Winning five out of their seven matches, RCB had a good time in the first phase of the IPL 2021. While they were arguably lucky on a few occasions, they did perform well to earn five victories.
Glenn Maxwell and AB de Villiers were their main heroes in the batting department. As far as their bowling attack is concerned, Harshal Patel was a welcome surprise, and Mohammed Siraj’s good show in the death overs, apart from his obvious value in the other two phases, majorly contributed to the Red Army’s success.
RCB, with some new faces, are all set for a fine fresh start:
Well, this second phase in the UAE sees a fresh start, and RCB can’t afford to waste this great start as they did in the previous season. The Challengers have also got some modifications in their management and the squad. Simon Katich stepped down from the position of the head coach, and Mike Hesson, who was Director of Operations earlier, has taken over the charge.
Talking about the squad changes, Washington Sundar is out due to a finger injury and Akash Deep, the Bengali pacer, has replaced the off-spinner. Wanindu Hasaranga has come in for Adam Zampa, Tim David for Finn Allen, Dushmantha Chameera for Daniel Sams and George Garton for Kane Richardson.
Thanks to their good run in the first half and these fine signings, one would feel that RCB have made it up for their middling show at the auction table. There is a strong case for each of Hasaranga, Tim David and Chameera to be in the playing XI, and Garton is a decent backup option.
Who fill-ups the other two overseas spots?
AB de Villiers and Maxwell should be sure-shot starters, and the remaining two overseas are up for grabs. To keep it short, two of David, Hasaranga, Jamieson and Chameera will occupy the remaining two spots.
Let’s discuss the overseas pacers:
Chameera should be preferred over Jamieson unless they decide to play both. Since 2019, the Sri Lankan pacer has fared better than his Kiwi counterpart in various phases. Also, Jamieson had an economy of 9.21 in the first phase of this season and conceded runs at an economy of 10 or more in four out of seven matches.
Admittedly, Jamieson has played 40 T20s (28 in NZ) as compared to 20 by Chameera in this timeframe. So, that should be taken into account. But, Chameera has displayed his better skill-set for white-ball cricket, especially in T20s. He can operate at a higher pace than Jamieson, hits the deck better, can bowl yorkers and has better variations and adds a good value in the powerplay as well.
Jamieson’s batting potential shouldn’t lure RCB much unless they decide to utilise it very seriously. Chameera’s performance might not be very great at the IPL level but he is certainly their better bet. RCB should back him to do well, more so considering his experience in Asia.
What about Hasaranga and Tim David?
RCB’s spinners failed to produce good returns in the first half, and more so considering that they played three matches in Chepauk. Since Sundar is out, their attack’s potency has reduced further. Addressing this issue, they’ve recruited Wanindu Hasaranga.
Hasaranga was arguably the best spin option available in the market. In 45 T20 innings since 2019, the leg-spinner is averaging 14.09 with an economy of around 6 RPO. He gets even better against RHBs — (in T20Is) an average of 12 with an economy of under six! Bowling googlies is his major strength, as explained here.
However, the leg-spinner averages 29 with an economy of 8 RPO against southpaws. This might be surprising considering he has a good googly. Maybe, he can try hitting the good length more often and mix up his deliveries well with leg-breaks.
Hasaranga is certainly likely to come in the playing XI if the other spinners don’t start on a good note. He might even start, thanks to his terrific form and provided that he is a handy floating option as a batsman.
Tim David is another good signing by RCB. He has been in excellent form of late, notably in BBL 2020, PSL 2021 and CPL 2021. David maintained an average of over 30 with a strike rate of over 140 in all these tournaments. While performing a tough role by batting at No. 5 or lower, the right-hander has produced good returns.
Tim David couldn't do much today but he has been fabulous in similar situations previously.
Here is a compilation of his best rescue efforts in the last 12 months. Amazing consistency & scoring rate in times of crisis.#RCB have picked up a real gem!#CPL2021 #IPL2021 pic.twitter.com/NisFCYNsy9
— Prasenjit Dey (@CricPrasen) September 15, 2021
RCB should go with him if they feel the need to add more meat to their batting unit. It might be a fair concern: they require a lower middle-order batsman with a decent base against pace and someone who can give quick starts.
Averaging 26.8 in the death overs of the aforementioned three tournaments, David had a strike rate of 184.5 with a balls-per-boundary ratio of 4.5 and a balls-per-six ratio of 6.96.
David’s numbers against spinners in PSL 2021 and against leg-spinners in CPL 2021 weren’t great; however, he is unlikely to face a lot of spin as a lower middle-order batsman.
As far as selecting one between Hasaranga and David is concerned, the former might be understandably preferred, because he adds value in both departments.
What issues can RCB face?
RCB need Virat Kohli to come good with the bat. Irrespective of his T20I numbers, he hasn’t been at his best in the IPL since the last season. RCB wouldn’t want their batting to be entirely dependent on de Villiers and Maxwell, and the young Padikkal can be a good support cast, so they do need Kohli to fire to achieve solid returns from their batting unit.
Even in 2019, Kohli used to score quickly in the powerplay, bat sedately in the middle-overs and then completely take off in the death overs. However, things haven’t worked out well for the skipper since 2020. Kohli needs to make some fine contributions and take some pressure off the rest of the batting unit.
Another problem that RCB might face is their Indian spin attack. And, it is quite ironic because they had the best spin-attack in IPL 2020 by some distance. They’ve lost Sundar, a good defensive option, and it has also affected the variety in the spin attack. Maxwell is there but he is a part-timer. Also, their lead spinner Yuzvendra Chahal hasn’t been in great form in recent times.
Chahal was very good vs RHBs in 2015-16, wasn't economical vs LHBs.
Was good vs both in 2017-18. (Decent numbers for a leggie vs LHBs)
But the downfall started vs both in 2019 and it has become a bit ugly since 2020.
— TUSHAR 🏏 (@mainlycricket) September 15, 2021
Ideally, RCB would also want Navdeep Saini, who has looked completely off-colour of late, to get his rhythm back. Harshal has been good so far, but just in case he doesn’t come good in the UAE, an in-form Saini will help RCB.
Practically, RCB need just three victories in the remaining seven matches to qualify for the playoffs, and a couple of more victories might see them finishing in the top two. With a bolstered squad, they would feel it’s doable; however, CSK, DC and MI will pose a big challenge in the process.