Where they finished in 2020

Fourth on the points table and fourth overall, losing in the Eliminator to the Sunrisers Hyderabad. This was the first time the team had made the playoffs since 2016.

Potential XI

1 Devdutt Padikkal, 2 Virat Kohli (capt), 3 AB de Villiers, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Mohammed Azharuddeen (wk), 6 Dan Christian, 7 Kyle Jamieson, 8 Washington Sundar, 9 Mohammed Siraj, 10 Navdeep Saini, 11 Yuzvendra Chahal

PS: Devdutt Padikkal was in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19, but he has now joined the squad after returning two negative tests.

Batting

It's IPL 2021 but the Royal Challengers Bangalore story still seems to be one that stars Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, and hopes that the supporting cast will step up. If both Kohli and de Villiers have middling IPLs - it's unlikely to happen but it's a useful thought experiment to gauge batting strength - it leaves the team looking fairly uncertain. Glenn Maxwell, of course, could turn up and snatch games away on his own, but he remains an enigma in the IPL. He's got the talent, the nous and the performances all over the world, but he's somehow not clicked in true Maxwell style in the IPL apart from a couple of seasons.

The Royal Challengers have some exciting new talents in Padikkal and Finn Allen, but both of them would be better off being allowed to bat with freedom, instead of being burdened with the pressure of carrying the batting.

They didn't sign a lot of lower-order hitters in the IPL 2021 auction, which puts the onus on Maxwell to marshal the second half of their batting. If all three of Kohli, de Villiers and Maxwell play true to form and class, then the team will be scarily good.

Kohli has said he'll open the batting, which might work towards giving the Royal Challengers some of the batting thrust they missed at the top and in the middle in IPL 2020. They were the slowest team in the middle overs, with a strike rate of just 113.51.

Their powerplay strike rate wasn't too hot either, at 116.05, but while that might not change too much, where Kohli opening could work is that he would be well-set by the middle overs and thus able to score quicker.

Bowling

The Royal Challengers let go of Chris Morris, whom they had bought for INR 10 crore, but went up as high as 9.75 crore while bidding for him at the 2021 auctions. If letting Morris go was a puzzling decision at the outset, being prepared to shell out almost the same amount to buy him back was even more baffling.

Morris had the best death-overs economy rate of any bowler in IPL 2020 (minimum 20 balls), conceding a mere 7.03 per over. The next best for the Royal Challengers were Isuru Udana (9.44) and Mohammed Siraj (10.06). Morris was not just outstanding at the death, he was incisive and economical during all phases, and the Royal Challengers don't have a similar bowler to bank on in their current squad.

Without Morris, the death bowling in particular - one of the team's perennial bugbears - will be in focus once again. They will hope that the big-ticket buy of Kyle Jamieson pays off, and if he can give them some control at the death, their bowling attack will wear a nicely rounded look. Washington Sundar's control in the powerplay and Yuzvendra Chahal's guile in the middle overs give them some stability. If Siraj and Navdeep Saini can hit their best bowling form in tandem, that could still make for a very competent attack, even without Morris.

Young player to watch out for

Finn Allen was picked up as a replacement for Josh Philippe before he had even made his New Zealand debut. A top-order batsman who can keep wickets too, Allen was a like-for-like replacement for Philippe in terms of roles, but given the initial promise he has shown, the Royal Challengers might have just found an upgrade. He had a bumper Super Smash 2020-21, smashing a chart-topping 512 runs at a strike-rate of almost 194 to power the Firebirds to the title. Then, in his third T20I, he uncorked a 29-ball 71 against Bangladesh, reaching his half-century off just 18 balls. Allen, who will turn 22 during the second week of the IPL, might not make the starting XI immediately for the Royal Challengers, but he's likely to get a few games as the tournament goes on.

Coaching staff

Mike Hesson (director of cricket operations), Simon Katich (head coach), Adam Griffith (bowling coach), S Sriram (batting and spin bowling coach), Sanjay Bangar (batting consultant), Shanker Basu (strength and conditioning coach), Evan Speechly (physiotherapist)

Poll

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo