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Royal Challengers Bangalore

In the second season, they muddled through the first half of the competition before a late surge under Anil Kumble's captaincy lifted them to the finals.

Going into this IPL season, Bangalore have two clear advantages over their start to the campaign in South Africa: first, in Kumble they have a fixed leader for the entire tournament, unlike the uncertainty surrounding who would take over once Kevin Pietersen left after a handful of matches in 2009.

Second, and perhaps more significantly, their Indian contingent looks much more formidable this season - the Karnataka trio of Manish Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun and R Vinay Kumar have all had excellent domestic seasons while Sreevats Goswami, the Bengal wicketkeeper-batsman, topped the run-charts in the recent Vijay Hazare tournament with 568 runs in seven innings. With Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Praveen Kumar, Virat Kolhi and Robin Uthappa likely to play most games, Bangalore won't be forced to field any makeweight Indian players in the XI unlike in previous seasons.

Coach Ray Jennings said the key to success in the tournament was to have a committed and motivated group of players. "To be the finalists in South Africa is an achievement but that's forgotten, we need to set new goals," he said. "It's a type of game in which the best side doesn't always win, so you have to make sure that you are aggressive, and be very passionate when you play."

New faces

Bangalore may not have splashed money on big names, but they have made two shrewd overseas buys. One is Ireland-born batsman Eoin Morgan who, with his inventive, made-for-Twenty20 strokeplay, looks a steal at US$220,000 after an assured first year as England's limited-overs finisher. The other is allrounder Steven Smith, who has made his name in Twenty20s with three solid seasons for New South Wales in the Big Bash and was key to their 2009 Champions League victory. Bangalore are a bit light on allrounders, which is where this legspinner and hard-hitting batsman comes in. His athletic fielding will also prove handy.

Look out for

Vijay Mallya paid big money two years ago for Cameron White, when the batsman was still a relative unknown. White has had an indifferent couple of seasons with Bangalore, but is entering this tournament on the back of one of his most fruitful periods with Australia. In the absence of Kevin Pietersen and Ross Taylor in the initial stages, White could be the man to keep the boundary-count soaring for Bangalore.

Missing in action

Jesse Ryder is out of the entire tournament with an injury. Bangalore will miss not only his hard-hitting batting but also his disciplined medium-pace bowling and athletic fielding. Pietersen will join the squad only in late March and Taylor will be occupied with the series against Australia till the end of the month.


The batting. Even in their forgettable Champions League campaign, Bangalore's batsmen delivered in three of the four matches.


The bowling. Dale Steyn isn't as feared in Twenty20 as he is in Tests, Anil Kumble hasn't played regular cricket for a long time, and the other bowling options aren't names that batsmen will lose sleep over. On benign Indian tracks, the opposition should fancy running up big scores.

A virtually unknown Manish Pandey became famous after slamming a century against Deccan Chargers last year. He has followed that up with a superb Ranji Trophy season, topping the run-charts with 882 runs.

IPL 2009 - The key figures

Final position: Runners-up
Top scorer: Jacques Kallis with 361 runs at 27.76
Top wicket-taker: Kumble with 21 wickets at 16.52 and economy-rate of 5.86
Best result: Seven-wicket win over in-form Delhi Daredevils to stay in race for semi-finals
Worst result: 92-run loss to Chennai Super Kings in their second match
Highest team score: 176 for 4 v Kolkata
Lowest team score: 87 v Chennai

Prediction for 2010

Expect them to make the semi-finals.

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