Despite Virat Kohli failing to set the tone while opening the batting in the first half of IPL 2021, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) head coach Mike Hesson has said they plan to stick to the decision even after the four-month hiatus.
RCB haven’t had a set batsman for their No. 3 position throughout the eight matches played so far. After Rajat Patidar, Shahbaz Ahmed and Washington Sundar in the India leg, wicketkeeper-batsman KS Bharat became the latest holder of the slot in RCB’s nine-wicket loss to the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Monday (September 20).
Could they have brought Kohli down to his familiar No. 3 position and made Devdutt Padikkal open with Bharat, who anyway opens for Andhra in T20s? This would've even restored the left-right combination.
“Certainly there were discussions, but I think we were pretty clear in terms of Virat batting at the top. Obviously during the last time playing here in Dubai a year ago, it’s a lot harder to start against spin, potentially coming out at 3 and if the wicket starts to deteriorate a little bit. But we are very happy with Dev and Virat opening the batting for us, high quality players, left-right [combination],” Hesson said in response to Sportskeeda’s question in the post-match virtual press conference.
The RCB chief added that the Andhra lad was particularly brought in to keep wickets, thus sparing star batsman AB de Villiers that extra workload.
“KS Bharat can bat anywhere, he is a top 3 batsman. He has been in fine form throughout the last couple of weeks and we were sort of forced to make that change with AB not keeping. So that’s created an opportunity for KS and he’s certainly good enough. We saw a small glimpse of him tonight, but if he gets more opportunities, I am sure you will see more,” he added.
Virat Kohli (5 off 4) went back in the hut in just the second over, while KS Bharat (16 off 19) was the second-highest scorer for RCB, as the Bangalore-based outfit crumbled for a paltry 92. KKR polished off the chase within 10 overs.
“It was actually important to get any form of distraction out of the way early” – Hesson on Virat Kohli quitting RCB captaincy
Virat Kohli made headlines in the build-up to the league's resumption after announcing he will step down from both RCB and India’s T20 captaincy, following IPL 2021 and the T20 World Cup respectively.
While the timing of his decision has come under the scanner, Mike Hesson clarified that both Kohli and the RCB management wanted to rid themselves of all off-the-field talk before their first match. He added that their loss to KKR was more about the team failing as a unit than them being affected by Kohli’s move.
“It was actually important to get any form of distraction out of the way early. So we sort of talked about making that announcement as soon as possible really, so all the players were aware of it. But it certainly hasn’t had any impact on today’s performance, we certainly weren’t sharp as we needed to be with the bat, we didn’t adapt to conditions...but I am still confident that this group will turn around pretty quickly,” Hesson asserted.
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While RCB stayed rooted to third spot in the points table with five wins, Eoin Morgan’s KKR jumped two places to fifth. However, KKR have managed just three wins from eight games so far.