and his experience will be vital in a youthful middle order.

Big name out

A whole host of marquee players have been lost, including Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Kevin Pietersen, Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and Ross Taylor. For a team lacking in local flavour though, Bangalore boy Robin Uthappa could be the biggest loss. His lethal hitting made him a crowd favourite and set up several of Bangalore's victories last season, and he doubled up as a wicketkeeper as well.

Below the radar

Mayank Agarwal has impressed in his only senior outings for Karnataka, in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, top scoring for his team with 166 runs at a strike-rate of 139.49. He first came into prominence in the Under-19 World Cup last year with a decent run of scores as opener. A chance to open with the dangerous Dilshan awaits.

Last three seasons

Bangalore famously had a 'Test' team in the first season of the IPL when they hobbled to seventh spot. There was a turnaround midway through the second season once Kumble took over, and Bangalore turned from stragglers to runners-up. In 2010, with Kumble again in charge, Bangalore began brightly with four wins in five matches, but only three more victories in nine games meant they just about reached the semi-finals, before finishing third.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo