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regular-article-logo Friday, 31 May 2024

Indian Premier League: Virat Kohli the cynosure, but KKR hot favourites in sultry city

RCB are having another horrendous run in this edition: six losses from seven matches and lying at the bottom of the table

Indranil Majumdar Calcutta Published 21.04.24, 09:27 AM
KKR mentor Gautam Gambhir (left) withRCB’s Virat Kohli on Saturday.

KKR mentor Gautam Gambhir (left) withRCB’s Virat Kohli on Saturday. PTI

For the few hundreds gathered outside Eden Gardens on a sultry Saturday afternoon, Sunday’s contest is not about Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore. It’s about Virat Kohli and his impending battle with Mitchell Starc and Sunil Narine.

Kohli’s glorious run in IPL 2024 — he’s the Orange Cap holder with 361 runs — has kept their interest alive. It matters little if he has a relatively poor strike-rate of 147-plus or his 113 not out off 72 balls versus Rajasthan Royals was the slowest century in the history of the tournament.

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The prospect of getting to see Kohli bat will entice the fans to fill the stands again. The debate over his efficacy in the format given the World Cup is only a little over a month away will linger but he remains the fans’ favourite.

As the RCB players fine-tuned their skills in the nets, Kohli locked himself in a brainstorming session in an adjacent area with captain Faf du Plessis and the support staff.

It was not just about finding feet to keep alive their IPL playoff chances, it was also about devising the right tactics against the Knights on Sunday. Even 182 runs — with Kohli contributing an unbeaten 83 — weren’t enough at the Chinnaswamy in Bangalore to prevent KKR from cruising to victory.

RCB are having another horrendous run in this edition: six losses from seven matches and lying at the bottom of the table. It’s still an enigma as to why RCB continue to flounder every season despite having some of the biggest names in their ranks.

Kohli, Du Plessis and Dinesh Karthik have contributed the most runs. Karthik has been a revelation with a strike-rate of 205.45 in the end overs. It was mainly because of his 83 off 35 balls that RCB finished 25 short in their chase of 288 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in their last match.

KKR will draw inspiration from their near-perfect record against RCB at the Eden following a disheartening loss to Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday.

The home team will look to stiffle Kohli on a slow wicket, a surface where he has generally struggled to find momentum. Sunil Narine could be an useful option in the circumstances.

Kohli’s record against Narine is not awe-inspiring — 127 runs with a strike rate of 107.62. The off-spinner has dismissed Kohli four times off 118 balls.

To counter the spin threat, Kohli batted only in the nets for spinners on Saturday.

But the battle between Kohli and Starc will also be keenly followed. Kohli made 33 off 17 balls in his face-off with Starc in their only IPL meeting in Bangalore.

Will the fast bowler be able to dismiss the Kohli threat in the Powerplay overs to spell RCB’s doom?

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