The auctions for IPL 2021 are scheduled to be held on 18th February in Chennai. The list of the players released by the teams was revealed on 20th January and the pre-season trading window will be closed on 11 February. Now, the focus is on the acquisition of players and completion of the squad. RCB, who released quite a few players and were also active in the trading window, will be under the spotlight.
The IPL 2020 campaign of RCB ended on a dismal note after a great start. The Virat Kohli-led side won seven out of their first 10 matches but eventually lost five games in a row including an Eliminator against SRH. They over-achieved a bit in the first 10 games but massively under-achieved in the last five.
After the end of RCB’s journey in the previous edition of the IPL, coach Mike Hesson acknowledged that the squad needed a bit of tweaking. However, Hesson was pretty happy with their core group and the performance of the young Indian players.
Players Released by RCB ahead of IPL 2021 Auction:
Chris Morris, Aaron Finch, Moeen Ali, Isuru Udana, Shivam Dube, Umesh Yadav, Pawan Negi, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Dale Steyn (opted out) and Parthiv Patel (retired).
Players Retained by RCB ahead of IPL 2021 Auction:
Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Yuzvendra Chahal, Devdutt Padikkal, Josh Philippe, Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, Navdeep Saini, Shahbaz Ahmed, Pavan Deshpande, Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson.
IPL 2021 Auction Purse: 35.4 Crores INR (after trades)
Slots to fill: 11 (including three overseas)
Issues encountered by RCB in IPL 2020:
The scoring rate of their batsmen was a big issue for the Red Army in the last season. The combined strike rate of top-7 RCB batsmen (batting position-wise) was 124.16 – the lowest among all sides. Among the RCB batters who faced at least 50 balls in the season, none had a strike rate of 125 or more, barring AB de Villiers.
Most of their batsmen struggled to score quickly enough against spin bowling. Among RCB batters, Aaron Finch had the best strike rate (125.6) against spinners. AB de Villiers could make up for his low strike rate vs spin (113.7) by hammering pacers, however, others failed to do so.
We had already discussed RCB’s batting woes in the pre-season analysis of IPL 2020.
Moeen Ali, known for his hitting prowess against spinners, played just three games across the season (without even two games in a row). Kohli had a poor season, and his batting against spinners was painful from an RCB fan’s perspective. Devdutt Padikkal had a good season for a debutant, but even he struggled to accelerate after the powerplay.
In a match against KXIP, RCB promoted Washington Sundar and Shivam Dube to capitalise against spinners. But, unfortunately, the move didn’t pay off and the idea was discarded.
RCB also didn’t enjoy a reliable lower middle-order. Shivam Dube had a few good games but didn’t play all games. Chris Morris suffered injury issues as well.
What should be the strategy of RCB in the IPL 2021 Auction?
Buying an Indian wicket-keeper batsman should be RCB’s one of the main priorities. RCB didn’t play Parthiv Patel last year and AB de Villiers was forced to do the wicket-keeping duty after the first few games. Currently, RCB don’t have any Indian wicket-keeper in their squad and the other option is the young Josh Philippe.
Hesson and Co. should also look to recruit an attacking batsman capable of whacking spinners, preferably a middle-order batsman. RCB have got a good top-order option in Josh Philippe, Player of the Tournament in BBL 2021-22.
23 years old and already matching it with the very best in the world.#BBL10 Player of the Tournament Josh Philippe is about as exciting a prospect as you're likely to find! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/qzUi2i2uIb
— KFC Big Bash League (@BBL) February 4, 2021
So, the focus should be on middle-order personnel. As already mentioned, RCB batters struggled against spinners. Their run rate in the middle-overs was quite low, hence, an aggressor in that phase should help RCB.
Since RCB released Chris Morris, they would also need at least one good overseas pacer. As Mitchell Starc isn’t in the auction, the already effected quality of fast-bowling resources available has further taken a hit. So, the job of RCB, as well as that of other teams, will become harder.
Potential targets for each slot:
1. Vishnu Vinod:
Vishnu Vinod is among the better Indian options available for the wicket-keeper batsman spot. Even though his strike rate in recent T20 seasons hasn’t been that great, it is worth a shot to try him. He was the leading run-scorer (508 runs at an average of 63.50 and a strike rate of 113.14) for Kerala in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019.
Despite his not-so-great strike rate in recent seasons of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Vinod’s six-hitting ability is something to admire. He was the leading six-hitter (29 maximums) in VHT 2019.
The right-handed batsman is capable of taking the advantage of the powerplay restrictions. He isn’t a bad player of spin too. Vishnu has dynamic shots like sweep and reverse-sweep in his repertoire.
Vishnu has represented RCB in the past but failed. In three games, he could aggregate just 19 runs at a strike rate of under 75. Vishnu might not be very successful yet again, but anyway he has a strong case to be picked up as a reserve option at least.
2. Sam Billings:
As already mentioned, RCB need a quality middle-order batsman and Sam Billings might be a decent fit for them. Hitting spin in T20 cricket is a tough job and there aren’t many players who can perform this role. And, Billings isn’t perfect either. However, considering the quality of players available, Billings might be a fine pick if bought at a good price. The 29-year-old also adds a wicket-keeper option in the RCB camp.
Billings is a decent player of spin and has experience of playing in the middle-order. The right-handed batsman can play sweeps, reverse sweeps and has a good range of shots. He also had a decent time in the recently concluded BBL.
Average Batting Impact for English batsmen in Big Bash this season (min 200 runs):
Alex Hales +7.8
Sam Billings +4.4
James Vince +1.6
Jason Roy +1.0
Philip Salt +0.4
Dawid Malan +0.1
Liam Livingstone -0.6
Joe Denly -1.2#BBL10
— Ben Jones (@benjonescricket) January 30, 2021
As mentioned, the price should be a key factor while bidding for him. Billings is pretty nice, but given the hard middle-order role, it is hard to be confident of his returns. Also, the standard of spin bowling in the IPL is quite high. At times, Billings can be limited by quality quick spin and high pace.
Some other options (if acquired at a good price) are the ever-tempting Glenn Maxwell, the wicket-keeper batsman Glenn Phillips, Liam Livingstone and the potential picks Sherfane Rutherford & Fabian Allen.
3. Chris Morris:
RCB released Chris Morris but they should go for him again. Mike Hesson told his high price, fitness issues and the lack of competitive cricket played by Morris led to his exclusion.
Again, there are not many fast-bowling resources available in the option who can be relied upon to deliver in the death overs. Hence, the South African would be a hot pick yet again.
We had already discussed Morris’ capabilities in the death overs.
Practically, it will be quite tough for RCB to recruit him again. Other teams such as KXIP, RR and MI would also be looking to buy Morris. Also, Hesson’s statements hint that RCB don’t want him to pay that much. But, anyway, RCB should give themselves a chance.
4. Jhye Richardson:
RCB should try getting Jhye Richardson as well, especially if they fail to pick Chris Morris. Despite the presence of two overseas quicks – Kane Richardson and Daniel Sams – in the RCB squad, Jhye is being mentioned due to the low confidence inspired by Kane and Sams.
Jhye was the leading wicket-taker in the BBL 2020-21. The right-arm quick is quite skilled. Jhye can bowl really fast with fine control, he can move the new-ball, bowl well-directed short balls and can nail yorkers as well.
The 24-year-old was excellent with the new-ball in the BBL as he picked up early wickets and was economical as well. He has the skill-set to perform the role of an enforcer in the middle-overs as well.
It will be a bit too much to say that Jhye is very reliable in the death overs as well. However, he adds value in the other two phases and isn’t clueless in the death overs either. Also, the pool of pacers isn’t excellent either.
If instructed properly and depending upon the execution, Jhye might do a decent job.
A couple of other options are Nathan Ellis and Riley Meredith.