A comprehensive look at RCB's future winning strategy
Royal Challengers Bangalore on the auction table|
In the Indian cricketing milieu, the IPL has its own special place and RCB fans are some of the most loyal followers world over. Despite not winning the trophy even once, much to the dismay of the team and the city, Royal Challengers Bangalore have kept their fanbase loyal in a magnificent manner.
Management turmoil and ever-changing coaching staff added to their woes, but the three-time runners-up have managed to pull off some hitherto unimagined coups on a regular basis - which sometimes worked, which many times didn’t. In the process, though, they have suffered two campaigns of a total meltdown in the last few years, leaving their strategy in a mess. A certain trend emerged and during research, I revisited their tactics while forming a formula that can make a fundamental change to the way the side approach their campaign as a whole.
I have looked at the options as far as the team composition goes ahead of the IPL 2021 mega auction. This goes with the assumption that the 2021 auction runs on the same lines as that of 2018 – each team with a budget of 80 crores and can retain up to five players using a combination of retention and Right to Match (RTM).
The 2019 edition was a tough season for RCB. The franchise replaced head coach Daniel Vettori with Gary Kirsten but still went on to lose the first six matches. Subsequently, they didn’t make it to play-offs even after winning five out of their last eight matches. There were, however, a few positive outcomes in the season: Yuzvendra Chahal’s impressive wicket-taking ability with an enviable strike rate made him the standout bowler for the team; Moeen Ali’s reliability in times of crisis, with the bat and the ball with the best strike rate among all batsmen in RCB for the season; the undeniable performances by the best duo - Virat Kohli & AB de Villiers who outperformed the rest of the team, scoring the highest and second-highest number of runs respectively.
The areas of concern were the ones that plague RCB every season: Death bowling, where the team had the highest economy and boundary percentage in the death bowling overs, owing to many of its losses; Umesh Yadav was very volatile in the season; Mismanagement of resources where expensive Indian and international players could not live up to their price tags as they were not provided with enough chances to play.
With that being said, the 2020 auction proved very fruitful as it managed to fill in the required low spots of the team. The three essential players needed by the team were: hard-hitting opening batsmen; a seam-bowling all-rounder; and a pacer. Even though RCB have an incredible top-order, they have contributed the least in IPL 2019, depicting that the team don’t match the level of other teams in the franchise. RCB have had average performances by all its seam bowling all-rounders and had to settle on a good decision for this place. The pace department also had a bad season in 2019 with a low number of wickets and a very high economy.
Price INR (in Cr)
|Top-order BatsmanTop-order Batsman
There are still a few problems concerning the new four pacers as none of them is bankable death bowlers. The lack of support for Yuzvendra Chahal in the spin department remains unsolved. Also, due to being outbid and forced to pick second/third choice overseas players, there is now more pressure on Parthiv & Finch to take the load off Kohli & de Villiers. However, with the added depth, the team can maximize home advantage and hopefully recreate the magic of IPL 2016, especially between the two pillars of the team, Virat Kohli & AB de Villiers. Aaron Finch & Josh Phillipe will give the RCB top-order the necessary firepower that the team was missing in the last two seasons. Aaron Finch will also be a useful addition to the leadership group. Chris Morris, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube, and Washington Sundar make for a strong lower-middle order. All these batsmen can help RCB turn fighting scores into match-winning ones, thus ensuring an explosive lower-middle order. RCB retained its core and have added decent backups in all departments – batting, bowling and leadership.
After addressing all these concerns, the management would want to ensure that victory irrespective of conditions. RCB have put together a potential match-winning squad for IPL 2020: the best T20 batsmen in top-order in Virat Kohli & AB de Villiers and now, Aaron Finch; a better bowler in death overs in Chris Morris; a competitive spin trio in Yuzvendra Chahal, Sundar & Moeen if Chahal gets his required support; four new pacers for bettering the death bowling department.
RCB should retain 3 players pre-auction and buy-back 2 using the RTM card. The retained players would be: Virat Kohli as there is no team without its captain - the highest run-scorer in the IPL with a visible enhancement in his power game, doubling of boundaries at home; Navdeep Saini - a find in IPL 2019 who spearheaded RCB’s bowling attack and can bowl in any phase of the innings and is relatively less expensive than procuring other fast bowlers; AB de Villiers - RCB’s line-up would be incomplete without his prolific strike rate and consistency. RTM can be used on Yuzvendra Chahal who is an impressive option as other spinners struggle in the Bengaluru home-ground and he is India’s leading wicket-taker among spinners; Aaron Finch who would have been an explosive opener with great impact in the powerplay.
The following options need to be explored and bought in the 2021 auction: a left-handed batsman to boost Kohli & Finch in the top-order with an added benefit of being a skilled spinner, like Devdutt Padikkal; a middle-order batsman like Moeen Ali should be brought back to provide momentum to de Villiers and help take on spinners; a seam-bowling all-rounder like Ben Stokes with his ability to play spin and pace equally well to accelerate in the death overs; a finger spinner like Krishnappa Gowtham who knows the conditions at Bengaluru well and ability to bowl in powerplay leading him to be a supporting cast to Chahal; serious artillery to the fast bowling resources, who can create an impact in the powerplay and improve the record in death overs, like Mitchell Starc as compared to Umesh Yadav given his struggles at crucial times.
Therefore, if the franchise has a good auction, the following potential squad can be assembled.
The fans have an undying belief in RCB for all its talents, nail-biting moments and an amazing line-up even though it has not made playoffs in three years now. Hopefully, the same mistakes are not repeated under the new leadership of Mike Hesson & Simon Katich. RCB possesses a fight-till-the-end spirit which can be maximized by increasing its potential and addressing its ever-present concerns. If done so, as it appears in the 2020 auction, there would be nothing stopping RCB from winning its home matches and a sure position in the playoffs in IPL 2021.