Always known for their star-studded lineup, the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have made it a habit of having some of the best batsmen in the world in their roster.
They are a side which once comprised of Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and KL Rahul at the same time. So it's safe to say that RCB love their batsmen. Perhaps it is this very fact that also makes the unit a very 'top-heavy' batting side.
With players such as Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Moeen Ali and Aaron Finch all primarily being top-order batsmen, it tends to pose a problem of plenty at the top for the Bengaluru franchise.
When the top order fails, the middle order invariably does not put up much of a fight. A case in point was RCB's outing against a Gautam Gambhir-led KKR in the 2017 edition of the IPL, where the former were bundled out for 49, the lowest score ever recorded in the history of the IPL.
A solution for RCB to prevent such batting collapses and better equip their middle order, which could albeit be an unpopular opinion, would be to spread their big guns across the top six in the batting lineup. For example, skipper Kohli can come in at three and De Villiers at five to accomodate the other batting options in the team.
Another solution could be to try something new and unorthodox with their opening combination, which could potentially see RCB find success with their openers for the first time after the end of the Gayle-Kohli era. If ever a team had the batting arsenal to implement the same, it would have to be Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Here, we take a look at three such opening pairs that are not straight from the textbook. The success of these pairs could address RCB's long-standing middle order woes and also sustain their 'top-heavy' batting line-up.
Three opening pairs RCB could use in IPL 2020:
1): AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli
Two of the biggest names in white-ball cricket and arguably the best batting pair in the IPL, it is common knowledge that no opposition captain is truly at peace when AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli are at the crease.
The record-breaking 2016 IPL is proof enough that Virat Kohli brings his best to the table when he opens the innings for RCB. As for De Villiers, it is safe to say that a man with that level of talent and experience would have no problem batting anywhere in the order. Moreover, De Villiers has also opened the batting for clubs as well as for South Africa on many ocassions.
It is no secret that the two modern greats love batting together and share a great mutual understanding while building partnerships. The pair hold the top two spots in the highest ever IPL partnerships; they produced an unbeaten 215-run partnership against the Mumbai Indians in 2015 and a rollicking 229-run partnership against the Gujarat Lions where both batsmen sped to their individual centuries.
While it would be a high-risk move for RCB to have Kohli and De Villiers opening the batting, it could also reap rich rewards for the IPL franchise.
2): Washington Sundar and Aaron Finch
Once a youngster who was heralded to make it big, Washington Sundar hasn't found himself in the RCB playing XI very often. However, whenever he has been given opportunities to bat, he has shown glimpses of what he can do.
The lanky off-spinner can certainly tonk a few and play the field as well. If given a shot at the top of the order, Sundar could well go on to implement something similar to what Sunil Narine did for KKR under Gautam Gambhir.
Having been an opening batsman in his early days, Sundar could be given the role of a pinch-hitter with the sole purpose of making the ball reach the boundary. Even in the worst-case scenario, RCB would just have to go about their business as usual, given that there was is little price on Sundar's wicket to begin with.
If Sundar gets going, it would give Aaron Finch at the other end ample time to get settled. Finch would be able to take over the mantle of aggressor after Sundar departs, in the process allowing the other batsman to settle down at the crease.
This move would have potentially zero risk involved. If Sundar comes good in even 50% of the games he opens, it would help RCB's destructive batting lineup post more daunting totals and pile up the agony for the opposition.
3): Devdutt Padikkal and Joshua Phillippe
Granted, both Devdutt Padikkal and Joshua Philippe are top-order batsmen. But what makes this pair an unorthodox one is that neither of the two youngsters have an IPL game to their name yet. That in itself could be an X-factor to the RCB batting lineup, if two young, unknown talents of whom oppositions don't know much about, open the innings together.
Padikkal and Phillippe, having dominated the Indian domestic scenario and the Big Bash League respectively, have proven to everyone that they are ready for higher honours.
Given that they are both young players looking to make a mark on world cricket and start knocking at their respective national selectors' doors, they would be hungry for runs under their belt. That will ensure that they bring their best to every single game.
With Padikkal being the Bengaluru boy combined with his naturally aggressive game, he would be able to play the role of the aggressor while Phillippe anchors the innings.
This pair could also take pressure away from RCB's batting giants like Kohli, De Villiers and Finch who can focus on strengthening the middle order.
From a holistic perspective, the move would bring in better balance to the team as the RCB middle order, for the first time in years, would be a dependable one.