Kohli-led RCB muscle faces SRH test

Royal Challengers Bangalore, with the firepower of Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Watson, and Virat Kohli will play its first match of this IPL season against David Warner-led Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Virat Kohli (left, standing) and his Royal Challengers Bangalore teammates at a training session at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.   -  PTI

This may feel like Royal Challengers Bangalore's year, but it's felt that way every year. After eight seasons of near misses and disappointments, RCB has assembled a squad it hopes will finally deliver it a first Indian Premier League crown.

“With the firepower we've got, opposition teams are going to have to score a lot of runs against us,” Shane Watson said here on Sunday. And who can disagree? As RCB prepares to begin its IPL 9 campaign, against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Tuesday, Virat Kohli will seek to work out his best combination.

A batting unit of Watson, Chris Gayle, Kohli and AB de Villiers will give most fielding captains nightmares, but RCB's problem has often been a lack of balance. The presence of allrounders Watson and Stuart Binny should address this to some extent while Kedar Jadhav (who can keep) and Sarfaraz Khan – who has looked in good touch in the practice games here – should strengthen the middle order further. Kohli will also ponder over the batting order: will Watson open with Gayle or will Kohli? And will de Villiers, who batted at three last season, continue to do so? Read: >Kohli: De Villiers may continue to bat at No. 3

The absence of Mitchell Starc (total) and Samuel Badree (for two games at least) means RCB will field one of Adam Milne, Kane Richardson or David Wiese. Much will depend on the legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal, RCB's leading wicket-taker last season, and the likes of Harshal Patel.

Point to prove

Having narrowly missed out on a play-off spot last year, Sunrisers Hyderabad will arrive in Bengaluru with the intention of making amends. The captain, David Warner, was the IPL's leading run-maker in 2015. He made half-centuries both times he faced RCB last season and will want to make a reprise after a below-par World T20. Shikhar Dhawan, his opening partner, has a point to prove after being dropped by India for the WT20 semifinal.

SRH will miss Yuvraj Singh, who is out with an ankle injury, but Aditya Tare and the exciting Deepak Hooda should bolster the batting. On the bowling front, Ashish Nehra had a great WT20, while Mustafizur Rahman was good in the three games he played. Since the start of the year, Kohli has been infallible with the bat, scoring runs by the truckload. He bore India on his shoulders through the World T20 and elevated himself several levels above his colleagues. The prospect of watching him lead RCB now should be enthralling.