For a change RCB did not fire all their support staff ahead of an auction, yet being outlandish is the cornerstone of the franchise so they went ahead and released 10 players. The releases, not for the first time, have left them with a lot to do heading into the auction. Sounds familiar, eh?
So here we are, once again, exploring what Royal Challengers Bangalore could potentially do heading into an auction. We’ve all been through this plenty of times in the past, haven’t we? We look at the RCB team, we look at the players available in the market, we fantasize about the club having the perfect auction and we get excited. But then BOOOOM! They exit the auction table having purchased two average-at-best cricketers for ludicrously inflated prices after having missed out on their main targets by virtue of losing bidding wars to Punjab, Mumbai and Delhi.
With 3 overseas slots and 35.40 crore left, having also retained their core, the Royal Challengers, this time around, are actually placed in a pretty good position heading into the auction. But, then again, we’ve seen this story play out way too many times over the years to expect something new.
Virat Kohli (c), AB de Villiers, Devdutt Padikkal, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Joshua Philippe, Pavan Deshpande, Shahbaz Ahamad, Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson, Harshal Patel, Daniel Sams
The Missing Links
In Batman’s deep voice, “WHERE ARE THEY?”. No, seriously. Where are the batsmen? The disparity is absurd. Of the 14 players RCB chose to retain, only Kohli, de Villiers, Padikkal, Philippe and Deshpande are designated batsmen. 64% of their current squad is filled with either bowlers or bowling all-rounders and through their decision to release both Dube and Gurkeerat, RCB have dug themselves into a bit of hole as they are now in a position where they need to buy Indian batsmen. The problem for them is there is a serious paucity of good local batsmen in the market. On the contrary, they are stacked in the bowling department, particularly with regards to the spinners. Still, you’d imagine they’d fancy one more proper overseas strike bowler.
The Dream Signing - Steve Smith
RCB have taken many a baffling decision in the past, but should they decide to pass the option of signing Steve Smith, it would top it all. Simply put, he is all they need. And no, it’s not because they already have his protege Josh Philippe in the squad. Since the departure of Chris Gayle, RCB have lacked a third cog that could carry the batting and Smith will be just that. Being the banker he is, Smith could slot in at 3 or 4 and hold the batting together, and this would not only ensure Virat and AB are kept apart, but also enable them to bat with freedom, for considerable load will be taken off their shoulders. The only downside to this is that RCB matches will then have to be moved to the 11 PM slot as watching Smith, Kohli and AB bat together, one would imagine, will fall under the 18+, NSFW category.
The Realistic Signings - Sam Billings and Kedar Jadhav
Now acquiring Smith might not be all that easy, but, realistically, there are still two other top quality batsmen RCB can target: Kedar Jadhav and Sam Billings. IPL 2020 did irreparable damage to Jadhav’s reputation, but that still does not take away the fact that he is an experienced campaigner who is a street-smart T20 batsman. Jadhav suffered in CSK, yes, but this was largely down to him being asked to play the role of a finisher; ask him to be a counter-punching accumulator in a team like RCB and he’ll fare just about fine. Having released Dube, Parthiv and Gurkeerat, RCB need an experienced Indian middle-order batsman and Jadhav fits the bill perfectly.
And who better to partner Jadhav, Kohli and de Villiers in the middle-order than Sam Billings? Ever since returning to the sport post a shoulder injury, the Renaissance Man of England has been on fire. Last year, he averaged 78.75 in ODIs at a SR of 95.74 and he is coming fresh off a successful BBL stint with the Thunder, for whom he carried the middle-order. Given his experience, versatility - he can bat anywhere from 1 to 6 and also can keep - and his dexterity against playing spin, Billings would be a ridiculously good coup for Bangalore.
The Wildcards - Dawid Malan (or) Shakib al Hasan
As a package, Dawid Malan is not attractive: he is a slow starter who bides his time and he only goes big if and when he gets set. Almost each of the 8 franchises have an Indian or overseas player of a similar mould and in Kohli, RCB themselves have a Malan-prototype far superior to Malan himself. Yet punting on the Englishman might not be too bad an option for the Reds. He ticks all the boxes - reliable, experienced, capable six-hitter - and he will add stability to the side. Discounting a few underwhelming BBL matches, Malan is batting as well as he ever has and he, like Smith, could help Kohli and de Villiers go back to being their ruthless selves.
Arguably a better option though, would be Shakib Al Hasan. Another player capable of slotting in anywhere in the middle-order, Shakib’s left-arm spin would not only add a new dimension to RCB’s bowling, it would also help them field an extra batsman if need be. Shakib will add some much-needed balance to the side but also experience, which their middle-order currently lacks. What’s the harm in adding a through-and-through match-winner to the side, anyway?
SportsCafe suggests - Glenn Phillips
Would Virat Kohli not bite your hand off if you offered him a batsman with his desire and run-scoring pedigree, Padikkal’s class and de Villiers' hitting range? Of course he would. And that is precisely why we suggest RCB need to target New Zealand’s Glenn Phillips. The guy is absolute nuts; a dream T20 batsman, if could call it that. And no, we are not exaggerating. Phillips can keep wickets, bowl, bat anywhere from 1 to 6, accumulate runs consistently and also score them at a rapid pace. And yes, he can also score hundreds - he has four of them at the age of 24 - and hit monster sixes too. For years Bangalore have yearned for that x-factor batsman who, on his day, could overpower and overshadow the impact created by Kohli and de Villiers, and in Phillips they have just that.