What KL Rahul and de Villiers' absence could mean for RCB

What KL Rahul and de Villiers’ absence could mean for RCB

Will RCB find a way out or will the distance between them and the IPL trophy remain this time?

RCB KL Rahul
Mohali: Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Lokesh Rahul in action during an IPL match between Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore at Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali on May 9, 2016. (Photo Source: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)

Despite having the best batting line-up among all teams, RCB is yet to win the IPL trophy. The problem essentially lied with the “harmless” bowling line-up they possess. However, the franchise and its stakeholders would have surely stepped out more confidently after their decent show in the auction.

They have added two surprise elements in the bowling line-up as they acquired the services of Tymal Mills in the hope to compensate for the loss they had to face after Starc’s absence and left-arm fast bowler Aniket Choudhary who has made a mark in the domestic circuit. They also entrusted some responsibility in Pawan Negi to do something special for the Royal Challengers.

Now that things were finally looking good for the bowling department, RCB received its first blow when skipper Virat Kohli’s shoulder injury would mean that he will have to miss the initial games in the league. And if the absence of the captain and their highest run-scorer from the previous edition was not enough, another shoulder injury gave RCB its second blow.

KL Rahul, their third-highest run-getter from last year with a tally of 397 from 12 innings, is now sidelined for the entire edition due to a shoulder injury he sustained during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Just a while back, RCB suffered its third blow as AB de Villiers, their interim captain in the absence of Kohli, was ruled out of the Momentum cup final due to a back injury. While there is no official word about his participation in the IPL yet, we will weigh in the possible scenarios of all situations.

Since T20 requires some power shots, an injury scare is rather dangerous. The magnitude of the injury is what matter’s at the moment. Even if it is slightly serious, he will have to sit the league out, which is highly likely, considering that he will not risk anything before the Champions Trophy.

If it’s bearable, he will probably sit out the initial matches, or might even feature in the opener on 5th. However, if that’s not the case, Shane Watson will be the preferred captain.

Now, what RCB decides to do from here will be interesting. KL’s absence means that they will have to look for another wicket-keeping option- Kedar Jadhav, or AB de Villiers (if he plays) could be of use here, considering that KL Rahul was not a specialist wicket-keeper himself. Though, it’s a fat chance that de Villiers would be keeping wickets, especially after the back injury.

So, the first option that remains is that of Jadhav. The pressure on these two players will be a lot, considering that de Villiers will also take the role of the captain, and Jadhav will have to perform all the roles he is given, especially after his brilliant stint in the national side.

But, what if they pick someone new or someone from the unsold players? Both these possibilities are doubtful. Firstly, because nobody among the unsold players really fits the requirements of RCB, at the moment. It’s important to remember that RCB cannot buy another overseas bowler as they have completed their quota of nine. Naturally, an Indian top-order batsman is the preference. The ability to keep wickets can be the brownie points.

So, if we were to go by the reports, N Jagadadeesan might have a chance to make it into the RCB squad.  He is well suited for the role as he is top-order wicket-keeping batsman, and was the third highest run scorer in the Deodhar Trophy with 90 runs at an average of 63.33. He was instrumental in the victory for Tamil Nadu but only time will tell if he makes the cut for RCB.

If the Team decides to continue with the players already present in the squad, in all likelihood, it will be Chris Gayle and Mandeep Singh that will open the batting. Last year, both these players had some on and off performances and did not play most matches. The former was mostly out due to unavailability and poor form, while the latter due to an injury. Virat Kohli and KL Rahul’s opening partnerships were very vital in their wins during IPL 9. So, Gayle and Mandeep, if they take up the roles of openers, will have to replicate what their teammates did previously.

But it’s not that simple for RCB’s probable openers. Mandeep Singh in the recent past has been pretty dilly-dally despite a 97 in the Deodhar Trophy. Gayle too has been unable to reach a fifty in the last 10 T20 matches he played. His highest score in those ten innings remains 44 which came during the PSL. But Chris Gayle is too big a name to be benched, especially if two of the Team’s most vital batsmen are missing.

But, could we see a gamble in the overseas slot after Travis Head’s decent run in the Big Bash League, the Australian Team and first-class cricket? However, the chances are bleak again, because he is a middle order batsman and the quota of the overseas players in the Play XI would most likely be Gayle, de Villers, Shane Watson and Tymal Mills. But, the injury scare in the Team could actually provide him with the opportunity.

So, currently, RCB is in a fix. And for the first time, it’s not because of their bowlers. They have a lot of shuffling, and contemplation to do before the opening game against Sunrisers’ Hyderabad. KL Rahul will be seriously missed, considering the prolific form he has been in. His absence is indeed a dent for RCB and its fans. And, it will be a sorry state for if AB de Villiers too is absent.

Will RCB find a way out or will the distance between them and the IPL trophy remain this time?