Can Pietersen switch Royal Challengers’ fortunes? (Team Preview)

Cape Town, April 16 (Inditop) Bangalore Royal Challengers would bank on their switch-hitting star Kevin Pietersen to switch the fortunes of the team in the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as they line up against Rajasthan Royals here Saturday.

Royal Challengers finished seventh, one above the bottom-placed Deccan Chargers, among eight teams in the inaugural edition. With some of the accomplished Test cricketers –Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Wasim Jaffer — in their ranks, Royal Challengers got the tag T20s Test side.

The poor finish saw Royal Challengers CEO Charu Sharma getting the marching orders even as doubts were raised over Rahul Dravid’s captaincy in the shortest format.

Liquor baron Vijay Mallaya, the owner of Royal Challengers, has looked to shed that image with some smart buys for the second edition.

Royal Challengers got New Zealand’s left-handed batting sensation Jesse Ryder for a price of $160,000. They swapped Zaheer Khan for city player Robin Uthappa from Mumbai Indians. They acquired Gaurav Dhiman from Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals’ tall speedster Pankaj Singh. They also have a new coach in South African Ray Jennings.

But their most prized catch was Pietersen for whom Mallaya spent a record $1.55 million after winning a fierce bidding with other owners, who all had their eyes set on the South African-born English cricketer.

In fact, Mallaya declared after the auction that he was ready to shell out more for Pietersen.

He surely had an important role for Pietersen and was quick to hand over the captaincy to the charismatic player, who will be available only for the first 15 days before flying back home for the Test series against the West Indies.

Kallis will take over the reins from Pietersen. Dravid might not be available for the entire period as his wife is expecting their second child which was cited as the reason for the captaincy change.

The shifting of IPL to South Africa has come as a boon for Royal Challengers as they have five home-grown players.

Apart from former South Africa coach Jennings, Dale Steyn, Jaques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Roelof Van der Merwe and Dillion du Preez are the five South Africans among their ten foreign recruits.

Jennings has asked the players to buck-up.

“The team lacked energy, commitment and skills. If you don’t enjoy each other’s company it must be a long six weeks,” Jennings had said. “I will point fingers at the senior players. They are the one who have to take the initiative,” he said.

Squad: Kevin Pietersen (captain), Ross Taylor, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Jesse Ryder, Mark Boucher, Sreevats Goswami, Dillon du Preez, Jacques Kallis, Roelof van der Merwe, Cameron White, Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar, Balachandra Akhil, Dale Steyn, Nathan Bracken, Pankaj Singh, Anil Kumble, Tinu Yohannan, Vinay Kumar.