Lead­ers of the pack who hate to lose

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - Rutvick Mehta rutvick. mehta@ dnain­dia. net Rutvick Mehta Rutvick Mehta

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.

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