A stable of stars does not a team make—but that doesn’t stop the Royal Challengers from attempting to disprove this truism year after year. Known more for collecting big names than securing big results, the two-time IPL runners-up haven’t managed to seal a playoff spot since 2011, where they lost to Chennai in the finals. Yet despite the lackluster campaigns of the past several years, logic dictates that the immense talent of Bangalore must eventually coalesce. And with a squad filled with names such as Kohli, Gayle, Starc, and de Villers, it’s hard not to think that 2015 will finally be there year where it all comes together.
In the past, the Royal Challengers were a side capable of impressive totals, yet unreliable when defending them. Even more so, as evidenced by last season’s seventh place finish coinciding with an impotent and oft-injured Gayle, they’ve needed the Jamaican to be firing on all cylinders in order to pose a threat. Yet, as others have astutely pointed out, the Royal Challengers have opted for depth in preparation for the eight edition of the IPL. Rather than simply crossing their fingers and hoping they can bash their way to victory, RCB have constructed an able bowling attack that should help balance a squad that has previously been overly reliant on star batsman.
While he’ll miss the first several matches of the season due to a knee strain, left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc will be the centerpiece in a revamped Bangalore bowling attack. Named player of the tournament at the World Cup, Starc thrives in the limited-over formats of the game, and his performance is to prove vital if the Royal Challengers hope to mount a successful assault on the other seven squads of the IPL. Beyond Starc, Bangalore’s bowling has been bolstered by recent additions Sean Abbott and Adam Milne, both set to provide additional ANZAC pace.
Spinner Iqbal Abdulla, also a new signing, will bring a needed dose of guile to the pure speed of Starc, Abbott, and Milne, and wayward Windie Darren Sammy looks to prove a keen addition as an all-rounder. Led by head coach and New Zealand legend Daniel Vettori, for the first time in years, Banglore’s bowlers boast star power that rivals the team’s batsman.
Which is not to diminish their impressive resumes whatsoever. The big three of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, and AB de Villers are each match winners in their own right. But both Gayle and Kohli will need to bounce back after a disappointing 2014. Gayle, nursing injuries throughout the 2014 season, only managed a batting average of 21.78 and strike rate of 106.52 in nine matches. Kohli too will need to rediscover his form from campaigns past after posting an average of 27.62 in 2014—a performance even more disappointing when you consider his robust average of 45.29 in 2013.
But, as of the moment, RCB are only IPL favorites on paper. With their first match coming against reigning champions Kolkata Knight Riders, the Royal Challengers will be tested immediately. It’s time for the most talented squad in the IPL to perform like it.