RCB, the franchise representing India's IT Capital and 'Garden City' Bengaluru, along with Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Capitals are the sides who have not won an IPL trophy in the last 12 years. The franchise's flop shows has contributed to much social media humour.
This despite the Bengaluru-based unit seeing greats like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Ross Taylor, Kevin Pietersen, Jacques Kallis, Zaheer Khan, Mark Boucher, Chris Gayle, Daniel Vettori, Muttiah Muralitharan, Mitchell Starc and Yuvraj Singh donning their jerseys. Even some of the current players like Manish Pandey and Mayank Aggarwal made their transition from the Karnataka Ranji squad to international cricket through RCB.
While the team's official slogan is 'Play Bold', they could only manage runners-up status thrice in 2009, 2011 and 2016.
Despite having a passionate, vociferous Bengaluru crowd turning Chinnaswamy into a hostile venue for the opponents and having modern-day legends like Dale Steyn, AB De Villiers, Moeen Ali and Virat Kohli, the team has ended up with some embarrassing records like performing miserably in the first-ever IPL match (being bowled out for 82 against KKR after being hammered by Brendon McCullum's 73-ball 158) or having the dubious record of the tournament's lowest total (49 all out against KKR, again while chasing a moderate target of 132 runs in the 2017 edition).
While the franchise is also known to be a batting powerhouse with the highest team total also under their name (263-5 against Pune Warriors in the 2013 edition), it's the bowling that has always been the Achilles heel for the Kohli-led unit.
For the 2020 edition, the team focused on building balance and squad depth while recruiting players.
They brought in South African all-rounder Chris Morris, Sri Lankan pacer Isuru Udana and Aussie leg-spinner Adam Zampa to beef up their bowling attack.
The inclusion of T20 specialists Aaron Finch and Joshua Philippe will meanwhile give Kohli-De Villiers the much-needed helping hands in the batting department. Among Indian names, the newest sensation of Karnataka cricket Devdutt Padikkal, who was the top run-scorer in the 2019–20 Vijay Hazare Trophy, will be making his IPL debut.
Squad: Virat Kohli, Ab De Villiers, Dale Steyn, Moeen Ali, Devdutt Padikkal, Gurkeerat Mann Singh, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Parthiv Patel, Pawan Negi, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Aaron Finch, Chris Morris, Adam Zampa, Isuru Udana, Joshua Philippe, Pavan Deshpande, Shahbaz Ahamad.
Mike Hesson (Team Director)
Simon Katich (Head Coach)
Shankar Basu (Strength and Condition Coach)
Adam Griffith (Bowling Coach)
Sridharan Sriram (Batting and Spin Bowling Coach)
Malolan Rangarajan (Head of scouting)
Evan Speechly (Team Physio)
Soumyadeep Pyane (Team Manager)
The onus once again is on the Kohli-De Villiers combo:
The skipper and his South African partner-in-crime have a tally of almost 2000 runs between them since 2017 after the departure of Chris Gayle from the franchise.
Kohli, who has over 8000 T20 runs in his kitty in more than 250 matches (including 5412 runs in 177 IPL games with five centuries), will be leading his team again with the bat in UAE. While there may still be questions about his below-140 strike rate and the lack of 360-degree range of shots in his arsenal, unlike De Villers his good T20 form since 2019 (531 runs in 12 innings at an average near 45) will certainly give RCB fans reasons to hope that he may repeat his 2016 dream run, where he scored 973 runs at an average of 81.08.
De Villers, on the other hand, has been one of IPL's all-time legends with 4395 runs in 154 games at an average and strike rate of 39.95 and 151.24 respectively.
While his sharp fielding skills and ability to play shots all around the wicket have given him a sort of superhuman status, his vast experience also makes him an invaluable leadership asset. Despite RCB faring poorly in the last two seasons, De Villiers' tally of 942 runs in 28 games ensured him a place among top 15 run-getters.
Arrival of Aaron Finch and Joshua Philippe at the top
One of the reasons for RCB's poor run since 2017 was the departure of Chris Gayle, and Kohli settling in the middle order. The franchise tried Quinton De Kock and Brendon McCullum in Gayle's absence, but neither of the two could create much of an impact.
In the auctions towards the end of 2019, they secured the services of the Aussie duo of Aaron Finch and Joshua Philippe. Finch, who also has the highest T20 individual score under his belt (a 63-ball 156 against England in 2013) will not only bring stability to the RCB batting order with his elegant stroke play, but he will also provide the franchise quickfire starts in powerplay.
Joshua Philippe (commonly known as Josh Philippe) has been the newest sensation in Australian cricketing circles with his impressive show in the 2019-20 Big Bash League stint with Sydney Sixers, where he not only scored a match-winning 29-ball 52 against Melbourne Stars in the rain-curtailed final but also finished twith three half-centuries in four innings.
While his batting style is similar to ABD (360-degree range of shots), his superhuman hits in the powerplay overs has been the talk of the town, especially after a massive six from him during the tournament ended up on the roof of the SCG pavilion.
Devdutt Padikkal gives Kohli another option to look beyond Parthiv Patel as an opening option. While Patel, the 35-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman has been opening the RCB innings since 2018, he has been no game-changer.
The India veteran might have 2848 runs in 137 innings at a strike rate of 120.78, but he has failed to replicate his successful CSK and Mumbai stints with the Bengaluru-based franchise. It's his average of below 23 that has consistently left RCB with poor starts in powerplay overs.
Padikkal, the latest prodigy of Indian domestic cricket has been grabbing the headlines ever since becoming the highest run-getter in the 2019–20 Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. The 20-year-old's aggressive stroke playing abilities can certainly lead to the team management giving him a go at the top of the order.
Ali, Zampa, Chahal and Sundar bolster the spin department
Moeen Ali, the 33-year-old England all-rounder, made his IPL debut for RCB last year and piled on 297 runs in 14 innings at an average of 24.75 and scored three fifties. His strike rate of nearly 166 lives up to T20 batting standards, but it's the all-rounder's skills with the ball that will come in handy for skipper Kohli on the low, slow UAE wickets. The southpaw, who is part of England's 'Spin Twins' with Adil Rashid across all formats, will be eyeing to back up his breezy cameos with some accurate off-breaks.
Ali will also lead RCB's spin attack with India leggie Yuzvendra Chahal.
Chahal's 155 scalps in 125 T20s (including 83 IPL games) at an economy rate below nine is a testimony to the talent he possesses. The leggie has 100 IPL wickets - the most for any RCB bowler - and boasts exploits such as a spell of 6/25 against England on a flat Chinnaswamy surface in 2017, holding IPL's joint best economy rate (1.5 against CSK in IPL 2019's opening match) and a series-winning 6/42 against Australia at Melbourne last year.
When 2014 IPL's first half took place in the UAE, Chahal made his RCB debut and bowled at a brilliant economy rate of 5.16 in the first five matches, conceding only one four and three sixes from his 19 overs.
The 20-year-old Washington Sundar, who has become a regular in Team India since 2018 (19 scalps in 22 international T20s at an economy rate of 6.93), will be eyeing RCB's third spinner slot. When Sundar made his IPL debut with the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiants three years ago under MS Dhoni's leadership, he quickly grabbed the headlines with his ability to bowl right-arm off-breaks in the powerplay overs, which complemented his useful batting and fielding.
Despite being bought by RCB for Rs 3.2 crore in the 2018 auctions, his bowling stats of 16 wickets in 21 IPL matches at an economy of 7.64 couldn't show a handsome growth thanks to skipper Kohli's excessive chopping and changing.
Adam Zampa, the leg spinner from Australia's New South Wales, got drafted in the RCB squad after his Aussie mate Kane Richardson got injured. Zampa, who made his IPL debut for Pune in the 2016 edition, went on to deliver the tournament's second-best bowling figures of 6 for 19 against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The 28-year-old, who has over 200 scalps in more than 180 games, is mostly known for his slow leg-break googlies, which have even outfoxed a master batsman like Kohli more than thrice.
Lack of fast-bowling options
Despite Proteas fast bowling legend Dale Steyn leading RCB's new-ball attack and possessing a respectable record of 96 scalps in 92 IPL games at an economy rate of 6.77, his suspect fitness will keep the franchise on its toes.
Steyn's tryst with injuries started during the 2016 Australia tour where he dislocated his shoulder and needed more than a year to become match fit again. While he returned to international cricket in the December 2017 Cape Town Test against India and took a wicket towards the end of day one, another injury to his left heel meant that he couldn't participate in the remainder of the series.
In 2018, he took his 422nd Test wicket and surpassed Shaun Pollock to become South Africa's most successful bowler, but again had another shoulder injury after a couple of successful outings with RCB meant he missed the 2019 World Cup and went on to bid international cricket goodbye.
The Proteas legend's poor fitness history means the task is cut out for RCB in their UAE campaign. Sri Lankan Isuru Udana, with his variation of pace and cutters, along with the experienced Chris Morris (293 wickets in 232 matches, at an economy rate below nine), provides some breathing space for the team.
However, the Indian pace duo of Umesh Yadav (119 wickets in 118 innings) and Mohammed Siraj (82 wickets in 61 matches) have not delivered for the franchise in the last couple of seasons, due to their wayward line and length and tendency to go for runs in the death overs.
The action shifts from batsman's paradise Chinnaswamy Stadium to the low, slow UAE pitches. Skipper Kohli's statement about him feeling good about his new-look unit is also an indication of the franchise's intent to go one step further than they did in South Africa in 2009 and bring the Cup to Bengaluru. They need a consistent all-round team display, with the bowlers, in particular, rising to the occasion. Definitely a playoff contender, going by their strong team sheet.
Ab De Villiers
Vs Sunrisers Hyderabad on September 21, 7:30 PM, Venue-Dubai.
Vs Kings XI Punjab on September 24, 7:30 PM, Venue-Dubai.
Vs Mumbai Indians on September 28, 7:30 PM, Venue-Dubai.
Vs Rajasthan Royals on October 3, 3:30 PM, Venue-Abu Dhabi.
vs Delhi Capitals on October 5, 7.30 PM, Venue-Dubai.
Vs Chennai Super Kings on October 10, 7:30 PM, Venue-Dubai.
Vs Kolkata Knight Riders on October 12, 7:30 PM, Venue-Sharjah.
Vs Kings XI Punjab on October 15, 7.30 PM, Venue-Sharjah.
Vs Rajasthan Royals on October 17, 3:30 PM, Venue-Dubai.
Vs Kolkata Knight Riders on October 21, 7:30 PM, Venue-Abu Dhabi.
Vs Chennai Super Kings on October 25, 3:30 PM, Venue-Dubai.
Vs Mumbai Indians on October 28, 7:30 PM, Venue-Abu Dhabi.
Vs Sunrisers Hyderabad on October 31, 7:30 PM, Venue-Sharjah.
Vs Delhi Capitals on November 2, 7:30 PM, Venue-Abu Dhabi.