Starc's pull-out opens new avenues for RCB

Starc's pull-out opens new avenues for RCB

With less than 24 hours left for the IPL Player Auction, the Royal Challengers Bangalore ended their contract with Aussie pacer Mitchell Starc on mutual consent. It’s both good news and bad news for the Bengaluru franchise.

Bad news because Starc, if fit and available, could have lent that lethal edge to RCB’s attack which they sorely missed the previous season. And good news because there was a genuine possibility of RCB missing Starc’s services again and hence they are better off picking a replacement right at the start of the season. The left-arm quick has already had a long season after returning from an ankle injury and he is expected to shoulder heavy workload in the four-Test series against India, commencing Thursday. Also, RCB will now have extra Rs 5 crore to spend at the auction.

RCB -- who have the dubious distinction of being the only side not to have lifted the trophy despite entering the final not once or twice but thrice (2009, 2011 and 2016) -- will once again start one of the strong contenders to land the spoils but they would do well to plug some gaping holes in their combination.

In the previous season, RCB needed a quality all-rounder and they went all out to buy Shane Watson, splurging over Rs 9 crore on the Australian. The pace-bowling all-rounder did live up to the high expectations but RCB were hit hard by the absence of an injured Starc. The Aussie fast bowler missed the entire season and RCB never managed to find the right replacement what with their Kiwi recruit and pacer Adam Milne too failing to recover from his injury.

With only two of the nine overseas slots left to be filled in their squad – overall seven – RCB will be gunning for pace-bowling all-rounder Ben Stokes. Besides Stokes, who also can be an ideal replacement for an injury-prone Watson, RCB are likely to opt for an overseas fast bowler. They have the trio of England’s Tymal Mills, who worked up good pace during T20Is against India recently, Aussie pacer Pat Cummins and the proven Kiwi left-armer Trent Boult to pick from.

Other overseas all-rounders like Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews and New Zealand’s Corey Anderson may also be of some interest for RCB.

Having released two Indian pacers – Varun Aaron and Sandeep Warrier – the Daniel Vettori-coached side may show interest in Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan. The disadvantage for Ishant, though, is the fact that he has listed himself in the Rs 2 crore category which may discourage franchises to bid for him, especially if he comes for auction at the start. Irfan, having listed himself in the Rs 50 lakh bracket, may attract RCB’s attention.

Current squad (Indian component): Virat Kohli (capt), KL Rahul (wk), Kedhar Jadhav, Stuart Binny, Yuzvendra Chahal, Iqbal Abdulla, S Arvind, Harshal Patel, Mandeep Singh, Sarfaraz Khan, Sachin Baby, Avesh Khan.

Overseas players: Chris Gayle, AB De Villiers, Shane Watson, Adam Milne, Samuel Badree, Travis Head, Tabraiz Shamsi.

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