Leaders of the pack who hate to lose
Bengaluru: It’s only fitting that after 50 days and 60 matches of almost non- stop, frantic IPL action, the best batting team this season takes on the best bowling team in the final here on Sunday.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore have ridden on a bagful of runs to bulldoze every team that came their way in the latter half of the tournament, while the Sunrisers Hyderabad have relied on their streetsmart bowlers to get them out of trouble for the major part of the season. Both teams will hope that their firing unit takes care of the other for one last time.
It doesn’t require a rocket scientist to tell you that RCB have a definite edge. Their batting line- up, especially the top three, can put Bollywood’s Rs100- crore club to shame. It’s blockbuster stuff, and it’s just on paper.
That the RCB are backing their might with the bat once again was Bengaluru: Around hundred fans were waiting to catch a glimpse of Virat Kohli once he stepped out of the M Chinnaswamy Stadium after training to get into a waiting car in the premises of the Karnataka State Cricket Association ( KSCA) late on Friday evening.
As Kohli made his way to the car, he stopped for a few minutes to have a chat with an official. The fans, blocked by tight security, screamed ‘ Virat, Virat’ in unison.
However, there was one voice that resonated across the area, and that was of a 14- year- old girl. Khushi Shree, amidst the tall, bulky men, was trying her best to be heard, even carrying a big banner with Kohli’s smiling picture on it. “I can’t keep calm because I am a virat kohli fan... virat pls pls pls can I have a selfie,” the banner read.
Indeed, she couldn’t keep calm. Unable to catch Kohli’s attention, Khushi ducked and sneaked between the security personnel and seen in the way they went about their last training session on the eve of the final here on Saturday. Each batsman had an extended net session to both pacers and spinners adjoining each other.
Virat Kohli batted for about 20 minutes in the spinners’ nets. Perhaps thinking that it was his time now, Chris Gayle walked towards the crease. Kohli asked him to stop. He wanted to face one more ball. He played a reverse sweep off Iqbal Abdulla, and missed it completely.
The failed reverse sweep attempt aside, it just showed the mindset that the RCB skipper is in right now. He just wants to bat, he is hungry to keep scoring runs, hungry to add the missing trophy to his glittering cabinet.
That mindset seems to have rubbed off on each of his players, who have been on a juggernaut in the latter half of the season. If Kohli fails, AB de Villiers puts his hands ran towards Kohli. She stopped herself metres away from him and yelled, “Virat please, Virat please” while displaying the banner.
Just as the security men were rushing to pull her away, Kohli turned towards her, and had a glimpse at the banner. He asked his security guards to allow Khushi to meet him. She ran with the banner, and as she stationed herself next to Kohli, started crying.
Kohli saw the banner, and told Khushi: “Please calm down, and stop crying.”
Even as she was struggling to do that, Kohli asked one of his guards to click his picture with her. Knowing that her dream was turning into reality, Khushi finally flashed a smile. She turned towards Kohli and said, “I’m a big, big fan of yours.”
“Thank you very much,” Kohli said. The picture was clicked, Kushi’s dream was fulfilled.
But there was more joy in store for Khushi. As she was leaving, Kohli said: “Can I give you a hug?” Amazed, shocked and probably unable to believe what was happening, Khushi said, “Yes, please.” Kohli smiled, and gave her a warm hug. He also signed an autograph on the banner.
“Thank you Virat. I love you,” Khushi said, tears rolling down her eyes again.
Khushi then sprinted towards her parents, and jumped to hug her mother, who was weeping as well. Her parents were equally ecstatic, for they had brought their daughter to the stadium for every training session of the Royal Challengers Bangalore since the IPL began in the hope that Khushi would get to meet her hero.
“We have been coming here for the past two months,” Khushi said. “I would force my parents to get me here for every RCB training session because I wanted to meet Virat anyhow. I knew this was my last chance, and hence I made a banner for him,” she added, also not forgetting to apologise and thanking the security guards.
A student of St Sophia’s school, Khushi became a fan of Kohli in 2014 while watching India’s Test match against Sri Lanka.
“I just loved his dedication and aggression towards the game. Plus, he looks very good. I wanted to meet him since that time. Now, I can say that I have hugged Virat. I don’t know how to react,” Khushi said.
“Look at her, she is still shivering,” her mother said.
Who wouldn’t? Bengaluru: In the second strategic time- out during Sunrisers Hyderabad’s innings in the eliminator against Gujarat Lions in New Delhi on Friday, skipper David Warner was visibly furious at his batsmen throwing their wickets away, venting it out in front of head coach Tom Moody. Around four overs later, he jumped in jubilation as he hit the winnings runs to take his team into the final.
Within a span of minutes, Warner’s sentiments turned from frustration to satisfaction, from anger to joy. And, he isn’t one to hide his emotions, just like his rival IPL final captain, Virat Kohli.
As much as the title clash is between two quality teams, it’s also between two leaders who have almost been mirror images of one another in terms of batting and captaincy. Kohli and Warner have stood out with the blade this season, sitting first and second, respectively, on the top run- scorers’ chat. The former is 81 runs away from becoming the first player ever to notch up a jaw- dropping 1,000 runs in an IPL season. With the way India’s Test captain has been pocketing centuries this season, it won’t be any surprise if he does get there.
Warner might not have scored runs in the same quantity as Kohli, but 779 runs has never been achieved in a single IPL season before 2016. And just like Kohli, Warner has almost single- handedly carried his team to the final with many a crucial, match- winning knock.
More than batting, though, it’s their leadership that has been at the heart of their team’s success this season. Their qualities as captain overlap: Both hate to lose. Both inspire their troops with their body language on the field. Both lead from the front.
“We both think on similar lines,” Kohli said on the eve of the final here on Saturday.
“As a leader, you try to execute things what you ask of your teammates first. If we want someone to be at 120 per cent on the field, we want to give that every ball that we field as well. So yes, you can say there is a lot of similarity ( between Warner and him) in terms of approaching the game the same way, wanting to contribute for the team’s cause, getting people together, wanting them to be at their best and giving it all for the team,” he added.
The duo are also not shy of wearing their heart on their sleeves. Kohli has always been extremely animated on the field. He is also one who never holds back if there are words thrown at him on the field, something that Warner has been quite famous for throughout his international career.
“Actually, he has not been very expressive on the field ( this season), which is great in terms of his development as a person,” Kohli said. “I think he has come a long way as a leader in this tournament. If you see the kind of hunger he’s had this season, and to get the job done for the team so many times, actually speaks volumes of his character and the hunger he has right now in terms of contributing in a big way,” he added.