With less than a week remaining for the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League, there was no clarity yet as to when Royal Challengers Bangalore’s talismanic captain Virat Kohli would be available to play this season.
“He will join the team here on April 2,” said coach Daniel Vettori as the RCB expectedly began their preparations without Kohli here at the ‘B’ ground of the Chinnaswamy stadium on Thursday.
“Between now and then, the BCCI doctors and physio will speak to us (on his condition) and our medical staff will get a clearer picture. Right now, we don’t have a clear picture on his availability. We’ll know in the next few days,” said Vettori.
Vettori was quick to reveal that in all likelyhood, AB de Villeirs will lead the side in Kohli’s absence.
“The likely scenario is that AB de Villiers will take over the duties but we’ll answer that once we find out if Virat is out,” he said.
Having stacked up 973 runs, Kohli had inspired RCB to the final last season and with the right-hander almost out for at least the first few weeks of the tournament, Vettori said that it was a good opportunity for youngsters in the side to step up.
“We have a number of exceptional batsmen who haven’t got many playing chances like Sarfaraz Khan and Mandeep Singh. It’s a huge asset for us that someone else can fill in those gaps.”
The Bengaluru unit has often struggled to get off to a good start and Vettori stressed that starting well was a priority. “We always have a habit of starting slowly. There is a focus on starting well, considering how difficult the schedule in April is,” the former New Zealand captain explained.
A lot will be expected from left-arm pacer Tymal Mills who was picked up by RCB for a whopping Rs 12 crore in the auction. Vettori spoke highly of the England player. “A lot of teams had scouted him and understood that he was a good player, how he could be effective for a team. I've known him from Brisbane Heat, got a really good feel for him as a person and a player. He'll fit in really well with our group,” Vettori noted.
The rivalry between India and Australia went to a different level in the just concluded series but Vettori felt the hostilities between the players will not continue in the league. “I don't think it will, at least from our perspective. The ability to compartmentalize international cricket and franchise cricket is something players get used to,” he offered.
Shane Watson, Mills and Chris Gayle were some of the main overseas players who took part in the training on Thursday. De Villiers and Tabraiz Shamsi are expected to join the side after the final of Momentum Cup (South Africa’s domestic 50-over tournament) which is scheduled on Friday. Samuel Badree, currently serving national duties, is set to join RCB on the morning of their first game.
Many players are coming into the IPL following a hectic international schedule but Vettori felt they can handle the mental fatigue well. “They are accustomed to this. Virat has played for the country for so long and he’s familiar with the rigours of international schedule. KL (Rahul) too was part of the Test squad in the past. Most important thing is that most of the players are fit,” he said.