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Can RCB maximise home advantage in the first half of the season?

Kohli's return to form and Maxwell's fitness are a big boost, as RCB play six of their seven home games in April

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Will Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli take Royal Challengers Bangalore to their maiden IPL title this year?  •  BCCI

Will Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli take Royal Challengers Bangalore to their maiden IPL title this year?  •  BCCI

Where RCB finished last season

Royal Challengers Bangalore finished fourth in the league stage with eight wins and six losses, making the playoffs for a third successive season. There they vanquished debutants Lucknow Super Giants in the Eliminator, courtesy a century from Rajat Patidar, the fastest by an Indian in IPL history. However, a place in the final wasn't to be as they were beaten by eventual runners-up Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 2. Their quest for a maiden IPL title continues.

RCB squad for IPL 2023

Faf du Plessis (capt), Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammad Siraj, Harshal Patel, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Shahbaz Ahmed, Rajat Patidar, Anuj Rawat, Akash Deep, Josh Hazlewood, Mahipal Lomror, Finn Allen, Suyash Prabhudesai, Karn Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, David Willey, Reece Topley, Himanshu Sharma, Manoj Bhandage, Rajan Kumar, Avinash Singh, Sonu Yadav, Michael Bracewell

Player availability - Will Josh Hazlewood make it?

Australia fast bowler Josh Hazlewood is recovering from Achilles tendonitis. He flew home midway through the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in February after missing the first two Tests. Hazlewood's fitness is going to be monitored given Australia have the World Test Championship final and the Ashes coming up immediately after the IPL ends on May 28.
England batter Will Jacks, who was identified as cover for Glenn Maxwell, was ruled out with injury. New Zealand allrounder Michael Bracewell has been named his replacement.
Rajat Patidar, meanwhile, could potentially miss the first half of the season with a heel injury. The batter is undergoing rehab at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and has been advised three weeks of rest, after which an MRI scan will determine his participation in the second half of the season.

What's new with RCB this year

They signed left-arm seamer Reece Topley as a back-up for Hazlewood, and Jammu & Kashmir's Avinash Singh, a tearaway quick capable of bowling over 150kph. But most of the squad and coaching staff is the same.

The good - Glenn Maxwell's recovery, Virat Kohli's form

After Maxwell broke his leg in a freak accident in November, RCB were scurrying for allrounders at the auction. There was some uncertainty even as late as February, but Maxwell has since returned to competitive cricket and is set to start.
Virat Kohli's return to form also comes as a big relief for RCB. Between the last IPL and now, he ended his drought of hundreds that lasted over 1000 days with a T20I century against Afghanistan in September. More recently, during the Ahmedabad Test against Australia, he made his first Test hundred since 2019.

The not-so-good - Who after Harshal Patel and Mohammed Siraj?

Beyond Harshal Patel and Mohammed Siraj, their Indian pace stocks are thin on experience. If Hazlewood isn't a sure starter, they will need Reece Topley or one of their uncapped picks to deliver.

Schedule insights

With six of their seven home games scheduled for April because of elections in Karnataka in May, RCB cannot bank on home advantage during the business end of the season, when teams look to maximise points to consolidate their standing.
It's an additional challenge RCB have to overcome to buck their trend of finishing the league poorly. In 2020, they lost four straight games heading into the playoffs. In 2021, they began the second half with two back-to-back losses before huffing and puffing into the playoffs. In 2022, they managed just three wins out of seven in the second half. How will 2023 play out?

The big question

March 26, GMT 0240 The piece was updated with news of Rajat Patidar's injury.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo