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Shirin Sadikot in Bengaluru 03 April 2013 - 10:15pm IST

Virat to begin captaincy journey sans Zak and AB

Injury and domestic commitments rule RCB’s star players out of the tie against MI

Virat Kohli has led the Royal Challengers in the last two seasons. But those captaincy stints have been in the absence of the appointed leader. This time, however, India’s current batting superstar has been given the complete reins of the team.

Ahead of RCB’s first match of IPL 2013, at home, against the Mumbai Indians, Kohli spoke of the honour of leading some of the reputed names of the game, such as Muttiah Muralitharan, Daniel Vettori and Zaheer Khan.

“I really enjoy having the captaincy and I feel honoured to be captaining some who have been playing cricket for more than 20 years. Growing up, I’ve seen them play on TV and now I’m getting a chance to lead them in the IPL,” Virat said on the eve of his team’s opener at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

While admitting captaincy was a humbling feeling, Virat lived up to his confident image and refuted any suggestion that the responsibility will add pressure on him. “It’s very exciting and not something I take as pressure,” he said.

“I’ve always enjoyed captaincy – last year and also the year before I really enjoyed the challenge whenever I captained the team. But this time it’s a fulltime thing. It will involve getting into decision making about the team combination and talking to the players regularly.”

As he embarks on his journey as RCB’s fulltime captain, Kohli will miss the services of two senior players in AB de Villiers and Zaheer Khan.
de Villiers will miss the first match due to his commitments to his state side, Titans in South Africa’s ongoing domestic Twenty20 competition while Zaheer is likely to sit out a couple of matches with a side strain.

“Zak’s got a bit of a side strain and he’s about 70 to 80 per cent fit at the moment and he’ll be raring to go in a couple of games,” Virat said, adding the team will miss the outrageous and incredible shot-making ability of the South African.

“AB will be missed initially as a guy of his capability would be. He’s been batting beautifully in the recent times. But we’ve got experienced international cricketers to cover up for him. Having said that when AB is in the side, it’s a great thing for us,”

Besides the two key players, Virat said the team will also miss their mentor, Anil Kumble, who has now joined the Mumbai Indians.
“He was someone who’d help the players in any way we needed, be it cricketing or non-cricketing issues,” Virat said of India’s leg-spin legend and former captain. “He was of great help and will definitely be missed around.”

Virat, however took solace in the fact that most youngsters that Kumble had groomed during his time with the RCB, have proved their worth and have become an important part of the team.

“He’s been a great mentor to the young guys and he’s groomed them in such a way that they’ve come into the IPL and performed. It was S Aravind in 2011, Mayank Agarwal did well last year, Abhimanyu played for India after performing well for RCB. Luckily these guys are still playing for us and have gained in confidence. Now they can cash in on whatever they have learnt from Anil Kumble,” Virat said.

When asked about the franchise’s decision to feast on pace bowlers during the IPL 2013 Player Auction – RCB bought six pacers including two medium-pace all-rounders – Virat said injuries to their bowlers in the last season induced that decision.

“The Bangalore wicket always supports the bowlers in the first six overs as the ball really seams around on the fresh wicket,” he explained. “In 2011 we had a lot of bowling options but last year the team was not up to 100 per cent because of injuries to bowlers. We had to persist with the same set of bowlers which didn’t work for us.

“So, this year I insisted that we picked a lot of seam bowling options so that if the regular bowlers are not doing too well, we have six or seven fresh bowlers who are ready to take over. Our batting has been doing well for the last three years consistently and that’s why I had confidence in the batsmen we had. We have also picked some all-rounders, which was another area that needed enhancement.”

Besides contributing on the team combinations, one of the first things that RCB’s new captain has set out to do is cultivating an atmosphere of calm and solidarity in the dressing room.

“All I told the guys in the dressing room is to maintain a nice atmosphere in the team and not think too much about what’s going around or what the other teams are doing. All we need to do is concentrate on our strengths.

“The most important thing about T20 cricket is that it’s such high on intensity that it gets difficult to keep the atmosphere in the change room relaxed. That’s what I along with the team management will try to do this season. It’s just about being tight as a team and that’s what really works in the IPL.

“As per the other teams, you cannot take any team lightly in the IPL. We’ve seen teams winning the first seven games and then not making it to the semis and we’ve seen teams losing their initial matches and winning the championship,” said RCB’s young skipper.

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