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Underachievers RCB look to new faces to fix old problems

Can Finch help reduce their dependency on Kohli and de Villiers? Can Morris help with their death-over bowling woes?

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Where they finished in 2019: Eighth, with five wins and a washout. For context, the fourth-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad finished with 12 points - that's one more win than Royal Challengers (that said, six of RCB's eight defeats came in their first six games).
Potential XI: 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Devdutt Padikkal/Parthiv Patel, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Gurkeerat Singh, 6 Shivam Dube 7 Chris Morris, 8 Washington Sundar/Shahbaz Ahmed, 9 Navdeep Saini, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Batting: It has revolved almost entirely around Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, ever since Chris Gayle left after 2017. They've signed up Aaron Finch, Australia's limited-overs captain, to try and fill that void. Finch brings with him experience, and good form from the England series. His inclusion could free up Kohli to bat at his preferred No. 3 slot. However, it won't be a bad move for Finch to slot in at one-down. Kohli has a formidable record as opener: 685 runs in 19 innings at a strike rate of 140.
Parthiv Patel, the team's third highest run-getter in 2019, may have some competition from Devdutt Padikkal if the team decides to give de Villiers the gloves. Padikkal, 20, is uncapped but has already impressed the team management with his prolific run in the 2019-20 Indian domestic season: he was the highest run-getter in both the T20 and 50-over competitions, which his team Karnataka won.
The team doesn't have proven Indian batsmen lower down the order though. Shivam Dube and Shahbaz Ahmed are good all-round picks and have proven themselves at the domestic level, but are fairly inexperienced at the international and IPL level. Gurkeerat Singh, an India international, showed glimpses of his talent late last season, and has an opportunity to cement his place this season. But again, don't be surprised if there's a lot of dependency on Kohli and de Villiers to do the heavy lifting.
Bowling: A predominantly spin-based attack could thrive in hot and dry conditions. Yuzvendra Chahal, who had a breakout season when the IPL last came to the UAE in 2014, remains the trump card, while Sundar, Ahmed and Pawan Negi lend more options. Then there's Moeen Ali, another formidable spin-bowling allrounder, who has experience of bowling with the new ball.
Death bowling has been an Achilles heel for Royal Challengers in the past, and they've tried to plug that gap by going for Chris Morris, whose economy of 8.34 in the last four overs in the IPL since 2015 is better than even Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. In Navdeep Saini, they have an India regular, in the pace department, with Mohammed Siraj as back-up. Umesh Yadav, though, has fared particularly poorly in this respect, having the worst death-overs economy among all IPL bowlers in the last five years, with the cut-off being a minimum of 150 balls bowled.
Maybe then, there's a case for them to use Sri Lanka's Isuru Udana, who has excellent slower variations, could also come into contention as the season wears on and surfaces get slower. Udana's back-of-the-hand slower delivery, in particular, is one of his standout deliveries that batsmen find hard to pick.
Young players to watch out for: The franchise has invested in Padikkal. He has good technique, balance, strikes the ball well, loves to cut and pull and does it at a formidable strike rate of 175 in T20 cricket. Then there's Ahmed, big-hitter lower down the order who also lends excellent control with his left-arm spin. And he varies his trajectory well, he isn't a one-trick pony. Of course, performing in domestic T20s is far different to doing it against the world's best at the IPL, and it will be a test for him.
Coaching staff: Mike Hesson (director of cricket), Simon Katich (head coach), Adam Griffith (bowling coach)
With stats inputs from Gaurav Sundararaman

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo