The recent form of two of its spin bowlers will give Royal Challengers Bangalore much confidence going into the 2018 IPL. Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal were the joint-highest wicket-takers (8 apiece) in the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka.
Chahal finished with 16 wickets in the ODI series in South Africa (at an economy rate of 5.02). But his record in the T20 internationals that followed may not make for pleasant reading — at Centurion, his figures of 0 for 64 were the worst for an Indian in T20Is — but there were mitigating circumstances. The leg-spinner has a fine record in the IPL and with the backing of Virat Kohli should be a handful for batsmen again.
It is good news for RCB that the captain has taken time off after a busy season for India. Kohli will arrive fresh and will be itching to go. The issue for RCB, and this has been a recurring one, is that of support — or the lack of it — for Kohli from other batsmen. In previous seasons, RCB was guilty of relying solely on its top three — of Chris Gayle, Kohli and AB de Villiers — with little contribution from those that followed. de Villiers has been retained, but RCB will need more from its Indian batsmen in Manan Vohra, Mandeep Singh and Sarfaraz Khan.
RCB returned from the auction with a number of proven all-rounders. Chris Woakes — who was RCB’s most expensive signing at Rs.7.4 crore and was KKR’s joint-top wicket-taker last season — Colin de Grandhomme, and Moeen Ali are all established performers but it remains to be seen how RCB will accommodate them in the side.
With Brendon McCullum (who was a surprising signing at Rs.3.6 crore given that he has been away from international cricket for over two years) and Quinton de Kock in the mix, along with fast bowlers Nathan Coulter-Nile and Tim Southee, Kohli and head coach Daniel Vettori will have a tough time settling on a best XI.
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What this squad does is give RCB various options for differing conditions across the country. With a good group of Indian fast bowlers and spinners, Kohli will hope he can finally lay hands on that elusive IPL trophy.
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When Royal Challengers Bangalore acquired Washington Sundar’s services for Rs.3.2 crore at the IPL player auction in January, the team management felt they had pulled off a real bargain. That sense was reinforced a few weeks later when Sundar emerged the player-of-the-series from the Nidahas Trophy in Sri Lanka.
The off-spinner finished with eight scalps (joint-top of the charts with RCB teammate Yuzvendra Chahal) at an incredible economy rate of 5.7. His form and his partnership with Chahal augur well for the season ahead.
Bowling coach, Ashish Nehra, says: I’m not going to do any coaching at RCB. Coaching is required at the U-16 and U-19 levels. At the IPL level, you need to be a good man-manager.
I have some experience of playing in the IPL. The Bengaluru wicket has never been easy for bowlers, except in the last year when it helped the spinners. My role is to ensure we do what is best for that ground. My rapport with Virat (Kohli) will also help.
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