In Kohli and Rahul’s absence, Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadhav need to deliver

Last season was so very nearly Royal Challengers Banglore’s  IPL. Led by Virat Kohli and with sometimes surreal contributions from AB de Villiers, the batting papered over most weaknesses in the bowling to lift RCB to the final. Without their bowling spearhead Mitchell Starc, they found tremendous lift from Yuzvendra Chahal – a constant sources of wickets – and until he had a stunning rare off day during the final, Shane Watson. To get so far without Starc and while carrying an ordinary Chris Gayle was a big achievement for RCB. That they failed to chase 209 on the biggest stage will rankle.

They will be without Starc once again – he opted out citing a busy Australia season – but the real damage is not having KL Rahul the batsman and wicketkeeper for the whole tournament, and starting off without Kohli as he recovers from a shoulder injury sustained during the recent Test series.

Coach: Daniel Vettori

The former New Zealand captain and left-arm spinner adds RCB to his list of current employers that includes Brisbane Heat in Australia’s Big Bash League and Middlesex in English county cricket. The 37-year-old played for RCB when he was an active cricketer, and brings to the management the experience of 113 Tests, 295 ODIs and 34 T20Is in addition to six years in the IPL.

Captain: AB de Villiers

Kohli’s partner in many awe-inspiring partnerships, and the man who took RCB to the final with a superb unbeaten 79 from 45 balls after they had slumped to 68/6 against Gujarat in the first Qualifier, has been appointed captain until Kohli returns. AB de Villiers last season scored 603 runs – including a centuries and five fifties – to help RCB into the playoffs. There was no better No 3 in the tournament, or any batsman more captivating to watch. He will have to be better in the absence of Kohli and Rahul.

Squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Virat Kohli (out for two weeks), Chris Gayle, KL Rahul (ruled out), Shane Watson, Kedar Jadhav, Sarfaraz Khan, Yuzvendra Chahal, Iqbal Abdulla, Tymal Mills, Sreenath Aravind, Avesh Khan, Samuel Badree, Stuart Binny, Aniket Choudhary, Praveen Dubey, Travis Head, Mandeep Singh, Adam Milne, Pawan Negi, Harshal Patel, Sachin Baby, Tabraiz Shamsi, Billy Stanlake

Key players: In Kohli and Rahul’s absence, Mandeep Singh and Kedar Jadhav need to deliver. Mandeep should slot as opener alongside Chris Gayle, while Jadhav will keep wickets in the place of Rahul. Watson and de Villiers will need to repeat their 2016 performances, leaving Mills to shoulder a big part of the bowling. Legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal has taken 44 wickets in his last two seasons with RCB, and now has an even higher pedigree after becoming the owner of the best figures by an Indian bowler in T20Is – 6/25 earlier this year.

Past performances: 2016 – runners-up; 2015 – third place; 2014 – seventh place; 2013 – fifth place; 2012 – fifth place; 2011 – runners-up; 2010 – third place; 2009 – runners-up; 2008 – seventh place.

Probable XI: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Mandeep Singh, 3 AB de Villiers (capt), 4 Shane Watson, 5 Kedar Jadhav (wk), 6 Sarfaraz Khan, 7 Pawan Negi, 8 Yuzvendra Chahal, 9 Tymal Mills, 10 S Aravind, 11 Harshal Patel

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