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The ones that matter – the Indian core

The most successful sides in the IPL over the years have been the ones with a strong Indian contingent. Although the overseas players in the team will play a major part in determining a team’s fortunes, it is almost always the performances of the Indian players that makes the difference. All you need to do is look at RCB’s performances over the previous two seasons, and it would tell a story about the significance of possessing a robust Indian core. The team management spending heavily on the Indian players in this year’s auction, tells us that they recognised the void in the squad and invested smartly to fill them. With the new buys in mind, combined with the previous season’s performances, we take a look at what we think is the ideal combination for the team, and which Indian players will be playing a decisive role this season for RCB.

Virat Kohli – Should he open?

Virat Kohli. Need I say more? Call him the best batsmen in the world, the most consistent player across all formats, has mastered batting in every possible condition and a role model for the next generation(sic given he still has at least 2 more World cups left in him). Virat embodies what RCB stands for – playing bold.

The only question about Virat, would be about his position in the batting order – whether he should bat at 3 or open the innings. As articulated in the previous articles, the middle order is pretty much brimming with overseas players, and has a healthy outlook to it. The three slots left are in the top 3, all of which need to be taken up by Indians. The two players apart from Virat who would slot in at the top of the order would be players who are not in the current scheme of things at the international level in T20 cricket. This makes a clear case for Virat to open, so that the other two players would be split up. Virat opening the innings would reduce the pressure on them as well, knowing that they can play without any pressure. Apart from that, as the cliche goes, wouldn’t you want the best player in the world to face the maximum number of deliveries possible?

Parthiv Patel – fits like a glove

The wicket-keeping slot is one position, where the team can try out multiple options. On one hand there is the veteran Parthiv Patel, who can open the batting, and then there is an Akshdeep Nath, a rather expensive buy at INR 3.6Cr. Heinrich Klaasen is an overseas option in that department, but that would mean leaving out one of either Hetmyer or an overseas all-rounder. Apart from all of the aforementioned, the management might decide to handover the wicket-keeping gloves to Shimron Hetmyer, who has previously kept wickets for Windies at the under-19 level. 

Among all the options, Parthiv Patel appears to be the most logical choice. Parthiv can not only don the wicket-keeping gloves, but also fulfil the role of an Indian opener. While Parthiv looks like the obvious choice, everything depends on the role they want the wicket-keeper to play. For the sake of an argument,   in case RCB choose to open with Virat Kohli and Marcus Stoinis, the team will need a middle order batsman, and Akshdeep Nath could well find a spot in the playing eleven in such a case. Having said that, Parthiv Patel should ideally be the first option, based on the line of reasoning I’ve presented previously about Marcus Stoinis’ role and in the paragraphs above.

Who should be the no.3?

Now we are down to the final position of the top 3 – the no.3. There are several options – Akshdeep Nath can play as a pure batsman, Gurkeerat Singh is an IPL veteran and is a capped Indian player, the relatively unknown entities – Milind Kumar and Himmat Singh, have batted in the top order for Sikkim and Delhi respectively. Just to throw a wildcard into the mix, perhaps there is a case to be made for a Washington Sundar to be used as a pinch hitter in the top 3. But, the player that makes the most sense for me personally(I must admit that the fact that he plays for Karnataka is a clinching factor) is Devdutt Padikkal. For any team to have a connect with it’s fans, the presence of a player who is a local is of paramount necessity. The stylish southpaw, who has represented India at the under-19 level, and debuted for Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy this season, can be the perfect fit at no.3. Padikkal, whose batting style resembles that of a certain Yuvraj Singh, with his lazy elegance, starred for Bellary Tuskers in the Karnataka Premier League for 2018, where he scored 124 runs in 4 innings. Padikkal was the third highest run-getter for his team. At 18 years of age, Devdutt Padikkal is not only a solution for the present, but also a future prospect, who could well turn out to be the next big thing in Indian cricket, if nourished well.

Shivam Dube – the finisher?

One of the major deficiencies in the RCB lineup has always been the absence of an Indian impact all-rounder. Over the years, RCB have relied heavily on their overseas delegation to complete the puzzle. This time around, the addition of Shivam Dube, the most expensive buy of this year’s auction for RCB, solves a myriad of issues that clouded the team in previous seasons. Dube comes with a reputation of being a big-hitter, who can lend a hand with the ball as well with some medium pace. This trait makes him an ideal no.7 player – someone who can finish off the innings by providing impetus towards the end, and roll his arm over when needed.

First off, Dube’s attributes are extremely similar to that of Colin De Grandhomme, which means the former’s inclusion in the lineup opens up an extra overseas slot. This enables the team management to include an overseas all-rounder or even a batsman who can bat in the middle order – perhaps a player like a Stoinis or a Moeen Ali. Playing an overseas all-rounder at possibly no.6 lends the batting solidity that was missing in the previous season. Thirdly, it takes away the burden on the likes of De Villiers and Hetmyer of having to be present during the death overs to provide the necessary push, and hence will allow them to play their natural game during the middle overs, thus optimising their influence on the game. 

Dube is the kind of player, whose mere selection has a domino effect on the rest of the lineup – in a positive way. With the ball, Dube will be an extra bowling option in the top 7, which will allow the captain to preserve bowlers of the calibre of Southee and Siraj to bowl during the death, barring an exceptional scenario, where they will be best utilised. Furthermore, Dube at 25 years of age, is the sort of buy who will appreciate in value over the next few years, signifying a shrewd investment for the future too, but that is a topic for another day.

The bowlers

The rest of the Indian contingent will figure in the bowling unit, where the likes of Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj and Yuzvendra Chahal will play a massive roles in deciding the team’s fortunes. You can read a more detailed analysis on the bowlers and what to expect from them here.

In conclusion…

Bangalore’s fortunes will very much depend on Virat being the key figure at the top of the order. With the three of the top 7 being overseas faces, all in the middle order, the pressure will be somewhat off the Indian uncapped players, and hence should allow them to flourish. The inclusion of Shivam Dube will for once present RCB with a much-needed Indian finisher who can bowl a couple of overs as well. Parthiv will again be expected to score a few quick runs at the top of the order, while a spot is still open for possibly an uncapped Indian player to make a name for himself at no.3. The difference this time around seems to be that the presence of Hetmyer and either of Stoinis or Ali in the middle order gives the batting lineup a much more balanced look. The bowling unit will again be dependent on the Indian trio of Umesh, Siraj and Chahal, who were all pretty impressive in the second half of the IPL 2018(the inclusion of Tim Southee gave the bowling a massive Phillip). Although upon first glance there might appear to be a lack of star power in the Indian contingent, the roles that these players will be expected to play, combined with international players surrounding them, will provide them with a pressure-free environment to thrive.