Kohli dazzles in a special homecoming for RCB
Virat Kohli was in good form during RCB's IPL 2023 opener against MI, at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.
It had been four years since Royal Challengers Bangalore played at home – the M Chinnaswamy Stadium – in the Indian Premier League. The buzz in the city heading into IPL 2023 had been massive, as was evident in the open practice session the franchise had held in front of packed stands.
Hence, facing five-time IPL champions Mumbai Indians in their tournament opener was always going to be a momentous occasion. Fortunately for the RCB faithful, it ended up being an unforgettable night as Virat Kohli, their biggest star, delivered a special knock.
After winning the toss, Faf du Plessis’ team was impressive with the ball for the most part, and despite Tilak Varma’s 84 not out guiding MI to a respectable total of 171, the hosts would’ve been confident at the break as they had a below-par target in front of them on a pitch always good for batting.
Not many, however, would have imagined just how dominant RCB would be in the chase as they went on to win with eight wickets and 22 balls to spare. Skipper du Plessis was at his best with a 43-ball 73 while Kohli remained unbeaten on 82 off 49 balls. They added 148 runs off 88 deliveries for the first wicket.
Taking on Archer
In Jasprit Bumrah’s absence, MI’s bowling attack didn’t seem too threatening on paper. Their biggest weapon was Jofra Archer, making his debut for the team having missed the previous season due to injury.
Surprisingly, the England fast bowler wasn’t handed the new ball, but once he did join the attack Kohli was prepared to make a statement by taking him on.
The 34-year-old stepped out to the first ball bowled by Archer. He got a reprieve then as the fast bowler couldn’t hold on to the return catch, but the batter cut the next ball for four. Three balls later, he came down the track again and this time he nailed a flat six over mid-off.
Kohli picked a boundary in Archer’s second over too, with a pull over mid-wicket as RCB ended the powerplay at 53 for no loss. Mumbai’s premier fast bowler had been tamed and they never recovered from it.
“It was a bit tricky (to bat) against the new ball. Because we took them down with the new ball, we shifted the momentum completely towards us,” said Kohli after the game.
“It could’ve been tricky walking out there without intent, but the way we started nullified all the intensity they (MI) were going to bring.”
Fittingly, on the anniversary of India’s 2011 World Cup triumph, Kohli hit the winning runs with a six over long-on. It was a dream finish for RCB fans and its significance wasn’t lost on the former skipper.
“It was a phenomenal win… homecoming after four years. I don’t think we could have asked for a better game,” said Kohli.
“It was a packed crowd, every seat was full when we walked in here. We knew we were going to get a lot of support here in the first game. It was very important to start off well, and yeah, we just rode off that intensity and support from the crowd. Their energy propels us. When Faf and I were going, they were behind us and that makes a massive difference.”
It’s a solid start for RCB, who lost in Qualifier 2 last season. They play six of their first eight matches at home this time and have a great opportunity to stitch together a string of victories.
“I’ve wanted to mention this for a while – apart from Mumbai winning the IPL five times and Chennai four times, we are the third team that has qualified the most. We’ve made eight playoffs, so we do play consistent cricket,” said Kohli.
“For us, it’s just about staying focussed on what we need to do, one game at a time. We try to be the best balanced side we can be. This is a good beginning, we just need to keep building on the momentum. It’s a big tournament so we don’t want to look too far ahead. We’ll just look to execute our plans the way we did tonight.”