Underachievers RCB look for substance over style
1 Chris Gayle, 2 Manvinder Bisla/ Mandeep Singh, 3 Virat Kohli (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 S Badrinath, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Varun Aaron, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Ashok Dinda, 11 Sean Abbott/ Mitchell Starc/ Adam Milne
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Seventh, out of eight teams, with five wins and nine losses.
Royal Challengers Bangalore crave flamboyance. Their personnel are largely a bunch of big-hitters sprinkled with quicks who can clock 150 kph. Even their exploits in auctions - waging bidding wars to hike up prices and drain opposition reserves - grab attention. The star-studded team, but never the constellation grouped together with the IPL trophy in hand.
Part of the problem is that they lack for a sense of occasion - losing the very first match of the tournament and coming second-best in two finals. And they stumble in matches that are there for the taking - a knockout spot scuppered in 2012 after failing in a 133 chase against Deccan Chargers, who had lost 11 out of 14 matches. That RP Singh no-ball to Ravindra Jadeja in 2013. Last year, they were 3-4 at the halfway stage before losing the next two. One of those after Yuvraj Singh had muscled 83 off 38 balls and then snagged 4 for 35.
So this year, they've gone for depth. They are one of two squads with 26 players, which is handy since Mitchell Starc will miss three weeks to a knee problem and Adam Milne is recovering from a heel injury. India quick Varun Aaron becomes the attack leader. "You get on to the field knowing that a lot rests on your shoulders to do well, which I feel is a good motivating factor," he told Deccan Herald.
Last season, Royal Challengers were thin on local batsmen as well, so Rs 10.5 crores was shelled on Dinesh Karthik. S Badrinath is the failsafe and Mandeep Singh, rookie Sarfaraz Khan and Manvinder Bisla are solid back-ups. They've even addressed fans' clamour for a local player by including uncapped Karnataka batsman Shishir Bhavane.
Royal Challengers are planet IPL-wood's A-Listers and the imminent cause for M Chinnaswamy stadium to turn into pure sound. They couldn't make the Champions League Twenty20 last October, but chants of "R-C-B! R-C-B!" did. Virat Kohli's men thrive from that rumble, but if they want to hear it beyond the group stage, they need to at least be as good as the sum of their parts.
If you're taking a trip down the Royal Challengers line-up, don't tell Michael Bay. It's potential to go boom will even leave the director of the Transformers franchise with a complex. If Virat Kohli is the leading man and AB de Villiers is the show stopper, then Chris Gayle is the crowd puller. The bandanna is there, bright red shades may come in tow, but is he still the bully of the yard? Plagued by a back injury, he doesn't run - which impacts his partner worse - and can consume too many balls when he doesn't pay off. Both those limitations were on display in 2014 when he made only 196 runs in nine matches at a strike-rate of 106.52.
They said T20s would kill spinners off, but the 10 best economy rates in the format all belong to spinners. The ones under Daniel Vettori's charge - Yuzvendra Chahal and Iqbal Abdulla - are quite similar to him; they rely on accuracy more than turn for their wickets as well. A small home ground is the likely reason for their limited investment in spin, but pace off the ball has been known to cause momentum shifts in T20 as Chahal proved last year with 12 wickets at an economy of 7.01.
Gone are the years when fast bowlers take a couple of balls to warm up. Ask Brendon McCullum. Adam Milne is part of that breed and his extreme pace can render the nature of the pitch null and void, as an economy of 4.84 in nine matches played in the subcontinent and UAE suggests. Seventy lakh barely makes a dent in terms of IPL money, but can Royal Challengers accommodate him among the four overseas players?
Everyone fit, except Mitchell Starc and Adam Milne.
Head coach - Daniel Vettori, Assistant coach - B Arun, Bowling coach - Allan Donald, Batting and fielding coach - Trent Woodhill
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo