Where they finished in 2018

In sixth place, with 12 points in 14 games.

Strengths

Royal Challengers Bangalore have loaded some of the world’s best batsmen into their top three or four in their recent history, but they do most of their damage in the middle overs. Since the start of IPL 2015, RCB have been in the bottom half among the ten teams for run rate in the Powerplays. However, they don’t lose too many wickets in that phase and this is reflected in their run rate during the middle overs: 8.42, the highest for all teams during the period.

With Quinton de Kock out of the team, and the entry of Shimron Hetmyer and Marcus Stoinis, hitting through the middle overs is likely to be RCB’s strength this season as well.

 

Their biggest – and often overlooked – strength, though, is Yuzvendra Chahal. Since the start of 2015, Chahal has been, by far, the most successful wristspinner in the IPL with 70 wickets in 54 games. This is a similar wickets-per-match ratio to Rashid Khan, who has played 31 IPL matches. This season, Chahal will be backed by a strengthened overseas bowling pack, and also teenage legspinner Prayas Ray Barman, who has had a splendid start in domestic white-ball cricket.

Weaknesses

There are several allrounders on the roster, but RCB might struggle once more with their balance. The reason is the same as last year: none of their allrounders are reliable fifth-bowling options in this format. The way to circumvent this is to give extra batting duties to Shivam Dube and add a second allrounder in the team, but doing so would mean adding pressure on a man who missed most of Mumbai’s Mushtaq Ali campaign and is in his maiden IPL season.

Squad

 

The overseas question

There are four names in the squad that jump out as undroppable: AB de Villiers, Hetmyer, Stoinis, and Nathan Coulter-Nile. Little needs to be said about de Villiers and Hetmyer, who will enhance the middle order. But Stoinis and Coulter-Nile are crucial to this team. RCB missed Coulter-Nile last season due to injury and the man who replaced him – Corey Anderson – had an ordinary return from injury himself. Tim Southee wasn’t at his best either and the result was poor endings to bowling innings in which they had dominated at the start. There is also the possibility that Stoinis will be given his new role of T20 opening batsman, which could mean Kohli, de Villiers, and Hetmyer at three, four and five. On most days, that could mean 170-plus scores.

Availability

The problem is that Stoinis and Coulter-Nile are both likely to be integral parts of Australia’s World Cup preparations. That means they are likely to be unavailable till April because of their ODI series against Pakistan, which ends on March 31. They will also be unavailable after April, along with Moeen Ali, as the CA and ECB have both said World Cup squad players will be withdrawn from the tournament on May 1.

The best XI

Parthiv Patel (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Virat Kohli (capt.), AB de Villiers, Shimron Hetmyer, Shivam Dube, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Washington Sundar, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mohammed Siraj

Coaches: Gary Kirsten, Ashish Nehra

Will they make the playoffs?

When they made the final in 2016, it was almost entirely on the back of Kohli’s 973 runs in the season. Kohli comes in with even better pre-season form this time and another season of big runs should take RCB past the group stage.

 

Source: RCB look strong as ever, but might struggle with team balance | ESPNcricinfo.com

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