Who will be the champion this year?
Who will be the champion this year?

Having lost two of their three games thus far in IPL 2017, Royal Chal-lengers Bangalore received a mas- sive boost ahead of their next fixture, against Mumbai Indians on April 14, with regular skipper Virat Kohli likely to make his come-back after a brief injury lay-off.

Kohli, who was sidelined for at least the first week of IPL due to a shoulder injury, is all set to return to the field when RCB host the Rohit Sharma-led side at the Chinnas-wamy Stadium in the day game of Friday’s double header. “Can’t wait to get back onto the field now. Almost there. 14th April,” Kohli posted on his Instagram account.

Virat Kohli was sidelined due to a shoulder injury sustained during the third Test of the India-Australia series. The Indian captain had earlier stated that he would only take the field when he is “120 percent fit”.

“The priority is Indian cricket with the Champions Trophy coming up and I don’t want to take any risks. I have not set any date and I will only return when I am 120 percent fit. Having said that I would like to return on field as soon as possible,” Kohli said on air during RCB’s opening clash against Sun-risers.

“I would say I have not got a bit used to it as I have already missed a Test match. But it is frustrating that you can’t play because of injury on just one part of your body,” he added.

There is a noticeable lack of vigor in the RCB batting line-up. It was made more ev-ident with the Shane Watson-led side strug-gling to post competitive totals on the board. In the two games that they’ve batted first, RCB couldn’t get past 160.

With Kohli soon returning to the fold, RCB can buy themselves some breathing space. If and when he takes the field, one of Stuart Binny or Mandeep Singh is likely to warm the bench.

Meanwhile, former India captain Sourav Ganguly has said that one of the reasons for the mixed performance of the Royal Challengers Bangalore so far in IPL 2017 has been the fact that they have been missing the leadership of Virat Kohli, who has not yet played a game this season, owing to injury.

“It has been a pretty even start for most of the teams except for Royal Challengers Bangalore who have lost a lot of players due to injury. South African AB de Villiers made a comeback on Monday night and made his presence felt straight away but you can see the side is missing the leadership and de-termination of their captain Virat Kohli,” Ganguly wrote in his column for the Times of India.

Kohli has been forced to sit out of the initial stages of the IPL because he is yet to recover from the shoulder injury that he sustained during the Ranchi Test against Australia last month. However, in a recent post on Instagram, the right-hander gave strong hints about his availability for the sec-ond home game of the franchise against the Mumbai Indians on the 14th of April.

In the absence of the talismanic Indian, the 2016 runners-up have been led by Shane Watson and the gulf in leadership have been visible, particularly in the losses against the Sunrisers in the opening game and the Kings Xi Punjab in the third game.

Th RCB have been missing a character like Kohli on the field, who can really uplift the side with his energy and they will hope for him to return for the game against Mum-bai on home turf on Friday.

Not just from the leadership point of view, but also with his batting, Kohli will undoubtedly strengthen the RCB if he does play the next game. What though will be in-teresting to see is can he carry the same kind of form that he showed in the Test season and play with the same authority that he did in the T20 format, as he did in Tests?

Ganguly makes a valid point when he says that the RCB have missed the deter-mination of Kohli. The 28-year-old in his span as Indian captain has displayed a lot of emotions, both on and off the field and it will now be interesting to see whether he can transfer the positive energy to the rest of his teammates and help them turn the fortunes around.

In a related development, Delhi Dare-devils batsman Karun Nair was asked to pick a batsman apart from himself who he thought would win this season’s Orange cap in the IPL. Nair picked Virat Kohli as his choice and hoped that he will soon return from his shoulder injury and win it for the second season in a row.

In a light-hearted rapid-fire session with Mark Butcher from Sky Sports, Karun was asked to pick his choice for the highest run scorer in IPL 2017, and while he acknowl-edged that he would like to take home the Orange cap, he picked Indian skipper Virat Kohli as his other option.

Kohli won the cap last season by scoring 973 runs in 2016 but has already missed the first few games of the ongoing season owing to a shoulder injury he suffered during the third Test against Australia in Ranchi. But the fact that the 25-year-old backed his skip-per to come back from his injury and do an encore speaks volumes of the kind of player Kohli is.

The success of teams will also depend on their schedule
The success of teams will also depend on their schedule

The Daredevils batsman opened up about his teammates at Delhi Daredevils as well and picked Rishabh Pant as the worst roommate. Nair also picked Khalil Ahmed as the worst-dressed player in the side due to his lack of style.

While the Karnataka batsman believes that he has the best arm in the team he ac-knowledged that Carlos Brathwaite was the most powerful striker of the cricket ball in the Delhi side. Upon being asked which Daredevils fast bowler he least likes to face, Nair said that Delhi have quite of few of them in the form of Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins, and Zaheer Khan, but the South African topped his list.

Karun, who also hit a Test match tri-ple century against England in Chennai, once again named Rishabh Pant as the one who’s always late for the team bus, while Brathwaite was also the biggest joker in the side.

Meanwhile, David Warner says he re-mains good friends with Virat Kohli despite a bitterly fought Test series which ended with the Indian captain saying that he was no more friends with the Australian cricketers.

Warner had a chat with Kohli during the IPL inaugural ceremony here. “Ya. I had a chat with Virat. We are still friends, thankfully. I had a text conversation with him which is very nice of him,” said Warner.

“As we all know, we all got jobs to do. You guys (journalists) write, right or wrong. We players…that’s how the game is. But, away from this, we are still very good friends,” the Sunrisers Hyderabad captain.

Against the backdrop of sparks flying during the recent tour of Australia to India, Warner was asked whether he got a chance to have a chat with Kohli. “Sometimes on the field, we can take it too seriously and for the emotions for the next hour, we might be thinking they are not going to be anymore this and that, but for us, we are all going to be friends, everything is taken care.

“It’s a friendly environment, especially IPL and world cricket. We just love playing the game and making sure everyone is smil-ing,” he said.