The Sri Lankan pair of Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera, as well as Australia's Singapore-born Tim David, have joined Royal Challengers Bangalore for the second part of IPL 2021. The franchise has also zeroed in on George Garton, the left-arm quick who played a major part in Southern Brave becoming the first-ever champions of the Hundred. ESPNcricinfo understands that Garton's inclusion is only pending approval from the IPL governing council.
That aside, there's been a change at the top among the coaching staff, with Simon Katich stepping down from his position as head coach, and Mike Hesson, at present the director of cricket operations, taking on the additional responsibility of filling in for Katich.
"Some significant changes in our playing squad, from an overseas perspective, due to player unavailability and, indeed, a reshaping of our overseas contingent," Hesson explained in a press interaction on Saturday. "Finn Allen and Scott Kuggeleijn have been selected for New Zealand tours, and they won't be part of RCB. Kane Richardson has made himself unavailable, as has Daniel Sams, so the balance of our squad has changed dramatically. So we have obviously gone about making purchases during the replacement window, which opened up about four or five days ago. A lot of preparation has gone into that."
Hasaranga coming on board is the big news on that front. The 24-year-old legspin-bowling allrounder has been making heads turn in recent times, and certainly made an impression, especially with the ball, when India went to Sri Lanka in July for a limited-overs series, with a three-for in the second ODI and seven wickets - including a 4 for 9 - to top the bowling charts in the three T20Is. At the end of that series, Hasaranga was placed second among T20I bowlers in the ICC rankings.
"We also have one [more] spot to fill ... Wanindu, Chameera and Tim David are certainly some high-quality players that will add to the likes of AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Kyle Jamieson and Daniel Christian."
"One thing we can say is we have replaced Adam Zampa with Wanindu Hasaranga. Certainly delighted to have Hasaranga on board," Hesson said. "He gives us some balance, obviously from a wristspin point of view and also plenty of batting capability."
Chameera has also been among the wickets in what is a second coming of sorts for him in international cricket, with a bagful of wickets in England in June and then against India at home. As for David, apart from being among the runs in the Big Bash League, he had a good feel of the conditions in the subcontinent during his time with the Lahore Qalandars, scoring 180 runs at an average of 45 and a strike rate of 166.66 in PSL 2021.
"Chameera, another [from] the Sri Lankan contingent, he is bowling extremely well at the moment. I know him well, having coached against him. He's got genuine pace and also his white-ball game has developed significantly over the last few years," Hesson said. "With Finn Allen leaving, we have decided to strengthen our middle-order possibilities, in terms of options, so Tim David has joined our squad.
"He is currently part of the Southern Brave [at the Hundred], he has been performing for Surrey and also Hobart Hurricanes in recent times - a power player who could become a straight swap for either [Glenn] Maxwell or AB de Villiers if required, also gives us other options throughout the order.
"We also have one [more] spot to fill, which we will be looking to do in the coming days. Yeah, it's been a busy period of time to be able to get that squad together, but delighted with the group we've got. Wanindu, Chameera and Tim David are certainly some high-quality players that will add to the likes of AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Kyle Jamieson and Daniel Christian. So that's seven of our eight overseas contingent."
Katich steps down because of "personal reasons"
Along with the tweaks in playing personnel, there was also the big update - though Rajesh Menon, vice president and team head, called it a "small change" - about Katich, who had replaced Gary Kirsten as head coach after the 2019 season.
"Simon Katich, the head coach of RCB, has decided to step down as on date, mainly due to personal reasons, and we, as management, support his decision and completely back him on this," Menon said. "As per the [franchise's] business continuity plan, Mike Hesson will step in and discharge the duties of head coach until end of this tournament."
Team to reach Dubai on August 29
With the squad members (mostly) identified, it's time to get the travel schedule in place. While captain Virat Kohli and pacer Mohammed Siraj are in England for the ongoing Test series and will follow the national team's schedule, the rest will leave for the UAE - RCB will be put up in Dubai - on August 29, some from India, and the rest from wherever they are stationed at the time.
"The Indian players, minus the players in England, support staff and the team management, will be assembling in Bangalore today. Following which, we will undergo a seven-day quarantine in Bangalore, and we will have three Covid tests during this seven-day quarantine," Menon said. "The team will depart via chartered flight on August 29, in the afternoon. Once we land in the UAE, again we will have a six-day hard quarantine, and the testing protocol as per BCCI.
"As for the overseas players and support staff, they will be coming in on August 29 and they will also undergo six days of quarantine there. Once we are all clear, we will be on the field and we will have a clear practice schedule which Mike and the [coaching] team will draw up."
The second leg of the IPL will begin in the UAE on September 19. RCB will resume their season on September 20, against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
The Royal Challengers have been one of the most followed teams in the IPL over the years, and have made the final four on six occasions, finishing runners-up in 2009, 2011 and 2016. After that last second-place finish, though, they had a terrible run, finishing eighth, sixth and eighth - among eight teams - before bouncing back in 2020, when they finished fourth.
This year has been a pleasant change. Before the positive Covid-19 cases in a number of team set-ups forced the authorities to postpone IPL 2021 (and, later, move it to the UAE), the Royal Challengers had won five of their seven games, and were in third place - behind the Delhi Capitals and the Chennai Super Kings.
Hesson said the key for the team, in their bid to keep up the good run of results, would be to "reaffirm the key components of why we were successful; things didn't just happen by accident, we were able to have the right people performing the right roles at key times."
While the 2014 edition of the IPL was also split between the UAE and India because of the general elections that year, this is the first instance of the tournament being interrupted by a gap of more than four months. Disruptive for the teams, yes, but as Hesson agreed, a chance to reboot and sort out whatever flaws might be there.
"When sides have looked at the replacement window, they would have looked at the conditions that we are likely to face in the UAE, and even within the three venues (Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah), there are some subtle differences there. I guess it gives you a chance to reflect and just reconfigure the structure of your side, whether that's a change in balance or in personnel or match-ups," Hesson said. "Every side has just had a chance to make sure they know the conditions well and they have selected a squad that's going to give them the best chance, and we're certainly no different."