Kohli and RCB threw a pleasant surprise last season by showcasing consistency in selection but welp, the Reds are back to their old ways again having released a ludicrous 10 players ahead of the mini-auction. Is it good? Bad? What could be the reason? We try to make sense of it here.
Despite not clearly defining roles for each player, the RCB of IPL 2020 was one of the more stable RCB sides in recent times. The chopping and changing was minimal, there was faith in personnel and consistency in selection that was propelled by data and logic. But just when the stable model presented by Mike Hesson and Simon Katich seemed refreshing, a mass exodus ahead of the 2021 auction has re-invoked long-existing fears and apprehensions.
Who have RCB retained?
Who have RCB released?
What is their remaining purse?
INR 35.7 cr
How many slots do they have available?
12 (3 overseas)
The release of Chris Morris and what it could mean
After being the meme of the town for his 10 crore price-tag, Chris Morris vindicated himself with a fine showing in IPL 2020 but it is understandable why RCB have chosen to let him go - primarily cash, and secondarily, like Hesson said, fitness concerns. What will now be interesting to see, however, is how RCB go about replacing him. Morris was exceptional at the death last season, conceding just 7.83 runs an over, and he pretty much filled a gaping hole. But now the departure of both him and Isuru Udana means that, despite retaining Kane Richardson and trading Sams, the Reds will need to go hunting for that spearhead who they could throw the ball to in crunch situations. There aren’t many in the market, mind you, so one suspects if the real reason behind releasing Morris is to buy him back for a cheaper price.
The paucity of Indian middle-order batsmen
It is interesting that the only Indian middle-order batsman RCB have opted to retain is an inexperienced 31-year-old Pavan Deshpande who did not make a single appearance last season. They have terminated the contracts of both Shivam Dube and Gurkeerat Singh Mann, and while the axing of the latter, you think, is justified, letting go of a power-hitter and all-rounder like Dube, whose ceiling is high, is perplexing. What these two cuts now mean is that RCB find themselves in a situation where they have no option but to delve into the market for quality Indian middle-order batters, which is the rarest of rare species. Given the prospect of buying Dube back for a cheaper amount will be unlikely - history suggests that power-hitting Indian all-rounders generally invoke bidding wars - it remains to be seen if the Reds will be tempted to go the experience route by eyeing someone like a Karun Nair or a Kedar Jadhav. All the other franchises have clung on to their Indian talent, particularly in the batting department, hence letting Dube go in particular might be a premature call that RCB might come to regret.
Is RCB’s pre-auction strategy a give-away of their approach with the ball for IPL 2021?
The more you think about it, the more you get the impression that RCB are constructing a bowling unit tailor-made for slow and low wickets. Among their retentions are four specialist spinners - Chahal, Zampa, Sundar, and Shahbaz Ahmed - and an overseas seamer who thrives on variation, and already among their incomers - Harshal Patel and Daniel Sams - are two bowling all-rounders who, again, thrive on cutters and slower-balls. With them also having released an experienced express-paced seamer like Umesh Yadav, could this be a sign how they want and expect the Chinnaswamy wicket to play out? This was, after all, the same management that backed 4 spinners to get the job done in the Eliminator in IPL 2020. Whether this could have implications for the kind of overseas batsmen they buy will also be interesting to see.
Josh Philippe’s retention - a sign that the club is going to target overseas middle-order bats?
For years RCB have been guilty of falling for the ‘reputation’ trap but what’s come off as prudent has been the decision to retain young Josh Philippe at the cost of axing Aaron Finch. Not only is the 23-year-old in career-best form - he is currently topping the BBL run-charts - but he also is 4.20 crore cheaper than Finch, thereby freeing up a considerable amount of cash to spend for the club. What is interesting, however, is if this is a sign that the Hesson, Katich & Co. are content with the firepower up top and are looking to bolster the middle-order. The inexperience in the middle-order outside of Kohli and AB has been well-established, thus Philippe’s retention might hint towards RCB eyeng a big, big name. With the likes of Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Dawid Malan, and Glenn Phillips all set to go under the hammer, and with 3 overseas slots and close to 36 crore available, RCB aggressively vying for a household name that will slot in between Kohli and de Villiers cannot be ruled out at this stage. Such a move would also help the club utilize de Villiers as an out-and-out finisher, something they quite didn't nail last season.
Though 10 releases look reckless, ultra-aggressive, and haphazard from the outside, the RCB are much, much better placed than they were in most of the previous editions, with a well-oiled core now in place. Like every other season, though, how they fare in the auction could very well decide their fate, with there currently being key areas that need strengthening and addressing.
Overall rating: 7/10