As if the ignominy of languishing at the bottom of the table wasn’t enough, the Royal Challengers Bangalore got a major jolt when AB de Villiers was ruled out of their fixture against the Gujarat Lions at Rajkot. The announcement came just five hours before the start of the game, although the nature and extent of the injury still seem unknown.
Here are five players who could replace de Villiers in the playing XI:
#5 Vishnu Vinod
The aggressive top order batsman from Kerala has been one of the top performers for his team in the T20 format, credentials that earned him a place in the RCB squad as a replacement for the injured KL Rahul. The 23-year old got a chance to play for the Bangalore franchise for second and third matches of the season, just after he had scored 93 for Kerala against Himachal Pradesh in a List A game.
However, the move didn’t go as expected, for the keeper-batsman struggled during his stays in the middle, scoring 7 and 9 in two games. Having got a small break, he will now be itching to make a mark for himself and obliterate the poor IPL record that he currently has.
#4 Sachin Baby
A top heavy RCB might have to bolster its middle order, especially because of the poor form that Shane Watson is currently undergoing with the bat. Young Sachin Baby, who played eight games for the Bangalore franchise last season, has spent ample time in the camp to get accustomed to the rigours of the game. The Gujarat clash could see him return to the playing XI after having played only one game this season.
The 28-year old, skipper of the Kerala T20 team, can provide the final flourish in the closing overs, and can also chip in with some off-breaks if needed.
#3 Billy Stanlake
The absence of AB de Villiers gives RCB the chance to field another overseas player, which could help Billy Stanlake get his place back into the side. He got edged out of the playing XI because of the multiple options that the Bangalore team has to fill the four foreign player quota, which resulted in Adam Milne playing the last game.
The tall pacer can generate some serious pace at nagging lengths, which could come in handy against an explosive batting line-up that has numerous big hitters in its ranks. A pacy Stanlake can certainly turn on the heat on someone like Suresh Raina, who isn’t exactly the best exponent of playing short deliveries.
#2 Travis Head
Some call him AB de Villiers’ doppelganger, but Travis Head is far from the South African when it comes to his popularity in India. Head has featured in just one match this season for the Bangalore franchise. He scored 30 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the franchise’s first game of the season, steadying the innings after Mandeep Singh got out. An untimely injury to de Villiers could just be the opening Head needed to head back into the team.
A left-hander who can mix aggression with caution, Head can be an ideal fit especially because of the fragile middle and lower middle order that follows Shane Watson.
#1 Chris Gayle
The self-christened ‘World Boss’ is a pale shadow of his former self. Once the undisputed king of T20s, Gayle is finding himself difficult to wade through troubled form, hardly finding the rhythm to get going. The reasons for that might range from his age and fitness to lack of match practice, but the RCB is clearly hurting from the lack of runs next to his name.
He didn’t play RCB’s last game against the Rising Pune Supergiants, but could be back because of AB de Villiers’ injury: the Bangalore team needs an experienced hand at the top to arrest the slide that they are currently going through. If Gayle can reproduce even half the form he was in a few seasons ago, RCB might just get enough fuel to reboot their campaign.