It has been an almost unprecedented start to IPL 2020 for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have three wins from their first four matches and are among the top two on the points table. In some ways, it was an unfamiliar start to the tournament for captain Virat Kohli too, who had scored a total of 18 runs in the first three games, and taken up 29 balls doing so.
While the Royal Challengers continued their good form with an eight-wicket win against the Rajasthan Royals on Saturday, Kohli broke out of his rut to make the highest score in the match, hitting 72 not out off 53.
A smiling Kohli later said that he had told Jos Buttler, the Royals wicketkeeper, during his innings that he both loved and hated the game, because of the contrasting fortunes it made you experience as a player.
“It’s a funny game you know. It’s an amazing game,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation to Ian Bishop when asked about his form. “I was telling Jos when I was batting in there, ‘I love this game and I hate it too’.
“It’s something that you need to understand as a player. When you play so much of cricket, you do feel like at times you’re not in control of what you want to do. But more than that, you feel disappointed when the team’s not doing well. But when the team’s doing well, you feel like ‘Okay I’ve got some more space to figure out how I want to go about applying my kind of batting for the benefit of the team.'”
Head coach Simon Katich said that while the support staff had never been worried about Kohli’s form, his batting in the Super Over against the Mumbai Indians could have marked the turnaround. AB de Villiers and Kohli faced up to a hostile Jasprit Bumrah over then, and Kohli hit the winning runs for Royal Challengers off the last ball.
“The way we’ve seen it, we don’t look at Virat being out of form at all,” Katich said after the game. “We see him batting in the nets, and we thought he looked magnificent in the first game. Unfortunately he holed out in that one [he was out for 14 off 13 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad] and then he missed out a couple of times. That can happen in T20s.
“I think what helped was he got us over the line in that Super Over. Great shot to finish the game there against Mumbai and he’s carried on from there. What we see in the nets from training to training is someone that’s super professional. He’s looked like he’s timing the ball beautifully and he works so hard at his game it was only a matter of time before he got runs in the middle. It was great to see him get out there today, control that chase – which we know he does so well – and hopefully now that will kickstart the rest of his IPL.”
While happy with how well his team had started, Kohli cautioned against relaxing, pointing out that it was very easy to fall behind in a tournament like the IPL.
“This tournament, we understand that it can get away from you very quickly,” he said. “In the past we’ve experienced that. When you start losing initially, the games start going past very quickly and suddenly you realise that you’re seven or eight games into the tournament and you have no points. And when you start well it’s important to continue that momentum. So yes, we will look to do that. Simply follow the process that we have in place and keep backing ourselves to go out there and execute the plans that we have.”
‘This guy’s got serious talent’ – Kohli on Devdutt Padikkal
Kohli’s knock against the Royals came in partnership with opener Devdutt Padikkal, who has hit three fifties in his first four IPL games. Padikkal made 63 off 45, and allowed Kohli the time to settle in. Kohli has worked closely with Padikkal since the team came to the UAE, with the Royal Challengers having paired up a youngster with an experienced hand and Kohli taking Padikkal under his wing.
“I saw him play and I told Simon [Katich]… I was like, ‘This guy’s got some serious talent’. Because he’s got reach and he’s got a great eye, great balance. His head’s very still,” Kohli said. “And a left-hander… it’s very difficult for the bowlers to continue bowling the same lines and lengths when a leftie is in. And the way he bats, it’s very, very clean shots. You don’t feel like he’s taking a risk as such. That kind of feeling you hardly get with batsmen that come at this level, when they haven’t played so much.
“I just kept talking to him about building innings. If he can bat long for the team, it’s going to benefit us more often than not. He’s a smart guy, he understands the game well and he responds to feedback very well.”
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