The 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is underway as the teams announced the changes in their squads on the January 20. Alike every year, the franchises were asked to retain and release some of their players to manage their funds and team. Some teams made startling changes, while others decided to stick to their initial squad.
Royal Challengers Bangalore released nine players from their squad, including Chris Morris and Aaron Finch, ahead of the 2021 auction. Bangalore is yet to win their first IPL title and despite having a balanced squad last season, it won seven out of their 14 games last season, finishing fourth in the points table. They qualified for the playoffs, but they lost a squeaker against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the eliminator round.
List of retained players: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Yuzvendra Chahal, Devdutt Padikkal, Navdeep Saini, Washington Sundar, Mohammed Siraj, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa, Josh Philippe, Shahbaz Ahmed and Pavan Deshpande.
List of released players: Aaron Finch, Chris Morris, Isuru Udana, Moeen Ali, Pawan Negi, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Shivam Dube, Dale Steyn, Parthiv Patel (Retired) and Umesh Yadav.
Purse remaining: Rs. 35.7 crore
Overall Slots remaining: 13
Overseas slots remaining: 4
There is no doubt that Bangalore’s chance of winning the trophy in every season primarily depends on Kohli’s and De Villiers’s performance. They are indeed the core strength of this team, or probably the only core strength of this team. It becomes arduous for Bangalore to win a match if these two do not contribute to the scorecard.
This is also one of the main reasons behind the inconsistency and dire performance of this team in the last few years. They need a well-balanced bowling attack, a proper middle order and more individuals to perform if they wish to win the IPL trophy. They have a substantial amount of money and slots remaining, and they will have a prodigious auction this year. But, what players should they get in their team?
The likes of Chahal and Sundar managed to resolve their spin bowling hitch, but they are still in trouble when it comes to their pace department. Last season again, Bangalore struggled with their pace options. Dale Steyn had the most egregious IPL of his career, and Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj all failed to deliver.
With only one overseas pace bowler in their current squad (Kane Richardson), Bangalore will look to buy a couple of pace bowling options in the upcoming auction. Mitchell Starc is one of them and Bangalore will run after Starc if he is available in the auction. Starc has previously played two seasons for Bangalore (2014 and 2015) and got 34 scalps in those two seasons. He was the lead bowler for Bangalore and played a crucial role in their qualification in the 2015 season.
Chris Morris was the only leading light in the pace department for them in the last season. He got 11 scalps in his nine matches and the Bangalore team can also try to bring him back with a lesser amount. Their bowling attack is so badly debunked that sometimes, we forget they also need a proper middle-order batsman.
Every year, a new batsman comes, underperforms and gets released in the next season. Players including Shane Watson, KL Rahul, Travis Head and Dinesh Karthik are already familiar with this. This year, Bangalore will again look to strengthen its fragile middle order. However, in this auction, they will have plenty of options.
Bangalore might go after Steve Smith as he could be a valuable addition to this squad and probably bring an end to Bangalore’s middle-order quest. Smith would be a perfect candidate for the number four position and his staggering numbers at Chinnaswamy explain why. He has scored 291 runs in nine matches (all formats). He averaged over 75 in one-day cricket and 44 in T20 cricket at Chinnaswamy. His presence will also add some more experience to this Bangalore squad and the leadership qualities are just a cherry on top.
Fun Fact: Steve Smith was a part of Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2010, but did not get a single match.
However, if they purchase Starc at a higher auction, they will have to drop the idea of buying Smith. Instead, they can go for Glenn Phillips or Alex Hales. Glenn Phillips is arguably the most underrated overseas wicketkeeper option available in the auction. Apart from his wicket-keeping abilities, Phillips is in great touch with the bat recently. Recently, he scored the fastest T20 century for New Zealand against West Indies. Phillips can also be a gripping alternative for opening the batting.
While we are talking about openers, Alex Hales can be the perfect replacement for Aaron Finch. The English batsman has scored over 500 runs in the ongoing Big Bash League with an average of over 40. He also holds the golden bat (Most Runs) in the ongoing BBL, followed by Josh Philippe, who is part of the current RCB squad. Both Alex and Phillips could be great options for them if the team fails to buy Steve Smith.
Bangalore has only two prominent Indian batsmen, namely Virat Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal, in their current squad. They will still have nine slots remaining if they sew up their overseas players. Bangalore will aim to lay out some hefty amount on Indian domestic players. Karun Nair, who plays for Karnataka in domestic leagues, can be a significant fit for Bangalore in the middle order. Shivam Dube had an ordinary last season. However, he can be brought back for a lesser price as an Indian all-rounder option. Mohit Sharma or Ankit Rajpoot are some fitting choices for back-up pace bowling options, and Dhruv Jorel, Anuj Rawat and Aryan Juyal are some young Indian wicket-keepers Bangalore should keep their eye on.
Bangalore should also try to rope in Shakib Al Hasan as a replacement for Moeen Ali. They had to let go of Moeen Ali after a disappointing last season as he managed to score 16 runs and took only a wicket in his three innings. On the contrary, Shakib is currently the number one ranked all-rounder in one-day cricket and ranks second in the T20 format. Although the inclusion of Shakib in this Bangalore squad is highly unlikely as they already have four spinners and, the Chinnaswamy wicket does not reward the spinners, especially in a tournament like IPL.
Bangalore will enter the auction with a massive Rs 35.7 crores and they might look at big buys. They have a much balanced squad in comparison to what they had in 2018 or 2019. But Bangalore has to think beyond the dynamic duo of Virat and De Villiers. Their pace department needs to step up and show culpability if they wish for fruition the ‘Ee Sala cup Namde’.
The mini-auction is all set to take place on February 18 in Chennai after the second test match between India and England. Additionally, the IPL trophy is likely to fly back to India and the tournament will take place in April. This auction will also be the last auction before the mega auction and the addition of one or two new IPL franchises in the 2022 season.