WPL 2023: Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) looking like the favourites to win the title

RCB has built a near-perfect squad for WPL 2023 and has a real chance to get their hands on some silverware for the first time.
 
RCB WPL 2023 Squad

Royal Challengers Bangalore has been one of the most popular brands of not only the IPL but of India in general in the last decade and a half. The fact that they now also have a team in the Women’s Premier League will help the women’s game grow by leaps and bounds. They start their campaign on the 5th of March against the Delhi Capitals. Here we look at their squad composition, strong and weak points, some uncapped players to watch out for, and what can be expected of them in the tournament.

RCB WPL 2023 Squad

Squad: Smriti Mandhana, Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Renuka Singh, Richa Ghosh, Erin Burns, Disha Kasat, Indrani Roy, Shreyanka Patil, Kanika Ahuja, Asha Shobana, Heather Knight, Dane van Niekerk, Preeti Bose, Poonam Khemnar, Komal Zanzad, Megan Schutt, Sahana Pawar

Support staff: Mike Hesson (Director), Ben Sawyer (Head coach), Malolan Rangarajan (Head of scouting and Assistant coach), Vanitha VR (Scout and Fielding coach), Sania Mirza (Mentor)

Royal Challengers Bangalore made the costliest buy in the WPL auction in the form of Smriti Mandhana, who they got for 3.4 cr, and have made her the captain, as was expected. Despite shelling out the big bucks for Mandhana, they were able to use their remaining purse well in the auction and have managed to build a squad with a solid core Indian contingent — Mandhana, Richa Ghosh, and Renuka Thakur, and some top-draw international icons like Ellyse Perry and Sophie Devine. Their dedicated scouting team has also ensured that they have found promising Indian talent from around the country to support the international stars.

Their support staff includes head coach Ben Sawyer, who is also known as a serial winner as he has coached the Australian national women’s team to two T20 World Cup trophies and the Sydney Sixers to two WBBL titles. He has a lot of other coaching experience as well in the Women’s Hundred and with the New Zealand national women’s team. Mike Hesson meanwhile will continue in his role as the director of cricket operations with RCB, and last but not the least, RCB has roped in one of, if not the most popular Indian female athlete Sania Mirza as a mentor to guide the women in red on the mental side of things.

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RCB Depth Chart

Strengths

Robust batting lineup

RCB have one of the most well-rounded batting lineups in the tournament with reliable resources for each phase of the innings. Mandhana and Sophie Devine will start for them at the top with Ellyse Perry and Dane van Niekerk controlling the middle overs and Richa Ghosh being responsible for the death.

They also have talented domestic players who have been doing exceedingly well to fill in the gaps between the international players. Indrani Roy is a right-handed wicket-keeper batter who opens for Jharkhand in domestic cricket and has been in and around the Indian set-up. Disha Kasat is a star top-order batter in the domestic circuit, while the likes of Poonam Khemnar and Kanika Ahuja can hit some lusty blows at the back end.

New ball bowling

To have Renuka Thakur is one thing. To have Renuka Thakur, Megan Schutt, and Ellyse Perry in the same team is another. RCB have hit the jackpot with their new ball attack. Their record with the ball in the PP is exceptional.

Renuka has 20 wickets at an average of 17.70.
Schutt has 36 wickets at an average of 23.17.
Perry has 41 wickets at an average of 19.93.

And if these three were not enough, RCB has another new ball ace up their sleeves whom we’ll get introduced to later in the piece. The top orders of the other teams in the competition will have a lot of sleepless nights preparing and planning for this new ball bowling lineup.

Weaknesses

Death bowling

While RCB has some elite pace bowlers of the women’s game, none of them is a specialist death bowler. Here are the T20 career economy rates of the four international pacers they have:

  • Renuka Thakur — 9.73
  • Ellyse Perry — 7.74
  • Megan Schutt — 7.21
  • Sophie Devine — 7.86

Megan Schutt is the only reliable one among the four at the death. While Perry and Devine have pretty decent overall economy rates as far as death overs are concerned, their records in domestic competitions like WBBL and the Women’s Hundred aren’t as good.

The front loading of the bowling attack should ensure that on most days there won’t be much pressure at the death. But on days when the new ball attack doesn't fire, things might get tough towards the end of the innings. RCB will need to define the role of the second pacer at the death alongside Schutt and make sure that they train in a relevant manner both skill-wise and mentally.

No reliable finger spinners

RCB have seven finger-spin options in their squad — two left-arm and five right-arm. But all of them are either uncapped, non-frontline spinners, or haven’t played much recently. On tracks that provide assistance to spin, RCB’s inexperienced spinners might be found wanting, ceding the advantage to the opposition.

Uncapped Players to watch out for

Kanika Ahuja

Kanika Ahuja is a 20-year-old off-spinning all-rounder from Punjab who bats left-handed. She scored 155 runs at an average of 38.75 and a strike rate of 107.63 in the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy last season. RCB can look at her to fill the number 7/8 slot.


Komal Zanzad

Komal is a left-arm pacer from Vidarbha who can swing it around with the new ball and cause havoc on the opposition's top orders. She is the new ball ace mentioned above. In the last season of the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy, Zanzad picked 10 wickets in 8 innings at an economy rate of 4.66. Have a look at her skills for yourself and decide how big a threat she can be in the Powerplay.


Disha Kasat

Disha is a batting all-rounder from Vidarbha who bats right-handed and bowls right-arm off spin. She is in fine form with the bat and was the highest scorer in the last season of the Senior Women’s T20 Trophy with 300 runs in 8 innings at an average of 60 and a strike rate of 114.50. Expect her to start for RCB in the top three.


Probable Starting XI

Option A:

  1. Smriti Mandhana (C)
  2. Sophie Devine (OS)
  3. Disha Kasat
  4. Ellyse Perry (OS)
  5. Richa Ghosh (WK)
  6. Dane van Niekerk (OS)
  7. Kanika Ahuja
  8. Sahana Pawar
  9. Renuka Singh Thakur
  10. Megan Schutt (OS)
  11. Komal Zanzad

Option B:

  1. Smriti Mandhana (C)
  2. Sophie Devine (OS)
  3. Heather Knight (OS) 
  4. Ellyse Perry (OS)
  5. Richa Ghosh (WK)
  6. Indrani Roy
  7. Kanika Ahuja
  8. Poonam Khemnar
  9. Sahana Pawar
  10. Renuka Singh Thakur
  11. Megan Schutt (OS)

RCB's Overall Verdict for WPL 2023

RCB has built an almost complete squad with world-class, dynamic batters to wade through different phases of the innings, and have the best pace bowling attack in the tournament to go with it. They have invested in exceptional Indian domestic talent as well who slot nicely into the roles for which there are no international stars. If anything, the lack of a frontline international finger spinner might create some problems for them in certain conditions, but that is only a minor blip in what looks to be a near-perfect squad on paper. 

A top-two finish should be a minimum expectation with this lineup and don’t be surprised if they end up winning the first silverware in RCB’s history.