When the IPL was originally conceptualised in 2007, the principle motto was to give ample exposure to local Indian talent, by affording them the opportunity to share the dressing room with the stars of world cricket. The idea of restricting the number of overseas players allowed in the playing eleven to four, despite the many changes that the IPL has undergone, is an under-appreciated decision. Over the 12 seasons, IPL has stayed true to the core value of imparting priceless education to local Indian cricketers, and Indian cricket has become richer and grown from strength to strength because of it. The key ingredient to that is the presence of overseas players in the squad. Be it the vast amount of knowledge they impart on the young Indian contingent, the culture exchange which takes place in the dressing room, or the calming effect and the helping hand they provide the youngsters with, overseas players play a vital role in the culture and hence the success of any franchise. Over the years, RCB have been blessed with the best of the cricketing world, from the veteran Jacques Kallis during the first three seasons, the legend of AB De Villiers for eight unforgettable years, the Universe boss Christopher Henry Gayle – all legends of the game who have produced some unforgettable moments in the RCB red, to mention a few. The impact that AB De Villiers has had on Virat Kohli, not only at RCB but in his overall development over the years, is a major vindication to the concept of blending players from different cultures and backgrounds.
Due to their presence being limited to four per eleven, the role and contribution of each superstar import from different parts of the globe, becomes accentuated. The chosen ones bear upon them the responsibility of being match winners on their own. With all these various aspects in mind, we take a look at the four players who we think should form the overseas core for the majority of the season.
Note – The Australian players will not be available for the first week of the IPL owing to the international fixtures against Pakistan. England players will make their way out from late April(specific dates unknown as yet). Windies players are likely to be withdrawn from the first week of May(specific dates unknown as yet). The rest of the squad is expected to be available for the complete tournament, subject to any late changes. Availability has been factored in while writing the following paragraphs.
The genius of Abraham Benjamin De Villiers
The first one is the most obvious of the lot – the legend AB De Villiers. There can be no sensible way where one can make a case to relegate one of the modern-day greats to the RCB bench. By his sheer presence in the team, Mr.360 can strike fear into the heart of opposition bowlers. No game is lost, there are no peaks unconquerable as long as De Villiers is present at the crease. With the ability to approach any scenario with aplomb, the De Villiers is one of the very few pure batsmen in the world game who can be called a true all-round batsman.
Another batsman? No problem!
The second and not-so-obvious choice is Shimron Hetmyer. Having burst onto the scene with eye-catching performances during the Windies tour of India in 2018, Hetmyer was evidently a priority buy for the franchise, as he fits into the club philosophy of playing bold. The most impressive trait of Hetmyer’s game was the apparent ease with which he regularly dispatched the Indian spin duo of Kuldeep and our very own Chahal. With Chris Gayle having vacated a batting spot, RCB needed a player who could carry forward the legacy left behind by him, and Shimron Hetmyer possesses the necessary traits to take over the mantle from his fellow countryman. In case there was a need to further emphasise his quality, his knocks of 81(109) in the first test and 104*(83) in the 2nd ODI, both against England, batting under pressure situations in difficult conditions proved his mettle.
Just in case should a necessity arise, Hetmyer can take the wicket-keeping gloves as well – he has kept for Windies during his U-19 days. Although Hetmyer will be sorely missed during the fag end of the season, owing to national duty, Heinrich Klaasen can be entrusted to deputise for the Caribbean maestro.
Not every team can afford the luxury of playing two overseas batsman in a playing eleven, especially with the inability to produce and the difficulty to acquire quality, Indian all-rounders. But, the dearth of Indian batsman in the squad combined with the calibre of the overseas batsmen at their disposal, means such a radical choice is well within reason. Between them, AB De Villiers and Shimron Hetmyer can win games on their own on their day!
Tim Southee, the bowling spearhead
With the two of the four overseas slots taken up by batsmen, the third one also shouldn’t come as a surprise. Tim Southee provided some much-needed respite to a beleaguered RCB bowling setup during the latter half of IPL 2018. His variety in skillset, and the ability to execute them well under pressure meant, that RCB had a reliable option to fall back on against the onslaught in death overs. In the powerplay, the experience of the Kiwi quickie is a boon to the captain, as he can be used as a wicket-taking option or as a bowler who can give a tight over or two even with fielding restrictions in place. Tim Southee is an epitome of the word reliable.
The first three spots discussed are fairly set in stone, and the mould will likely not be tampered with for the majority of the tournament. The final spot has to be occupied by an overseas all-rounder, be it Marcus Stoinis or Moeen Ali. Both these players have the ability to bat at multiple positions, and can chip in with a few valuable overs when needed. In conditions where an extra spinner might come in handy, Moeen Ali could get the nod ahead of Stoinis, although the Aussie is expected to play a crucial role in RCB’s endeavours, and in all likelihood will play most of the matches when available. The unavailability of the Aussie Stoinis for the first week will provide either of Moeen Ali or Colin De Grandhomme with opportunities to stake a claim for a spot, even when Stoinis returns to the fold. The battle for the last spot will be reduced to two competitors when Moeen is expected to leave for international duty with England during the second half of the season.
The overseas slots for once look to be pretty settled, even before the season kicks off. The only slot that could trigger a bit of competition will be the all-rounder spot, and RCB have a plethora of options to choose among Stoinis, Moeen Ali and Colin De Grandhomme. AB De Villiers and Shimron Hetmyer will be expected to shoulder the responsibility in the batting department, while the onus will be on the experienced Tim Southee to be the leader of the bowling group. With quality in options and a healthy competition all around the squad for the four slots, the team looks to be in good hands, in the overseas division.