IPL 2017: Royal Challengers Bangalore Preview

The Royal Challengers Bangalore have the best batting line up in the competition, or possibly the best one ever assembled in T20 cricket. They are extremely lucky to have the likes of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson in their squad, some of the best ever T20 players. However, an unfortunate late string of injuries has ruled out their captain Kohli along with Lokesh Rahul and South African superstar AB de Villers for at least the first few matches of the tournament. Without these players in their side, the Royal Challengers Bangalore will have a tough start to the tournament, especially when they come up against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the opening match.

IPL 2017: Royal Challengers Bangalore Preview

Last Season

It was a strong showing from the Royal Challengers Bangalore last year, as they made it to the final, where they narrowly lost to the Sunrisers. Their major strength was in their batting, as they scored 2,613 runs in the group stages as a team (over 400 more runs than any other side). This was by far the highest and their captain Virat Kohli contributed a record-breaking 973 runs. He was strongly supported by de Villiers and together the pair scored over 60% of Bangalore’s runs. Yet, they will not be featuring at the start of the season for the Royal Challengers.

When you have such an explosive batting line up you can get away with having a significantly weaker bowling attack. As well as scoring the most runs in the tournament last year, the Royal Challengers Bangalore also conceded the most. On a small Bangalore ground, their bowlers took plenty of wickets but at a costly Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal was the second highest wicket-taker in the competition, claiming 21 wickets at an average of under 20. Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, who will captain the side in Kohli’s absence, was one wicket short of this total, having taken 20 victims. They did strengthen their bowling attack significantly in the IPL Auction.

IPL Auction

Under the assumption that most of their players would be fit, the Royal Challengers Bangalore primarily focused on securing some more bowlers for their squad. The most exciting of these signings is England fast bowler Tymal Mills, who was sold for an incredible 12 crore (starting at a base price of 50 lakh). Mills is known for his pure pace, clocking consistently over 90 mph, with his slower balls and cutters proving deadly. Yet, this may not be the best signing for Bangalore. On a ground as small as theirs, any fast bowler can be hit the distance and the faster it comes the faster it will go. Mills’ performances will be something to keep an eye out for during the tournament.

Indian all-rounder Pawan Negi was also recruited by Bangalore. The part-time spinner was a very expensive signing in the 2016 Auction, but failed to make it past the competition last year. Negi was still in demand, however, reaching a price tag of one crore from his low base price of just 30 lakh. His ability to contribute with the bat makes him a very useful player, especially with the injuries to Bangalore’s top order. The Royal Challengers also signed specialist fast bowler Aniket Choudhary. The left-armer has been in good recent form domestically, also taking 4/26 for India A against Bangladesh. Many sides vied for his signature, but he was eventually sold for two crore to Bangalore.

Batting Unit

When people think about the IPL, one of the first names to come to mind is the West Indian legend Chris Gayle. The hard-hitting left hander has the highest score ever recorded in the IPL – an unbeaten 175 against the Pune Warriors India. His IPL career strike rate of over 150 shows that, on his day, he is arguably the most explosive cricketer around currently. However, he is prone to bad runs of form, in which he looks so awkward you forget he can hit the ball out of the park. Gayle last played cricket in the Pakistan Super League, where he didn’t manage a score of over 50 in the tournament. Having watched Gayle for several years, he is at his most dangerous after a bad run of form as he will look to make amends in glamorous style.

With the absence of Virat Kohli, Mandeep Singh is the next best option to open the batting. Ideally, Bangalore would have turned to Indian opener Lokesh Rahul, but he too is sidelined from the competition. Mandeep has not had much of a chance to shine for Bangalore before, but an extended run at the top of the order could change this. Australian Travis Head could earn the number three spot in the absence of de Villiers. Head was only given three games last year, in which he only managed 54 runs with a top score of 37. Since then, Head has had a strong run of form, hitting 137* in his last domestic game. He is an extremely talented batsman and it is good to see him now being given an opportunity to prove himself.

Along with Gayle, Shane Watson is the only member of the top order to stay the same from last season. Last season he excelled with the ball more than with the bat and his recent run of scores shows that is likely to continue this season. In the Pakistan Super League, representing Islamabad United, Watson took a large number of wickets but only managed a top score of 36 with the bat. Below him in the order is likely to be the aggressive Sarfaraz Khan. Sarfaraz made a name for himself as being an innovative and attacking batsman, but was dropped due to fitness reasons. In a team dominated by Kohli and de Villiers, two of the most fit players in the history of the game, Sarfaraz’s inability to run quick singles meant he was a liability. That could change this season, however, as Khan is set to hold the number five role for his side.

Bowling Attack

This season, Bangalore’s bowling attack will differ greatly from their unit last time out. Tymal Mills is set to walk into the starting XI, especially given the fact that Mitchell Starc will not be joining the Royal Challengers this year. All-rounder Stuart Binny is likely to contribute a few overs as well, but is unlikely to open the bowling with Mills. Instead, that role could be given to either Aniket Choudhary or Sreenath Arvind. As mentioned earlier, Choudhary is in great domestic form but has never played in the IPL. By contrast, Arvind has proven himself already in the IPL, having taken 40 wickets in the four seasons he has played. It is a tough call between the two players and it’ll be interesting to see who the Royal Challengers Bangalore opt for.

The spinners are likely to be a bigger threat than the seamers for Bangalore this season. Yuzvendra Chahal had an incredible campaign last year and he carried his form into his performances with India. Chahal took an incredible 6-25 in the final T20 against England in Bangalore and tore apart England’s middle order. He has developed hugely as a bowler over the past year and is definitely someone to consider for the purple cap. Pawan Negi will also bowl in tandem with him but will likely be a less threatening option.

Overall Chances

There is no doubt that the Royal Challengers Bangalore are still one of the favourites for the title, despite their numerous injury concerns. While last season they were content to rely on their batsmen, it will be the performance of their bowlers that determine the outcome of their season. If Mills and Chahal can fire, Bangalore can find themselves in a similar position to last year and could even go one step further in lifting the trophy this season.

Predicted XI

  1. Chris Gayle
  2. Mandeep Singh
  3. Travis Head
  4. Shane Watson (C)
  5. Sarfaraz Khan
  6. Kedar Jadhav (wk)
  7. Stuart Binny
  8. Pawan Negi
  9. Yuzvendra Chahal
  10. Tymal Mills
  11. Aniket Choudhary / Sreenath Aravind

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