Royal Challengers Bangalore: Maxwell, the missing Musketeer?
When the gavel came down to formalise Royal Challengers Bangalore’s acquisition of Glenn Maxwell, the symbolism was hard to miss. A maverick international white-ball star with an unflattering IPL record was heading to a team with a similar legacy of contradictions and contortions. The overriding emotion for both parties heading into what should be the final leg of this IPL cycle is one of covert optimism, that the law of averages should eventually offer a payoff.
RCB had a significantly better season than Maxwell did six months ago, the playoffs finish should mean that the big signing is seen more as a missing piece than as a central building block in their enduring IPL puzzle. The generous take is that if this union clicks, then everything is hunky-dory. If it doesn’t, they go back into a big auction and cast their net in the pool once more to find the third Musketeer for Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
As ever, the bowling remains hidden in the shadow of the team’s enviable batting pedigree. With Chris Morris gone and the tournament returning to India, death bowling stats graphics will once again be used in frequent conjunction with RCB. Kane Richardson, who didn’t play last year, is yet to test himself at the IPL level since 2016 and the tall Kyle Jamieson may just find the short boundaries at most venues just as inhospitable as the ones at home when he conceded at an 11.67 ER in the T20s against Australia.
Where have they finished in this cycle?
2018: 6th || 2019: 8th || 2020: 4th
Last season bugbear
RCB struck at a rate of 6.93 through the middle-overs last year. Kohli (SR 110), De Villiers (115) and Devdutt Padikkal (121) all struggled for tempo in this phase where RCB struck a total of 73 boundaries, at a Balls/Boundary ratio of 11 when the season average was 8.
Has it been fixed ahead of IPL 2021?
Besides Maxwell, RCB have also shrewdly added the services of 37-year-old Daniel Christian, who hit 18 sixes and struck at an impressive SR of 182.55 for BBL winners Sydney Sixers. These two players in the team’s top-six will also offer bowling services, thereby giving the captain enough options to ensure against off-days for his front-line choices.
Kohli’s move up to open the batting will be welcome given he’s likely to face more pace at the start of the innings than spin, against whom he’s had strike-rate troubles. Since IPL 2016, as opener, the RCB captain strikes at 141 through the middle overs as opposed to a more sedate 117.7 as a non-opener.
Similarly, Maxwell, a gifted hitter of spin, could even slot ahead of de Villiers. That way, the South African, who has 10 dismissals to leg spin and left-arm spin, could be held back for the fast bowlers, against whom he boasts a strike-rate of 190.73 over the last three years.
League phase venue split
Chennai (3) || Mumbai (2) || Ahmedabad (4) || Kolkata (5)
Between Kolkata and Mumbai, RCB play a total of 7 games: the identical number of games they would have played at their original home at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Both these venues should offer true surfaces and short boundaries that augment their hitting might. The spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar, as well as the ‘cutter’ bowlers will come to play at Chepauk and Ahmedabad with its bigger square boundaries.
Uncapped player Watch
Mohammed Azharuddeen, Rajat Patidar and Sachin Baby are likely to rotate around for the one remaining slot in the Top 6. The former can relieve de Villiers off the keeping gloves. The latter provides a left-handed option against teams like Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab with left-arm and leg-spinning options. Patidar, the most solid of the three, offers solidity and arrives with a Mushtaq Ali strike rate of 153.47
Likely best XI
Devdutt Padikkal, Virat Kohli (c), Glenn Maxwell, AB de Villiers, Mohammed Azharuddeen, Daniel Christian, Washington Sundar, Kane Richardson/Kyle Jamieson, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal