IPL: Royal Challengers Bangalore lean on Virat Kohli and the top guns again

Loyal fans will be desperate to see their men emulate Smriti Mandhana & Co

Top guns: Virat Kohli and skipper Faf du Pless again form the cornerstone of their batting line-up. (photo: RCB)
Top guns: Virat Kohli and skipper Faf du Pless again form the cornerstone of their batting line-up. (photo: RCB)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Can Royal Challengers Bangalore emulate their women’s team in IPL 2024? The question will certainly dog their loyal fan base as Faf du Plessis & Co begin their campaign against champions Chennai Super Kings on latter’s home turf on Friday.

The widely followed team had been, over the past 16 years, nothing short of an enigma in their journey – three finals, eight play-offs but no title as yet. If that’s not enough, a certain Virat Kohli topping the all time rungetters’ list with 7000-plus runs and the squad boasting some of the top gun batters like Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers or Glenn Maxwell along with him.

While their three final appearances came in 2009, 2011 and 2016, the heartbreak was never as intense as the last one when they went down to Sunrisers Hyderabad by eight runs – an edition when the then captain Kohli piled up the runs with a record tally of 973 in a season. One has lost count of the times that RCB flattered to deceive with some electrifying cricket only to lose the plot at the business end.

It remains to be seen if the men can take a cue from Smriti Mandhana’s girls who won the Women’s Premier League (WPL) on Sunday, but the IPL is a different kettle of fish where they have to tighten the loose ends which have bothered them over the years. If it’s been the over reliance on the marquee batters like Kohli and De Villiers time and again, the bowlers leaking runs had been another bane of their campaign.

This season also, the batting looks as awesome with captain Faf du Plessis and Kohli opening the innings, followed by Rajat Patidar and supported by the explosive Maxwell and allrounder Cameron Green.

Despite their batting prowess, the management has failed to plug the gaps in the bowling department in the Dubai auction as the absence of a quality spinner leaves them vulnerable on spin-friendly pitches. The pace attack, spearheaded by Mohammed Siraj and aided by overseas pros like Lockie Ferguson and Alzarri Joseph, look good on paper but had had its struggles with consistency.

The problem with Siraj, despite being around at the top level for a number of years, is that he can be quite erratic with his line despite being unplayable at times in the powerplay. A bad day in office for him can further compound RCB’s problems – who will have to look to outbat their opposition in most cases.

The spin attack, in the form of leg spinner Karn Sharma and Himanshu Sharma, has to be one of the weakest in the tournament with the management failing to buy any major name in the auction after the departure of Yuzvendra Chahal and Wanindu Hasaranga. Swapnil Singh is the other name on the roster with an experience of barely seven IPL games.

Looking at the future, Faf will turn 40 this year while Kohli is already 35. Maxwell is 36 and with three stalwarts entering the twilight of their career, they will need someone to pass the baton. This is where young guns in the team like a Patidar, Anuj Rawat, Will Jacks or Green might get an opportunity to showcase stellar performance and prove their worth to become future stars of the franchise.

The reliance on stumper Dinesh Karthik in the lower order, who is now being perceived more as a TV pundit than a professional cricketer, is not quite a prudent one as he had a poor season last time around.

Owner: United Spirits

Captain: Faf du Plessis

Coach: Andy Flower

Best finish: Runners-up in 2009, 2011, 2016

Faf du Plessis (c), Glenn Maxwell, Virat Kohli, Rajat Patidar, Anuj Rawat, Dinesh Karthik, Suyash Prabhudessai, Will Jacks, Mahipal Lomror, Karn Sharma, Manoj Bhandage, Mayank Dagar, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Akash Deep, Mohammed Siraj, Reece Topley, Himanshu Sharma, Rajan Kumar, Cameron Green, Alzarri Joseph, Yash Dayal, Tom Curran, Lockie Ferguson, Swapnil Singh, Saurav Chauhan.

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