Mike Hesson, the Royal Challengers Bangalore team director, is clear that the team is looking at Glenn Maxwell to be the finisher they have lacked in the recent past. Without giving away much of the team's plans, Hesson stressed on clarity of roles as being key to getting the best out of "X-factor players" such as Maxwell.
"Glenn Maxwell is a fantastic player, and he fits what we require in the middle order," Hesson said on Wednesday. "We want some X-factor players, that high-impact player we've talked about. We've just found through the middle overs as an area [to work on], so to have another player of that quality just adds to the likes of AB de Villiers and a two-pronged attack through the middle overs and the back-end.
Maxwell was released by the Punjab Kings after a poor IPL 2020, in which he managed just 108 runs and three wickets in 13 matches. However, that did not stop Maxwell from listing his base price in the highest bracket of INR 2 crore ahead of the 2021 season, and for the Royal Challengers from entering a fierce bidding war with the Chennai Super Kings, before securing his services for INR 14.25 crore.
"We know on his day, he can turn a game on its head," Hesson said. "We need to use him in a space where we can maximise his skills and we've certainly spent some time looking at how we can do that. Really looking forward to working with him and preparing over the next few days to be clear around his role.
"He is [clear], but just want him to spend a few days amongst his peers, the people he's going to be batting with to understand that role implicitly. It's really important we do that. Also, from a bowling point of view, we know he adds some good skills in that area. He's an amazing fielder, also adds some leadership in terms of how he goes about things."
Elaborating on the significance of Maxwell, especially, Hesson explained that the team think tank had analysed their batting right through the previous season to identify areas they needed to get better at. Among those was the middle phase (overs 7 to 15), where the Royal Challengers had the lowest run rate among the eight sides.
"Sure, we were pleased to make the playoffs, that was great, but we also identified some areas where we needed to improve," Hesson said. "And it wasn't some odd one-off performance, they were definite trends in terms of phases of the games that we wanted to tweak. I think we are also aware no team in the IPL is ever going to dominate every phase of the game with bat and ball, because we are obviously in competition with some highly competitive sides. But what it does mean is that, consistently in some areas particularly through that middle overs we needed to make a tweak in terms of our planning and preparation.
"So that goes back to the auction, in terms of our auction strategy and how we thought about our side, not certainly about overhauling it. If you look at the current squad, we've got seven-eight players that played the majority of our games last year still with us. So it was not a matter of overhauling, it was a matter of tweaking and adding strength in certain areas.
"It will not only potentially add depth to the playing XI but also add depth to our options, so when we get on different surfaces, rather than having to make two-three changes, we might only make only one. That's going give us a real distinct advantage in terms of how we can make those subtle changes from venue to venue, from pitch to pitch and potentially even from opposition to opposition."
Royal Challengers choose split training in weeklong camp
Eleven Indian players have completed quarantine in Chennai, where the Royal Challengers will start their IPL 2021 campaign, as the side began their first outdoor training session on Tuesday evening. It was a combination of centre-wicket training and match simulation that the group - divided in two - will undergo, to try and ensure every player gets the best chance, according to Hesson.
In addition, they will get their strength and conditioning programme going under trainer Shanker Basu, the intensity of which will depend on how much cricket each has played lately.
"We've got more than half of our squad already on deck," Hesson said. "We've split our squad into two for the first four days. We know, having come out of quarantine, we know there'll be guys incredibly keen to get stuck into training. Rather than have four days in a row, they'll go day on, day off. And then we'll get on to game scenarios. We've planned our build-up nicely. We've got players entering our bubble and coming out of the bubble daily and it's just great to really reinvigorate the group when you see those new faces and start to drip feed-in to the group."
Virat Kohli, the captain, will be among the last to arrive, on April 1, having taken a short break to be with his family in Mumbai after the completion of the England series. He will undergo a weeklong quarantine before linking up with the group, possibly for one training session, ahead of their tournament opener against the Mumbai Indians on April 9.
"Form is important but it's more about the confidence you bring from there," Hesson said. "Virat is so experienced, and he's going to bat at the top of the order, a position he knows well. He's in fine touch, his tempo is pleasing. I thought the way he played in the England T20Is showed his tempo how he can control the innings. On his day if he does that at RCB, we know we can get above par scores. He's hugely passionate to play for RCB and we can't wait to have him back [among the group]."
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo