Royal Challengers Bangalore have assembled some really serious batting firepower for the ninth edition of Indian Premier League and any opposing teams' plans will specifically focus on means to contain it.
Those like captain Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers were already magnificent hits with RCB’s fans. The mini-auction of IPL in February threw in two more fearsome weapons into the armoury in the form of tried and tested Australian star Shane Watson and young Travis Head, whom many in Australia reckon to be their potential future skipper.
The left handed Head who made his first class debut at the age of 18 was appointed South Australia captain when he was just 21 years of age. Now, a year older, great things are expected of him. And if his Australian T20 strike rate of 149.73 (1 hundred & 4 50s) is anything to go by, he will be a massive hit whenever he gets a chance for RCB.
The fact that coach Daniel Vettori has seen Head in close action in the Big Bash is probably the reason RCB opened its purse and bid for him in February.
RCB will, of course, expect great things from its four master blasters, Gayle, De Villiers, Kohli and Watson. Last season, after the dismissal of the first three, the team struggled to maitain the tempo of scoring. But now, with the acquisition of Watson and Stuart Binny the heat will be maintained on the opposition.
Watson and Binny also have skill and experience in bowling their medium pacers and hence skipper Kohli would have a lot more options than he had in previous years.
However, the non-availability of Mitchell Starc would be a heavy blow. The left arm paceman was superb last season when both in the opening overs and at the death he rattled batsmen with his pace and ability to fire toe-crushing yorkers.
Starc is still recovering from an ankle injury and news coming out of Australia is that he would not be match-fit till June at least. That rules him out of this season’s IPL.
However RCB still have two real quick bowlers in Australian Kane Richardson and New Zealander Adam Milne. Both are in their early 20s and hence relatively short of experience. Milne is genuinely fast and capable of consistently bowling close to 150 kilometers per hour. He may have the edge over Richardson, but the fact that RCB have a cover for an express bowler must be comforting for its selectors.
The Indian trio of medium pacers, Varun Aaron, Sreenath Arvind and Harshal Patel will get plenty of opportunities, particularly if RCB opts to go batting heavy with the four foreigners permitted in the playing eleven.
Of course they have the ICC World T20s most impressive spinner, Samuel Badree of West Indies, in the ranks. He had a bit of a shoulder injury while fielding in the World T20 final but is expected to be ready in time for the IPL.
Badree’s bowling with the new ball was a revelation. If in some of the away games the hosts decide to present slow turning tracks to counter explosive batsmen Gayle and De Villiers, RCB could hit back through Badree and leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal who had made such a favourable impression last season.
Young Karnataka leg spinner Praveen Dubey who is an outstanding fielder also, would be lucky if he breaks into the team, his talent notwithstanding.
It would also be interesting to see how Kohli handles the likes of KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav. Would he, for instance, get Rahul to open the batting or opt for the greater firepower of Gayle and Watson against the new ball in the power play overs?
The diminutive Jadhav too is a handy batsman and may be chosen ahead of Sarfaraz Khan, particularly as he can also keep wickets.
The most impressive aspect of the RCB team this season is that there is a problem of choice. They’ve chosen their squad well, with a capable all-rounder in the form of David Wiese as cover for Watson, Head for either Gayle or de Viliers, Richardson for Milne or even Dubey for Chahal. This like-for-like cover speaks a lot for the depth of the team.
RCB though need to transform potential to results. They have the most gifted team no doubt, but then they have always had. And a return of zero IPL titles to show for it.
The time to prove their worth has arrived for Bangalore's Royal Challengers.
The team: Abu Nechim Ahmed, Harshal Patel, Kedar Jadhav, Lokesh Rahul, Mandeep Hardev Singh, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Sreenath Arvind, Varun Aaron, Virat Kohli, Yuzvendra Singh Chahal, AB de Villers, Adam Milne, Chris Gayle, David Wiese, Vikas Tokas, Kane Richardon, Akshay Karnewar, Praveen Dubey, Iqbal Abdulla, Parvez Rasool, Travis Head, Shane Watson, Stuart Binny