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IPL 2020 – RCB – Virat Kohli’s mentorship and never-say-die attitude vital, says coach Simon Katich

Eight seasons as captain, zero titles. And unlike most previous seasons, Virat Kohli didn’t enjoy a whole lot of success with the bat during IPL 2020 either, with his 466 runs coming at 121.35, his worst strike rate in any season he’s captained in.

Those returns, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s poor finish – they lost each of their last five games, in the process squandering a possible top-two finish, only qualifying for the playoffs by the skin of their teeth and losing the Eliminator to the Sunrisers Hyderabad – have left critics, most notably the former India opener Gautam Gambhir, asking if Kohli should continue to lead the side.

Simon Katich, the Royal Challengers’ head coach, has defended Kohli’s leadership, highlighting two facets in particular: his mentorship of younger players – notably the opener Devdutt Padikkal, who scored 473 runs, including five half-centuries, in his debut season – and his ability to lift the players and keep them fighting to the end, up to and including the team’s defence of a below-par 131 against the Sunrisers in Friday’s Eliminator.

“We’re very fortunate to have spent these last 11 weeks working with him and I think what we’ve seen is someone that’s highly professional, someone that’s very, very well-respected by the group here, and not just for what he does on the field,” Katich said in a media interaction on Saturday. “I think his time around the group – both he and his wife Anushka [Sharma] spent a lot of time around the group, in the team room, and socialising with everyone – and what we saw, we saw someone that is very invested in this group, spent a lot of time with the younger players.

“We paired him up with young Padikkal as a mentor, and we saw the growth in him throughout the tournament, having that time speaking batting with Virat Kohli is invaluable for his growth, and that’s the side a lot of people don’t see with Virat.

“The other thing we saw, which was very visible on the field, was that we’ve got a leader that, no matter what the game situation is, gets the other ten guys to follow him and stay in the contest. And one thing [for which] we’re very proud of this group throughout this season is that we hung in the contest, we fought right to the end, even last night [in the Eliminator] when it looked like we didn’t have enough runs on the board. We fought right till the end, and that’s something that we’re very proud of, and Virat can take a lot of credit for that.”

On the batting front, Katich pointed to a few mitigating factors that contributed to Kohli’s returns, and said it wasn’t right to judge his season “purely on the numbers”.

ALSO READ: RCB season review: Lack of lower-order firepower mars improved performance

“I think what we saw this year was, we did have consistent opening partnerships, between Padikkal and [Aaron] Finch,” Katich said. “Even though Finch probably [didn’t get] the volume of runs that he would have hoped for, we actually did get solid opening partnerships, so from that point of view, that was an area we wanted to address.

“We got that, but then, as a byproduct of that, it probably meant that Virat came into the innings outside the powerplay on a number of occasions, which is never an easy time to start your innings, particularly here in the UAE where we found the conditions, particularly late in the tournament, starting to slow up.

“That was a challenge for him, but we saw the class of Virat, particularly in the game against Chennai where he got that 90 off [52], or a number of times where the game situation didn’t help. He was looking like he was well on top of the bowling and we’d lose wickets at the crucial time, and that would sort of slow his progress, so you can’t just judge it purely on the numbers.

“There were a number of games where he looked right at home and right at ease and then, unfortunately, we got schooled at times.”

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