Explosive players, star power, impressive local talent—Royal Challengers Bangalore have personified all that the India Premier League stands for. Going simply by Bangalore’s arsenal, they should have won almost every title there is for the taking. However, as it stands, their silverware cupboard remains bare despite being among the pre-tournament favourites nearly every edition.
Vijay Mallya, the former owner, might have made headlines for all the wrong reasons in the past couple of months, but under new chairman in Amrit Thomas, Bangalore can only hope for a change in fortunes.
With a few sensible buys in the February 2016 auctions, Bangalore’s think-tank may have succeeded in picking the most balanced squad in a long time, but it remains to be seen if they can they pick the right combination repeatedly enough to make it count.
In Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers, Bangalore possess a trio that can decimate most attacks, especially with a batting-friendly strip at the Chinnaswamy Stadium at their disposal.
Although their big-hitting prowess has never been in doubt, the trio’s recent form augurs well. Kohli scored 273 runs in five World Twenty20 matches at an impressive 136.50, displaying his clutch gene during excellent chases against Pakistan and Australia. Adjudged the player of the tournament, Kohli literally carried the Indian side throughout the Word T20, though one must factor in his mental and physical fatigue coming into the IPL, where he will also captain the side.
Then there’s Gayle, whose World T20 was highlighted by a 47-ball unbeaten century against England, and de Villiers, who scored a brilliant 29-ball 64 to star in the 37-run win against Afghanistan.
Additionally, Shane Watson, David Wiese and Stuart Binny provide Bangalore the luxury of hard-hitting allrounders who can easily bowl out their quota of four overs.
Bangalore’s strength, undoubtedly, is their batting, but they have at times relied too heavily on their top three. As has been the case in the past, if Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers fail to get going, the middle order doesn’t inspire confidence to take on some of the better attacks in the tournament.
Although Bangalore have strengthened their bowling attack by picking Kane Richardson and Samuel Badree, the loss of Mitchell Starc will definitely hurt them. Starc was Bangalore’s most economical bowler last season, apart from picking up 20 wickets from 12 innings, but a foot injury during the day-night Test against New Zealand in Adelaide late last year kept him out of the Australian summer and the World T20. To add to their woes, there are concerns about Badree too, who injured his shoulder during West Indies’ World T20 final against England. Badree was one of West Indies’ stars at the World T20, with nine wickets in six innings at an economy rate of 5.39 runs per over.
Bangalore’s start wasn’t the most promising as they crashed out in the group stage in the first year. Since then, they have made it to the finals on two occasions, losing out to Deccan Chargers in 2009 and to Chennai Super Kings in 2011. Their performance has been up and down as they finished fifth a couple of times, topped out by a dismal seventh-place finish in 2014. Last season, however, they did well to finish third, after losing to Chennai in Qualifier 2.
2016 auction action
Bangalore went into the auction with Rs.21.625 crore at their disposal, looking for a strike bowler who would be a like-for-life replacement for Starc, and a spinner. Their demands were met with the purchase of Kane Richardson and Badree, but in addition to those players, Bangalore managed to squeeze out a big name like Watson for a mammoth Rs.9.5 crore—the highest bid for this year. They also pouched Travis Head, the Big Bash League sensation with 299 runs in nine matches, for a steal at Rs.50 lakh. Binny, an experienced campaigner of the now defunct Rajasthan Royals, was bought for Rs.2 crore.
As far as the list of uncapped Indians goes, Bangalore bagged Sachin Baby, Iqbal Abdulla, Vikas Tokas and Akshay Karnewar, Vidarbha’s ambidextrous spinner, for Rs.10 lakh each. Praveen Dubey, the Karnataka legspinner, was picked for Rs.35 lakh, while Vikramjeet Malik, the Himachal Pradesh pacer, was acquired for Rs.20 lakh.
Young player to watch
Sarfaraz Khan, the 18-year-old, has been touted for big things ever since he broke Sachin Tendulkar’s record by scoring 439 in the Under-16 Harris Shield Cup when only 12. In the 2014 Under-19 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, Sarfaraz created a flutter scoring 211 runs at an average of 70.33 and a strike rate of 105. It got him a contract with Bangalore, where he reposed faith by blasting a 21-ball unbeaten 45 in only his second IPL game. In the 2016 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, Sarfaraz finished as the second-highest run-scorer with 355 runs from six matches, often rescuing India from tricky situations.
Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, David Wiese, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Harshal Patel, Kedar Jadhav (wk), Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, S Arvind, Varun Aaron, Shane Watson, Adam Milne, Stuart Binny, Travis Head, Yuzvendra Chahal, Sachin Baby, Iqbal Abdulla, Praveen Dubey, Akshay Karnewar, Kane Richardson, Samuel Badree, Vikramjeet Malik, Vikas Tokas, KL Rahul, Parvez Rasool.
Disha Shetty is Senior Sub-Editor at Wisden India. Mint has a content partnership with Wisden India for the Indian Premier League season.