It was yet another season of disappointment for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) last year as the side finished sixth in the league, winning only six games and failing to advance to the IPL Playoffs.
Subsequently, the franchise made wholesale changes, parting ways with head coach Daniel Vettori, batting and fielding coach Trent Woodhill, and bowling coach Andrew McDonald.
Gary Kirsten and Ashish Nehra (who was previously mentor) took over as coaches as RCB set about rebuilding its squad.
Nine players released
As many as nine players, including Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson and Chris Woakes, were released while Quinton de Kock was sold to Mumbai Indians.
Mandeep Singh was traded to Kings XI Punjab in exchange for Marcus Stoinis. At the auction, RCB bought nine players, including Shimron Hetmyer and Mumbai all-rounder Shivam Dubey.
The team’s struggles last year were due in no small part to its inability to settle on a balanced XI. It took Virat Kohli and the coaching staff a few weeks to find the right combination, replacing the out-of-form de Kock with Parthiv Patel, and finding a place in the side for Moeen Ali’s all-round talents.
Tim Southee ought to have played a bigger role (the Kiwi joined the squad late but featured in only eight games) while buying Corey Anderson — who had hardly played any cricket for a year leading up to the IPL — was clearly an error.
Lack of batting depth
The batting lacked depth, with RCB overly reliant on Kohli (530) and A.B. de Villiers (480) for the runs. Only one other player — Mandeep (252) — aggregated more than 250 runs for the season. Death bowling was a weakness. The campaign was an unmitigated disaster.
This time, RCB will hope for a turnaround in fortunes. Stoinis was in great form in the BBL while Hetmyer looks like the most talented batsman to have emerged from the Caribbean since Brian Lara.
Dubey, who triggered a bidding war at the auction after his big-hitting exploits in the Ranji Trophy, and Uttar Pradesh all-rounder Akshdeep Nath, should add depth to the batting. Both, however, are relatively inexperienced.
Dubey is yet to feature in the IPL while Akshdeep has played only six IPL games in his career, including one match last year for Kings XI Punjab.
Then there are concerns over the combination again. Choosing four overseas players from among de Villiers, Moeen, Stoinis, Southee, Hetmyer, Colin de Grandhomme and Nathan Coulter-Nile will be no simple task.
Omitting an overseas bowler will place a bigger responsibility on the domestic bunch. Umesh Yadav, who was RCB’s leading wicket-taker last season (20 wickets) and Yuzvendra Chahal should feature prominently but neither of them can deliver in the death overs.
The likes of Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini and Kulwant Khejroliya will need to turn in strong performances.
RCB will also have to consider the availability of overseas internationals with the World Cup around the corner. Kohli and the think-tank have much to ponder.