Traditionally, Royal Challengers Bangalore, the three-time IPL finalists, has been a disorganized side in the Indian Premier League (IPL) over the years. With the tournament being expanded as a ten-team affair from this year, the job for the Faf du Plessis-led RCB has just got tougher.
Despite making little impact in the Indian Premier League over the years, the popularity of Royal Challengers Bangalore among fans across the world is unmatched. This discrepancy is largely due to the presence of two of the greats in modern-day cricket – Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
De Villiers hung up his boots last year after an illustrious IPL career, but Kohli has not. The latter will show up in the upcoming edition with the same optimism and high hopes, but unfortunately, not as the captain anymore.
Kohli will be the leader of the squad anyway, and de Villiers’ countrymate and his long-time friend Faf du Plessis will take up the baton from him. Unlike Kohli, du Plessis has won the coveted trophy before, in fact thrice with his former franchise Chennai Super Kings. His immense contributions with the bat in IPL 2021, where he scored 633 runs in 16 matches at a strike rate of 138.2, helped CSK secure the title for the fourth time in the tournament’s history.
Traditionally, RCB, the three-time IPL finalists, has been a disorganized side, despite the luxury of having some of the biggest T20 icons in the past, such as Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Brendon McCullum and many more. Yet they failed, one way or another, perhaps because of their over-reliance on Kohli and de Villiers.
However, IPL 2021 was a bit different for RCB with the rebirth of Glenn Maxwell in the tournament. His 513 runs at a strike rate of 144.10 led RCB to finish third on the points table, with nine wins and five defeats before they were knocked out by Kolkata Knight Riders in the Eliminator.
Ahead of the 2022 auction, RCB made three retentions in Kohli, Maxwell and Mohammed Siraj. Like every year, they have once again built a decent squad on paper following the latest auction, with prominent buys like du Plessis, Josh Hazlewood, Dinesh Karthik, and Wanindu Hasaranga. But the biggest buy at the auction in their home town had to be the re-acquisition of last season’s Purple Cap holder Harshal Patel. Will that be enough to contend for the title under du Plessis’ leadership? Well, we shall see.
Let us have a look at Royal Challengers Bangalore’s full squad for IPL 2022:
Faf du Plessis (c), Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, Harshal Patel, Wanindu Hasaranga, Mohammed Siraj, Dinesh Karthik, Anuj Rawat, Josh Hazlewood, Shahbaz Ahmed, David Willey, Mahipal Lomror, Jason Behrendorff, Siddharth Kaul, Karn Sharma, Suyash Prabhudessai, Sherfane Rutherford, Chama Milind, Aneeshwar Gautam, Finn Allen, Akash Deep, Luvnith Sisodia.
At the top, du Plessis and who?
A major issue for RCB has to be who opens the innings with their new captain with Kohli and du Plessis’ batting style quite similar in many ways. They tend to take some time to settle at the crease before shifting the gears. So, despite having the pedigree of playing big knocks frequently, it would be a risky choice to ask them to open the innings.
In the 2022 auction, RCB punted on the 22-year-old left-handed batter Anuj Rawat (3.4 crore), who can keep the wickets, as an opening option after he had impressive Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy campaigns. Ideally, it would be better for both RCB and Kohli to bat at No. 3 with the aim to get back to his usual best.
With Kohli ever-present at No. 3, RCB certainly seems to have a better-looking middle-order, unlike previous editions. Maxwell, who was stupendous against spin bowling last season, will bat at No. 4 with young Mahipal Lomror following him. Lomror, who offers a left-arm spin bowling option as well, played a few impressive knocks for his former franchise Rajasthan Royals (RR) in the limited opportunities he was afforded. He played four matches in IPL 2021 and aggregated 94 at 128.76, and also picked up a solitary wicket.
Despite not playing for his native state Tamil Nadu in recent months, Dinesh Karthik attracted a lot of buyers at the 2022 auction. His numbers in the previous two IPL editions were not great either, amassing 169 and 223 runs respectively. Still, with the wealth of experience (4,046 runs in 213 IPL matches) on his resume, he received INR 5.5 crore from his former franchise to seal the deal.
Karthik was at his fluent best while captaining Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2018, where he accumulated 498 runs at 147.77 from his 16 outings. He will be hoping to stage a similar show this time to convert his homecoming to a fairytale.
Potent bowling attack
Unlike their familiar nature on the auction table, RCB invested heavily in improving their bowling unit. They already had Siraj, and brought in the talismanic Australian Josh Hazlewood, for the valuation of INR 7.75 crore, as his pace partner with the new ball. While Hazlewood, in the CSK yellow jersey, claimed 11 wickets in nine games at an economy rate of 8.37 last season, Siraj had 11 scalps at 6.78 playing in the red of RCB. If they find the rhythm early, that would be a worrying sign for their opponents. The re-addition of Harshal, who scalped 32 wickets from 15 matches at a strike rate of 10.56, make their fast bowling unit even more lethal.
The price tag of INR 10.75 crore speaks volumes of how Wanindu Hasaranga has transformed himself into a world-class bowler in the past 12 months. The 24-year-old Sri Lankan joined RCB as one of their replacements in the second leg of IPL 2021 but was unable to get any success in his two matches. However, since its conclusion, he has been in the form of his life for club and country, and will be looking to lead the spin attack in the absence of Yuzvendra Chahal. Shahbaz Ahmed, the 27-year-old from Bengal, is likely to be Hasaranga’s spin bowling partner.
Bangalore’s strongest possible XI for IPL 2022: Faf du Plessis (c), Anuj Rawat, Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, Mahipal Lomror, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Wanindu Hasaranga, Shahbaz Ahmed, Harshal Patel, Mohammed Siraj, Josh Hazlewood.
With the IPL being expanded as a ten-team affair from this year, the job for the Faf du Plessis-led RCB has just got tougher. But then, does the number of teams even matter if one starts to perform consistently in a tournament? They are on the right track since 2020, qualifying for Playoffs in successive years. They have been waiting for ages to lift the coveted trophy, and this year, the change in captaincy might take the courtesy even if they get the success.