There is something alluring about come-from-behind wins; they bring excitement, generate tension and provide a touch of drama to the proceedings.
Virat Kohli’s bradmanesque run in this IPL and AB de Villiers’ prolific form may have entertained the fans across the cricketing world but there has been certain inevitability to the outcome whenever the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s duo has fired in unison.
Sport, though, thrives on unpredictability. There may not have been a single soul in the stadium that went home without that “I was there” feeling after de Villiers pulled off a big heist against Gujarat Lions in the Qualifier 1 on Tuesday, propelling RCB into their third IPL final.
The Chinnaswamy stadium has witnessed some superlative batting performances this season — right from RCB’s opening match here against Sunrisers Hyderabad to hosts’ last league tie against Kings XI Punjab who conceded over 200 runs in just 15 overs in a rain-curtailed affair. Kohli alone has notched up three of his four hundreds this IPL at this venue where bowlers have been left at the mercy of the marauding RCB batsmen.
That said, De Villiers’ unbeaten 79 (47b, 5x4, 5x6) that sealed the Qualifier 1 in favour of RCB will put to shade every previous significant knock, including the South African’s unbeaten 137 against Gujarat Lions. Being 29/5 in a chase of 159 on a tricky pitch was somewhat similar to being two sets and a match-point down in a tennis match, both near impossible situations to win from. But then winning from such positions is what separates the great from the mere good ones and de Villiers does belong to the former category.
There is certain madness to de Villiers’ methods though. While Kohli’s approach is more methodical and calculative that has helped him mount many a successful chase, de Villiers always appears to be living on the edge. Though there were always hopes of an RCB win so long as de Villiers was at the crease on Tuesday against Lions, it seemed he could get out any moment. Where Kohli walks the tightrope, de Villiers believes in sprinting it. But then there is no one way to success.
“It’s a funny thing,” said de Villiers when asked about risk assessment. “Virat and I actually spoke about it before the game. Through our innings, he was full of energy giving a lot of information out. He was really energetic and I told him – ‘Virat, you know I’ll just go naturally about it.’ I don’t think too much. He’s (Kohli) a thinker, I’m not a big thinker. I try and assess what’s going on but don’t think too much.”
Instinct, of course, is a big part of de Villiers’ game – whether it’s at the start of his innings or during a crisis, you never know what is coming out of his bat.
“I’m never 100% sure,” he remarked when asked as to when does he decide to tee off. “It’s very easy to say now after crossing the line. But had I got out somewhere in the last three overs, everyone would have said bad decision. It’s a fine line but I follow my instincts. I try and watch the ball closely. I’ve played the game for many years now and I know my talent will take over if I just watch the ball and enjoy myself out there. We had a smile on our faces through most of our innings even though we were under a lot of pressure and very nervous. That’s the key for me – watch the ball and enjoy cricket. Instinct, I’d say,” he explained.
This is his second final with RCB, the first one being in 2011, the year he joined the team.
“Honestly, can’t explain how much it means to me,” he said about the campaign so far. “I haven’t played a lot of finals in my career. (I have) been with RCB for six years and we haven’t seen a lot of finals. A lot of people said we’re underperforming but it’s moments like this that really make it worthwhile.”