The IPL auction is set to be held at Jaipur on 18 December and after a rather quiet trading window where franchises chose to sit back and watch the action, the auction presents them a chance to rectify flaws from the earlier season and for two teams in particular – Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab – it is an opportunity to build core strength ahead of the next season.
Here Firstpost takes a look at how the two sides fared in the trading window, what they lack in their squad and what they need to hit the ground running when the IPL begins.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
IPL 2018 Standing: 6th place
Salary Cap Available: Rs 18.15 crore
Available Slots: 10 (8 Indian, 2 Overseas)
How they stack up after trading window:
Royal Challengers Bangalore were expected to break their trophy drought in 2018 edition after a reasonably good performance – the retention of Sarfaraz Khan aside – at the auctions last year. The RCB chairman, Amri Thomas, had boasted that they could field at least eight different combinations on the park, but unfortunately most of them did not click.
Muddled thinking, poor team selections and a meek batting line-up aside from Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers meant RCB finished sixth in the season.
The trading window saw them shed some prominent names in Brendon McCullum, Quinton de Kock and all-rounders Chris Woakes and Corey Anderson. While it has freed up their purse and made them more open to new picks this auction, the release of Quinton de Kock who is a handy opener, a good keeper and a game-changer in his own right, is questionable.
The swap – Mandeep Singh for Marcus Stoinis – was neither a massive gain nor a loss for RCB given that they lost an impact player in Mandeep, also their third highest run-scorer behind Kohli and de Villiers last season. But they did get Stoinis, another impact player and an all-rounder. Stoinis is expected to plug a death bowling hole and also fix a few middle-order problems and could be a handy player if they do have enough overseas slots available to pick him in the XI.
They have a deluge of fast bowlers and a lack of opening batting options and should probably have released at least one overseas seamer while retaining de Kock. Here is how they stack up before the auctions.
Middle-order batsmen: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers
Spin-bowling all-rounders: Moeen Ali, Washington Sundar, Pawan Negi
Seam-bowling all-rounders: Colin de Grandhomme, Marcus Stoinis
Fast bowlers: Navdeep Saini, Mohammad Siraj, Kulwant Khejroliya, Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Nathan Coulter-Nile
Spinners: Yuzvendra Chahal
Wicket-keeper: Parthiv Patel
RCB’s strength is the presence of two complete T20 batsmen in Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. The duo can be relied upon for churning out runs consistently, which is a major headache for most other franchises. The presence of Kohli and de Villiers should ideally allow batsmen around them to play with freedom. Having two of a kind, both cut out from the perfect cloth, should once again work in RCB’s favour although it remains to be seen how well they can utilize that.
While fast bowling has often been a pain in the neck for RCB, they have a reasonably good spin contingent carried forward from last season. Yuzvendra Chahal will be ably aided by Moeen Ali and Washington Sundar, who was rightly retained despite struggling last season, and RCB might just have fixed some of their all-rounder concerns as well with two of these names. Add in Marcus Stoinis and Colin de Grandhomme and all-rounders aren’t a worry either for RCB as they head into the auctions.
The obvious weakness is the lack of a support cast for de Villiers and Kohli. They tried a plethora of options last season but nothing seemed to work out well enough and they could head into the auctions hoping to find some company for the consistent duo.
The other concern is death bowling which has been their consistent lacking in the past few seasons of the tournament. It is perhaps a tad surprising that they have retained much of the bowling core given that one area which pegged them back was death bowling. The addition of Stoinis is a welcome but pinning all hopes on one or two names haven’t worked for RCB and it remains a weakness unless they iron it out with some smart buys at the auction.
What they need
RCB have ten slots available to them of which just two are overseas which could mean that their four foreign players are possibly zeroed in already. Moeen Ali and Marcus Stoinis appear to be definite starters although Ali’s availability could force them to look for alternatives from the overseas all-rounders category.
They need a stellar opener who can play fearlessly to make up for KL Rahul’s loss a season ago and a solid middle-order bat. It would be advisable for them to go full tilt for a solid Indian middle-order batsman who can rotate the strike but also play the big shots if needed.
They could also be on the lookout for more death bowlers given how last season culminated. An overseas franchise death bowler plus an Indian quickie could be on their radar.
Possible players on their radar
Overseas: Joe Denly, Colin Ingram, Luke Ronchi, Shimron Hetmyer, Reeza Hendricks, Junior Dala, Keemo Paul, Ben Laughlin
Indian: Manoj Tiwary, Shivam Dube, Milind Kumar, Hanuma Vihari, Faiz Fazal, Ishan Porel, Rohit Rayudu
Kings XI Punjab
IPL 2018 Standing: 7th place
Salary Cap Available: Rs 36.20 crore
Available Slots: 15 (11 Indian, 4 Overseas)
How they stack up after trading window:
Kings XI Punjab were overly aggressive at the previous auction and went after every big name that came up in the first set of players and in the end, they were left with a handful of players with similar skill-set. This time around the Preity Zinta-owned franchise will want to steer clear of putting all their eggs in the same basket. They were extremely inconsistent last season and after winning five of their first six games, threw it all away by losing seven of their next eight.
They let go quite a few players in trading window which has left them with just 10 retained in the squad. A massive overhaul suggests that they could once again be very active in bidding wars this auction. They have begun early in fixing some of their priorities and have blooded Mandeep Singh from RCB by letting go of Marcus Stoinis. Mandeep is expected to cover for some of their middle-order fallacies that haunted them last season.
They released a lot of players but perhaps the most prominent among them was Axar Patel who was among their most consistent players for a long time. Manoj Tiwary and Aaron Finch were also perhaps surprise omissions, particularly the latter, if the IPL is taking place on the quicker pitches in South Africa. They have made notable additions in their coaching staff and now have the astute Mike Hesson as head coach. The inclusion of Prasanna Agoram as high-performance coach also means they will have pretty good insights heading into each match.
Here is how they stand ahead of the auctions.
Openers: KL Rahul (possible keeper), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal
Middle-order batsmen: Karun Nair, David Miller, Mandeep Singh
Spin-bowling all-rounders: None
Seam-bowling all-rounders: None
Fast bowlers: Andrew Tye, Ankit Rajpoot
Spinners: Ravichandran Ashwin, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman
Kings XI Punjab’s biggest strength is the firepower in the top-order comprising KL Rahul, Chris Gayle and Mayank Agarwal. With David Miller, Karun Nair and Mandeep Singh forming the middle order and you have a reasonably solid batting line-up on paper. The spin department is also in very safe hands given the presence of Ravichandran Ashwin and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. The latter was particularly effective in the Powerplay and death overs. He is still a trump card for Kings XI going into the next season.
Death bowling is another sorted issue with the top T20 wicket-taker of the year, Andrew Tye, being part of the setup.
Even after having a decent batting line-up before the auctions, it is important to note that in the past they have struggled to use right players in right positions. Miller is a case in point. KXIP will want to ensure they use the batsmen well.
Lack of solid all-rounders also hurt Kings XI Punjab right now and it is likely they will be eyeing a few big names in this department. They currently have just a makeshift all-rounder in Ashwin and wouldn’t mind splurging to purchase a reliable all-rounder.
What they need
With 15 slots to fill up, Kings XI need resources in pretty much most departments aside from opening and death bowling. They will be on the lookout for a few solid Indian middle-order batsmen, particularly those who can chip in here and there with an over or two.
They do not have a proper wicket-keeper in the squad although Rahul can keep wickets and will want a reliable keeper who can also double up as a solid finisher or floater in the line-up.
Ankit Rajpoot and Andrew Tye remain their only fast bowlers and they would want to stack up on quite a few pace resources at the auctions. Indian and overseas pace bowlers, ones who can create an impact in the Powerplay overs if the ball moves around a bit, could be on their must-buy list.
Possible players on their radar
Overseas: Brendan Taylor, Luke Ronchi, Darren Bravo, Rilee Rossouw, Anrich Nortje, Sam Curran, Angelo Mathews, Heinrich Klaasen, Mushfiqur Rahim
Indian: Manan Vohra, Anmolpreet Singh, Shivam Dube, Varun Chakravarthy, Arun Karthick, Baba Indrajith, Rajneesh Gurbani, Ronit More