They were at the two ends of the Indian Premier League last season. Mumbai Indians won a dramatic title victory while Royal Challengers Bangalore were left licking their wounds as they slid from being pre-season favourites to the bottom of the table. Over the last weekend, their strategies at the IPL Players’ Auction 2018 was as contrasting.
Of course, auction strategies are sometimes forced by the dynamics of how things pan out and not always by logic or reason. But at the end of two days of hardwork, it appeared as if Royal Challengers Bangalore would give themselves a fair chance to make a run for the crown while Mumbai Indians’ lead players could be tested in the long tournament.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
The wry look on Virat Kohli’s face as Royal Challengers Bangalore finished at the bottom of the pile in IPL 2017 is not something easily forgotten. He came to terms with the fact that his contribution with the bat alone were never going to be enough. With some smart buys in the auction, the team’s think-tank has now given him reason to believe the side can play bold again.
Those on the Royal Challengers Bangalore table in the auction appeared keen as mustard to build a side that can be more competitive this season and erase some bitter memories. It focused on adding some muscle to its batting order and on getting a new-look new ball attack that would deliver better than those who manned the responsibility in a disastrous IPL 2017.
They succeeded with winning bids for New Zealand ace Brendon McCullum and South African Quinton de Kock who can both pack a punch. RCB’s plans to build a more useful pace attack came off when they cobbled together a line-up that includes India’s Umesh Yadav, England all-rounder Chris Woakes and the likes of Hyderabad’s Mohammed Siraj and Delhi’s Navdeep Saini.
What’s more, they gave themselves more pace bowling options by securing the services of Australia’s Nathan Coulter-Nile and New Zealand’s Tim Southee while all-rounders Moeen Ali (England) and Colin de Grandhomme (New Zealand) can offer skipper Kohli alternatives in case Woakes finds the going tough.
Royal Challenges Bangalore used the right-to-match cards to keep their two best bowlers from last season, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and the diminutive left-arm spinner Pawan Negi. They added young off-spin bowler Washington Sundar and leg-spinner M Ashwin as cover for their primary spin bowling options.
Last time around, they were let down by their big-ticket batsmen and their quicker bowlers after Australian paceman Mitchell Starc pulled out on Cricket Australia’s advice. But now they seem to have covered all their bases and will be hoping that most, if not all, their players will come prepared to hit the ground running.
RCB Chairman Amrit Thomas said after the auction that the team can put eight different combinations on the park. That is precisely why it will be imperative for the team to be on the ball with the selection of their XI for each game. They will have to make optimum use of the overseas players and keeping alive the interest of those serving as reserves.
For long, Royal Challengers Bangalore have either got close to the title — as their three runner-up finishes will prove — or been fancied but without living up to those expectations. It should not surprise anyone if Royal Challengers Bangalore make an earnest bid to get to the play-offs in IPL 2018 and rewards their fans, among the most loyal in IPL.
Probable RCB XI: Brendon McCullum, Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Virat Kohli (captain), AB de Villiers, Mandeep Singh/Manan Vohra, Sarfaraz Khan, Chris Woakes, Pawan Negi, Yuzvendra Chahal, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj/Navdeep Saini.
Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene and skipper Rohit Sharma will have to be at their tactical best in the Indian Premier League this season after their think-tank found itself unable to provide them with formidable bench strength, especially on the batting front, that the three-time champions have been known for over the past decade.
Mumbai Indians will have a fairly new look when they take the field to defend the crown they won last season. They have kept just six of the 18 players who turned out in their colours in 2017. Besides retaining skipper Rohit, all-rounder Hardik Pandya and pacemen Jasprit Bumrah, they used the Right To Match card to keep all-rounders Kieron Pollard of the West Indies and Krunal Pandya in their ranks.
They then had to work hard to cobble up a squad that can present other sides a challenge.
They went all out to secure the services of West Indies left-handed opener Evin Lewis and young India wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan from Jharkhand and local lad Suryakumar Yadav to give Rohit a top-order that promises much.
The onus on middle-order mainstays like Hardik and Pollard to ensure the team gets to post a big score or chase totals down is enormous. When you look at such a landscape, Mumbai Indians’ decision to use the Right To Match card at an unbelievable Rs 8.80 crore for Krunal Pandya appears to find some resonance.
He was man of the match in the IPL 2017 final in Hyderabad where the team won by a wafer-thin one-run margin against the now extinct Rising Pune Supergiant. Along with his fast bowling brother Hardik and the lethal Jasprit Bumrah, Krunal completes the line-up of bowlers who have survived from the last season. Australian pace bowling spearhead Pat Cummins and Bangladesh’s left-arm paceman Mustafizur Rahman may be mandated to lead the new-ball attack.
There is no doubt that Mumbai Indians’ focus at the auction table was on ensuring that a strong XI would be available but the bench strength, usually a feature of Mumbai Indians squads of the past, may not be of the same quality. It would mean that there would be a great deal of pressure on the first-choice players to deliver consistently through the tournament.
With Lewis, Pollard, Cummins almost certain of their places in the XI, the team can attempt to play either South African Jean-Paul Duminy as a spin bowling all-rounder or Australian fast medium bowling all-rounder Ben Cutting in Mustafizur’s place. Its inexperienced spin bowling component can be a worry, unless the little-known bowlers can spring some surprises.
Probable Mumbai Indians XI: Evin Lewis, Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper), Rohit Sharma (captain), Surya Kumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard, Pat Cummins, Jasprit Bumrah, Mustafizur Rahman and Rahul Chahar/Ankul Roy/Tajinder Dhillon.