RCB's Mike Hesson: Looking forward to Virat Kohli opening

The India captain, Virat Kohli, tested his skills against the new ball successfully with an unbeaten 80 in the fifth Twenty20 International against England in Ahmedabad on March 20.

Hesson said South African A. B. de Villiers could don the wicketkeeping gloves this season.   -  Vivek Bendre

Mike Hesson, the director of cricket operations at Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), feels role clarity and consistency in selection will hold the side in good stead in the forthcoming 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) season.

“In terms of the players we released [at the auction], we still have about seven to eight of our core playing XI from last year. So, it is certainly a matter of tweaking that and then have backup players providing more depth,” Hesson said. “We might want to change the style of play at a particular venue. There might be certain grounds where we might need bowlers to bowl more cutters, some venues we might need them to bowl bouncers…at venues where the ball will turn, we need left-handers to bat in the middle. There are several different factors, and I am pleased with the balance of the squad. We have got a squad of 22, and each of them could step up and be counted in certain conditions.”

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RCB’s 2020 campaign had begun on a promising note, the team winning seven of its first 10 games before losing the next five. Its season ended with a six-wicket loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator.

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Hesson also explained why RCB broke the bank to sign Kyle Jamieson and Glenn Maxwell. Jamieson, the 6’8” New Zealander, attracted a bid of ₹15 crore, while Maxwell was lapped up for ₹14.25 crore. Kings XI Punjab – renamed Punjab Kings this year – had let go of the Australian all-rounder after he scored only 108 runs and took three wickets in 13 games last season.

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Hesson emphasised that Maxwell met RCB’s “middle-order requirements.” “He is a fantastic player. We want some X-factor players...especially through the middle overs, and having high-impact cricketers like (Glenn) Maxwell adds to the value that an A. B. de Villiers brings in the middle, and potentially at the back end as well.”

About Jamieson, who is now the highest-paid New Zealander at an IPL auction, Hesson said the 26-year-old will fit the tactical requirements of the team in his maiden IPL stint. “Certain bowlers thrive in certain conditions. There will be some grounds where the ball will swing and bounce, and in those instances, (Kyle) Jamieson will be deadly in terms of what he can do. Once again, it is a complement of skills in terms of the balance we require on certain days. He is a power-hitter with the bat... That said, we won’t rely on one player… Putting out a highly competitive XI will be the key.”

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Hesson is also looking forward to Virat Kohli opening the innings for the franchise this season. “Certainly, we talked about it before the auction because that came in our auction planning in terms of how we wanted to structure our lineup. So, no surprise there,” Hesson said in a video posted on RCB’s Twitter account.

The India captain tested his skills against the new ball successfully with an unbeaten 80 in the fifth Twenty20 International against England in Ahmedabad on March 20.

Hesson added de Villiers could don the wicketkeeping gloves this time around. “We were delighted that de Villiers loved and embraced it (wicketkeeping duties). He’s a real option, along with a couple of others. Mohammed Azharuddeen is a natural athlete, as a keeper and as a fielder. We also have K. S. Bharat as a specialist keeper.”