RCB begin quest for elusive title

RCB begin quest for elusive title

Kohli's men take on formidable Knight Riders in their opener

RCB begin quest for elusive title

In the first decade of the Indian Premier League, the Royal Challengers Bangalore appeared to be a team destined to win just hearts.

The first nine years turned out to be a mixed bag for them -- some average outings combined with a few so-near-yet-so-far campaigns. Last season was special as the tournament entered its tenth year, giving Virat Kohli's men all the more reason to end the drought. However, what unfolded was a disaster.

RCB were nowhere close to their usual fearlessness and the entertaining style of play in IPL 10 and they will be eager to put the forgettable season behind when they face Kolkata Knight Riders in their opening tie of the 11th  season here on Sunday.

A bunch of decorated players in their ranks has always generated immense expectations from RCB fans and pundits alike. This time the case is no different. The Royal Challengers have brought in a couple of big guns but there is a good presence of young talent as well. Despite plenty of options, the task will be easier said than done for RCB here at the Eden Gardens.

Firstly, playing their opening game away from home will be a test of their character. RCB are known to shuffle their first eleven too often when things are not going in their favour early on. Kohli would certainly want a positive start and he will hope the core of the team is found soon. Secondly, KKR come into the tie with a psychological advantage of having won their last two meetings with the Bengaluru side.

AB de Villiers' hasn't lost his hunger for runs and his one century and three fifties in the four-match Test series is a proof. Skipper Kohli is returning fresh after a long break and the duo forms the core of RCB's batting line-up. But over dependence on them can spell doom for the Royal Challengers.    

One feature of the current squad that has impressed Kohli is the balance. The skipper has rightly been vocal about it as RCB have got so many choices to make in each department. While Brendon McCullum and AB de Villiers will be the foreign picks in the batting line-up, Chris Woakes could fill in the all-rounder's role. Pacer Collin de Grandhomme might be the fourth foreign player.

The Royal Challengers, if conditions demand, can beef up their spin attack by bringing in England's Moeen Ali. Yuzvendra Chahal is a sure starter and giving him company will be Washington Sundar. It will be interesting to see how Kohli makes use of the services of wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock. Apart from Umesh Yadav, the Indian pacers lack exposure against high-profile batsmen of the world. New Zealand's Tim Southee is vital thanks to his experience.    

An interesting duel of wrist spinners is on cards. India mates Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who have wreaked havoc while operating for the national team, will clash against each other and the battle promises to be an exciting one. Dinesh Karthik's leadership qualities will be tested as Kolkata will go without Gautam Gambhir, who guided them to two titles in his seven-year stint. Robin Uthappa, a prolific run-getter in IPL, will be a big threat to RCB.

Kannada chant of 'this time cup is ours' by players and fans has been the rage of RCB's build-up to the league. Time now for them to do justice to the hype!