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IPL 2020: The overseas dilemma awaiting Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)

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The world is clouded right now with the pandemic spreading like wild fire and there are bleak chances of us witnessing the T20 World Cup this year. If indeed the T20 World Cup is postponed, it might help BCCI in squeezing in the IPL. One team that’d be eager to have this season underway are Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), who stack up pretty impressively before the event.

RCB did well in the auctions and their squad looks decent, if not very great. However, they would have to make selections carefully – something which they failed to do in the last three seasons. Choosing the four overseas players in the playing XI might give a bit of headache to the team management.

Aaron Finch plays, right?

RCB’s first buy in the auctions was Aaron Finch for 4.40 crores INR. Finch is arguably the best buy by the Karnataka-based franchise. Since 2017, RCB openers have been below-par in the competition. In this duration, the BASRA (batting average + strike rate) of RCB openers is the worst among the openers of the active IPL teams. If we look a little deeper into it, we’ll find that the RCB openers have the second-worst average (26.59), the worst strike rate (131.23) and the lowest boundary ball percentage (18.36%).

To sort out their opening woes, they recruited the Aussie opening batsman – perhaps the best opening batsman available in the auction. Finch is a very good opener in the shortest format of the game, especially in the international stage. Scoring about 34 runs per innings with a handsome strike rate of over 154, the 33-year-old has the second-best BASRA among the openers who have played at least 30 T20Is. Once set, Finch can destroy the opponent team easily.

Mike Hesson, the Director of Operations at RCB, expects Finch to take some pressure off AB de Villers and Virat Kohli. In a video posted by Royal Challengers Bangalore on social media accounts, Hesson said, “We want someone who takes the pressure off AB [de Villiers] and Virat, so we’ve got a world-class player.”

It looks like Finch is going to be an important player in the RCB camp and RCB fans would want to enjoy some Finch storms in the upcoming edition of the IPL.

AB de Villiers and Chris Morris are sure-shot starters!

AB de Villiers is undoubtedly the best T20 batsman of the Red Army. And, there is no doubt that he will play all games unless there are fitness issues. The former South African player generally plays at number four. However, RCB might think of having him a position lower at number five, depending on the situation.

Yeah, the general notion is to have the best batsman of the team facing as much balls as possible. But teams should also be wary of finding the right balance to help them in the long run.

Going by his contrasting returns in the past three seasons against spin and pace, it won’t be a bad idea to push him to five where he plays more of death overs when pacers are surely more in operation than spinners. Also, RCB have the likes of Devdutt Padikkal, Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube and even Washington Sundar to whack spinners. However, they don’t have a very solid lower middle-order to capitalise in the slog overs.

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Chris Morris was the third most expensive player in the auction for IPL 2020. Well, his price tag gives a clear indication that the South African will be an eminent member in the RCB camp. However, you can still argue for the sake of it – a high price tag doesn’t necessarily mean that a player will start. Anyway, Morris is the best death bowler in the current squad and that does warrant a place in a line-up where leaking runs in the slog overs has been common. 

After IPL 2019, the 33-year-old featured in three T20 leagues: T20 Blast 2019, Mzansi Super League 2019 and Big Bash League 2019-20. He performed pretty well in the aforementioned competitions. The right-arm pacer conceded runs with an economy of less than eight in the T20 Blast, 8.20 in the MSL and 8.01 in the BBL. Morris snared 12 wickets in T20 Blast (10 innings), 10 wickets in MSL (11 innings) and 22 wickets in BBL (15 innings).

ALSO READ: RCB’s woes – captaincy or poor team composition?

However, these stats don’t reflect his performance in the death overs – the primary reason behind Morris’ huge bid. He delivered the goods very well in the T20 Blast, and was okay-ish in the other two leagues. Morris’ returns in the T20 Blast has also to do with the quality of finishers in the concerned competition. His returns in the other two leagues tell that Morris’ death bowling is not at a zenith like that of a Bumrah. However, he was among the better options available in the auctions. Morris has a number of variations in his armoury and nails yorkers at times.

 

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The challenge in the IPL will be greater for the experienced T20 cricketer. His home ground – M. Chinnaswamy Stadium – is a graveyard for bowlers. Because of good batting decks and small boundaries, it will be a herculean task for him. Morris’ role will also be to accumulate runs quickly in the slog overs. The right-handed batsman was poor in the T20 Blast, very good in the MSL 2019 and average in the BBL  in the 2019-20 season. RCB will be better served if they use the all-rounder well.

About Morris, Mike Hesson had said, “Chris Morris is a really good addition, in terms of being a three-in-one cricketer; he can bowl upfront, can bowl at the death, he’s got some power with the bat as well.” That pretty much sums up his utility.

Dale Steyn or Moeen Ali?

Now, this is a tough question! Moeen Ali provided stability to RCB’s middle-order in the previous edition of the IPL. He averaged 27.50 with the bat and scored at a whopping strike rate of over 165. His strike rate in the competition was bettered by Hardik Pandya and Andre Russell alone, among players who batted in at least 10 innings.

RCB have had issues in the middle-overs in the last three seasons of the IPL. However, their performance in IPL 2019 in this area got better and Moeen Ali had a part to play. As such, they might want to stick with him in the middle-order.

RCB have been below-par in the middle-overs in the past three seasons of the IPL.

After IPL 2019, the English cricketer played in T20 Blast 2019, MSL 2019 (only two games), a three-match T20 series against South Africa and Pakistan League 2020. Moeen had a stellar T20 Blast (average: 71 & strike rate: 171.36), won a ‘Man of the Match’ award in the T20I series and was decent in the PSL.

The southpaw is a great power-hitter of spin bowling and decent enough against pacers.

 

 

Besides being a good middle-order batsman, Moeen can contribute with the ball too. His off-spin bowling isn’t as good as his batting against spin-bowling but Moeen can roll-over his arm for a couple of overs, perhaps in a bid to the contain and take wickets of lefties.

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Dale Steyn announced his retirement from Test cricket in August 2019, to focus on limited-overs cricket, particularly on T20 cricket. After IPL 2019, Steyn featured in MSL 2019, Big Bash League 2019-20, a couple of international T20 series (against England & Australia) and PSL 2020. 

The right-arm pacer, at this stage of his career, hasn’t quite nailed yorkers at will. His pace has also taken a toll. He has compensated by adding a few variations in his arsenal and changed his mindset.

As mentioned above, Steyn participated in a few competitions after IPL 2019. His economy was less than eight in each tournament (or T20I series) except the one T20I series against England. However, he did not play five matches in any of the leagues apart from the Mzansi Super League. As such, we will talk about it in detail.

ALSO READ: The challenge of opening the batting in Test Cricket and the modern-day openers who shine

Steyn who will turn 37 this month isn’t the same gun T20 bowler as he was in his prime. Thus, he doesn’t bowl enough in the death overs now. In MSL 2019, he bowled just four out of his 32 overs in the death overs (16th over onwards).

He also failed to pick up wickets in the powerplay on just two occasions, co-incidentally both against Paarl Rocks. Overall, he was excellent in the powerplay – a tough bowling phase, and even outside of the powerplay,

 

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There is a bit of breeze at Chinnaswamy at times, thus, Steyn can take advantage of that and cause some significant damage in the early half of the innings with the new ball.  Steyn won’t be a bad choice, especially with RCB having Saini and Morris in the death. But then, they already have Umesh fulfilling a powerplay role and a middle-over anchor and power-hitter is perhaps a touch more valuable than a powerplay seamer. That said, he could fit into the XI when conditions suit.

 

 

About Steyn, Hesson had said, We knew we wanted Steyn but we knew if we put a bid on him early, it might have gone up to three or four crores, which would have had flow-on effects.” It also says RCB wanted Steyn, yet were inflexible about not overspending on him. It kind of shows he might only be used based on conditions.

If they do play Steyn, they can swap Moeen Ali for Devdutt Padikkal in the middle-order, particularly to bash spin. Hesson himself addressed this point during commentary in a Karnataka Premier League match. There are four slots and five extremely good choices in their bag. RCB will have to pick the right cards to ace the season, but for once they don’t seem short of options in the bowling front.



Freelance Cricket Writer. I, a keen learner, write for my own satisfaction. Constructive feedbacks are always welcomed. Twitter - @mainlycricket