IPL 2014: 5 players Royal Challengers Bangalore could retain

Author : Nitin Fernandes

Royal Challengers have been the “so-near-yet-so-far” team of the Indian Premier League over the years. After a disappointing campaign in 2008, the Bangalore-based franchise have promised plenty but failed at crucial moments, which has bequeathed them to being an inefficacious side in the following five editions.

If one has a look at the RCB team that have graced the field, it is easy to note that there has always been a great deal of imbalance within the first eleven. The batting has been top-heavy and the bowling has seldom being worthy of extolment.

This year’s auction will present the Vijay Mallya-owned side a glorious opportunity to get the right combination going for the next three editions of the IPL and – if possible – the Champions League T20.

Before the auction, every franchise had been granted the chance of retaining up to five players from last year’s squads. Here, we have a look at five players RCB might retain:

5. Vinay Kumar

Vinay Kumar of RCB celebrating after the wicket of Rajasthan Royals during the RCB V/S Rajasthan Royals IPL T-20 match at Chinnaswamy Stadium, in Bangalore on Saturday 20th of April 2013

While the top four names were quite clear, this spot created some debate within my mind. After some thought, I finally narrowed down to two pace (if you can still call him so) bowlers in Vinay Kumar and Zaheer Khan.

When it comes to pedigree, there’s no debate really, Zaheer comes out on top by a long margin. But I’m sure the think-tank at RCB will be looking at much more than just pedigree.

The main three things that made me go for Vinay over Zaheer are:

  • Local boy – He’s the captain of Karnataka Ranji’s team and will add local flavour to a multi-cultural team.
  • Age and fitness issues – Zaheer will turn 36 later this year and he is no longer the bowler he once was. Injuries in the recent past have taken a toll on him and his bowling has suffered. Last season, he was forced to sit out through most of the tournament.
  • Similar records – There’s not much to differentiate between the two in the IPL. While Zaheer has a better economy rate, Vinay’s average and strike rate with the ball are slightly higher.

Most of the above factors seem to be in favour of Vinay and thus, I believe he has more of a chance of being retained than Zaheer.

Also, Vinay went for a huge price in the 2012 IPL auction, so retaining him could prove to be much cheaper than buying him back in the auction for RCB.

Retention Possibility: 30%

4. Cheteshwar Pujara

cheteshwar pujara

Yes, Cheteshwar Pujara has done close to nothing of note in the IPL so far. The 25-year-old averages less than 20, has a strike rate of below 100 and has struck just one score of 50+ in four seasons of the IPL.

Yet, there’s the feeling that it is just a matter of time before India’s number three in Tests starts producing the goods in the paisa-vasool version of the game. There’s a general theory that his style doesn’t suit the shorter forms of the game, but one look at his magnificent List A record makes that theory seem as fictional as J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic The Lords of the Rings.

I, for one, strongly believe that Pujara will be the perfect foil for the likes of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers to bat around. He could prove to be the just the man who could see RCB through a problematic situation on a difficult pitch away from the Chinnaswamy, something that proved to be a story of abject failure for the franchise last season.

Retention Possibility: 35%

3. AB de Villiers

Royal Challengers Bangalore's batsman AB

Retaining AB de Villiers should be a no-brainer for the RCB management. The South African is arguably the best batsman in the world across the three formats of the game at the current moment. He always seems to find answers to whatever the questions the cricketing Gods examine him with.

The world’s number one Test batsman can do it all with the bat. You name it – building an innings, getting his team out of a hole, building huge towers on the Manhattan graph at the end the innings – he can do it all.

One more thing that should guarantee AB’s retention is the fact there are very few top class wicket-keepers available in the auction. Hence, Vijay Mallya and co. will be taking a huge gamble if they don’t secure the services of the exceptional 29-year-old before the auction next month.

Retention Possibility: 90%

2. Chris Gayle

Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Chri

Early in the 2011 season, Ray Jennings’s men were on a negative spiral after going four games without a win in the competition. Australian fast bowler Dirk Nannes suffered an unfortunate injury which proved to be a blessing in disguise for RCB as they had the fortitude of replacing the Australian fast bowler with West Indies’s explosive batsman Chris Gayle. The rest as they say, is history.

Gayle’s performances in the Red and Gold jersey are stuff of legends. The Jamaican has – without doubt – been the biggest match-winner in the competition over the last three seasons. The top run-getter in the tournament in 2011 and 2012, Gayle has devastated bowlers in a way that is impossible to explain with mere words.

Though Gayle’s performances over the last year in other T20 leagues and at the international level have been indigent, it is unthinkable that RCB would not retain the services of Caribbean superstar, particularly because of his scintillating  record at the cricket stadium adjacent to Cubbon Park in Bangalore.

Retention Possibility: 95%

1. Virat Kohli

Royal Challengers Bangalore fielder Vira

In 2010, RCB’s squad had many top IPL players. The likes of Dale Steyn, Robin Uthappa, Ross Taylor, Jacques Kallis, Kevin Pietersen, Praveen Kumar, etc. were household names who had performed well for the Bangalore team previously. Despite all their heroics, there was one man Vijay Mallya’s side retained.

Virat Kohli, the Indian-captain-in-waiting, has been one of the most consistent batsman in world since making his debut in international debut in 2008. Just last year, he equalled Sri Vivian Richards’s record of being the quickest batsman to reach 5000 runs in ODI cricket.

Be it for brand value, or his supreme batting, Virat Kohli just cannot be let off by RCB. One could say that there are more chances of Akshay Kumar starring in a sensible film in 2014 than RCB not retaining India’s new Test number four.

Retention Possibility: 100%