Willy-nilly, Virat Kohli will be in the spotlight — as batsman and captain — when Royal Challengers Bangalore play Kolkata Knight Riders in their opening match after resumption of the Indian Premier League. Kohli hogged the headlines all last week after announcing that he will relinquish the India T20 captaincy after the World Cup, and everything he does over the next four weeks will obviously be watched with great interest.
Modest batting form and inability to win multi-team tournaments — at the international level and the IPL — have been widely cited as reasons why Kohli had come under pressure from the BCCI and took the decision to step down from the Indian captaincy. IPL 2021 gives him scope to prove his detractors wrong.
RCB were on a roll in the first half of the tournament played in India and are currently placed third in the points table. Rivals KKR are currently languishing at No.7, second from the bottom. There is some psychological advantage in this but only if RCB pick up momentum immediately by finding the right combination and in-form players.
This is where Kohli and coach Mike Hesson could run into some headwinds. Several overseas players across all teams have opted out from the second half of the League, but RCB appear to have been affected the most in losing Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams and most crucially perhaps, allrounder Washington Sundar to injury.
This increases expectations from not only overseas stars AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell and Sri Lankan mystery spinner Wanindu Hasaranga drafted in recently, but also Indian players in the squad like Devdutt Padikkal, Mohamed Siraj, Yuzvendra Chahal and above all, Kohli himself. There has to be individual and collective excellence if RCB have to make it to the playoffs first before aspiring for the title.
KKR may have struggled when the matches were played in India. But Eoin Morgan has under him a talented and experienced bunch which can’t be underperforming all the time. While Pat Cummins will be missed, the overseas quotient is still formidable with Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, Lockie Ferguson, new recruit Tim Southee and Morgan himself.
Homegrown talent in the form of Shubman Gill, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Shivam Mavi gives the squad a roundedness that RCB lack. For some reason, KKR did not quite find their mojo in the first half of the tournament. There was a tentativeness about the players, which if it has been overcome, will be a threat to all teams
While KKR undoubtedly have an uphill task to reach the playoffs, they could easily trip any of the teams in the top half of the points table. RCB and Kohli need to be on guard.
Players To Watch Out For:
RCB: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers
KKR: Eoin Morgan, Varun Chakravarthy
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