Leader Kohli back in command

14-04-2017
DH

Nursing a shoulder injury that he sustained during the third Test against Australia last month in Ranchi, Kohli had been ruled out for the first two weeks of the IPL by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). However, nine days into the league, the BCCI medical team has declared the right-hand batsman match fit, giving the Bengaluru team joy and relief in equal measure. 

Kohli’s recovery means he will get back to his regular duty of captaining the Royal Challengers when they take on the Mumbai Indians in a marquee clash here at the Chinnaswamy stadium on Friday. 

The star batsman had showed signs of recovery when he hit the nets on the eve of Royal Challengers’ second game against the Delhi Daredevils here last Saturday. After dropping hints of a comeback for the game against Mumbai in the social media, Kohli further raised hopes of return when he took part in a rigorous training session here on Wednesday.

As much as it is a big boost to the league, Kohli’s presence bolsters the RCB unit in a huge manner. Placed sixth (two points) with a single win from three games, Kohli’s comeback couldn’t have come at a better time for the Challengers. On the leadership front, the 28-year-old will be aiming to lift the confidence of the side and infuse the fighting spirit in his players.

Kohli, along with seasoned campaigner AB de Villiers, will form the backbone of RCB’s batting. Though it was his first match following a back injury, de Villiers proved why he is considered one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world with a superb 46-ball 89 not out knock against the Kings XI Punjab on Monday. 

The Challengers though are not devoid of problems. While they have failed to find a fixed opening pair, the inexperienced middle order has struggled to keep the run flow going. Kohli, in all probability, will open the innings and push Watson down the order to give some solidity to the middle-order. 

To exclude Gayle in the Punjab tie was a bold move and it remains to be seen if the management sticks with that decision. Gayle’s great record at the Chinnaswamy cannot be ignored and if he has to get a look in, it will be interesting to see which of the three players -- Shane Watson, Tymal Mills and Billy Stanlake -- will be dropped.

While Watson hasn’t exactly fired as an all-rounder in the three games, Mills has managed to produce a decent performance, proving vital in the death overs. Stanlake, despite on the expensive side in the last game, has shown promise of a good strike bowler. 

Though it is their home game, the Challengers will require a great effort to get past the in-form Mumbai. Left-hand middle order batsman Nitish Rana has emerged a match-winner for Mumbai while Jasprit Bumrah will be tough to tackle in the death overs. The Pandya brothers -- Krunal and Hardik -- can turn the game in Mumbai’s favour from any situation while the experienced Harbhajan Singh and Rohit Sharma bring balance to the side. 

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