Royal Challengers Bangalore made it to the playoffs in IPL 2020 for the first time in four years, and captain Virat Kohli believes they are ready to go a couple of steps further in IPL 2021. Kohli's belief is centred around the lack of home advantage for all teams - much like it was in IPL 2020 - and what he considers to be a stronger Royal Challengers squad than last year.
"There's nothing quite like playing in Chinnaswamy in front of your home crowd," Kohli said. "Obviously the fans are going to miss watching us play. Such are the times that we are in right now. But the good thing is that we are back in India. And one more positive about this edition, like last year, is that there is no home advantage.
"Every team is playing in neutral venues and the strength of your squad really comes to the fore. That's precisely why last IPL was so competitive - until about the last three-four games everyone was in the reckoning to qualify, which I think is great for the tournament. The viewership was through the roof, which I expect to be the case this time around as well.
"Having done well last year in such a competitive scenario and space, we're very confident that as a side, with a stronger squad this time around, we'll have another great season. Just playing in set venues with four teams, I think that's going to nullify all the home advantage that every team used to have."
The Royal Challengers finished fourth on the points table in IPL 2020 - tied on 14 points with the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Kolkata Knight Riders but second among them on net run-rate - and subsequently lost to the Sunrisers in the Eliminator. Kohli was confident they could improve on that showing, also drawing strength from how well some of their Indian players such as Washington Sundar and Mohammed Siraj had done at the international level in the interim. .
"We had a good season last time around, probably would have liked to go a couple of steps further, which we obviously aim to do as a side this year," Kohli said. "Very exciting times ahead. I personally feel very relaxed with the resources we have and the strength of our team.
"From personal experience, I can vouch for the fact that when you do well with your national team, it's always an exciting time to come to the IPL and really make this tournament your own. I aimed to do that as a youngster, bring the confidence I gained at the international level back into the IPL set up. Our youngsters have become more confident with more experience, and now oppositions know that these are guys that can make an impact in any situation."
"From personal experience, I can vouch for the fact that when you do well with your national team, it's always an exciting time to come to the IPL and really make this tournament your own."Virat Kohli
"It feels like I've been here for a few years now," Maxwell said of his integration into the team. "The guys have been extremely welcoming, it's been nice to slip in almost unnoticed. Looking forward to what this season has to come, and hopefully, I can be an addition to help us get a couple of steps further from last year."
De Villiers, meanwhile, expressed happiness at the seamless manner in which IPL 2020's coaching plans had flowed into IPL 2021.
"One thing that stands out to me is the consistency in the language the coaches are using," de Villiers said. "Very excited about the fact that we've got the same kind of mould again this year. Some new faces yes, but the same kind of language is being used. It gives us players really a lot of freedom and comfort. I'm very excited to play alongside some guys like Maxi, that I've followed for quite a few years. We had a fantastic season last year, obviously didn't win the trophy, but we'll be taking that momentum into this season."
The Royal Challengers will play in the IPL opener against defending champions Mumbai Indians in Chennai, the venue for their first three games. They will then go to Mumbai (two games), Ahmedabad (four games) and end their league stage in Kolkata (five games).
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo