It was the year 2008. The Indian U19 World Cup winning team was set to the picked by various IPL franchises based on a draft system. The victorious captain, Virat Kohli, could have been bagged by his home-side Delhi. But instead, they chose the left-arm pacer, Pradeep Sangwan. And as destiny would have it, Virat Kohli ended up playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League, a bond that would continue for many more years.
Fast-forward to 2018. It is the 11th season of the mega-event and Virat Kohli will become the only player to represent the same franchise for 11 seasons.
It was not all easy for the 19-year old Delhi lad when he started his IPL career with RCB in 2008. He scored just 165 runs from 13 games at an average of 15, with a highest score of 38. Next season, although RCB made it to the finals of the tournament, Kohli had still not cemented his spot and had gone rather unnoticed. But he did score his maiden 50 in IPL.
The 2010 season saw Virat Kohli play some crucial knocks and he established himself as an integral part of the team. This was the first time when he played all 16 games in the season for his franchise. He ended up scoring 307 runs at an impressive strike rate of 144 and was instrumental in RCB finishing third. Kohli’s ability with the bat and his attitude on the field were rewarded when he was retained by his franchise prior to the 2011 IPL auction, an auction which saw stalwarts like Ganguly and Dravid join the auction list.
The faith shown by Royal Challengers Bangalore would ensure that Virat Kohli performed even better for his team, something that is vindicated by the returns in the 2011 season. A whopping 557 runs at an average of 46 which including 5 half-centuries. Unfortunately, RCB would finish runners-up for the second time. Amid all this, Kohli was developing into a crowd-favorite at the Chinnaswamy. The vociferous fans would help the rising star of Indian cricket to reach greater heights in the years to come.
2012 was a rather modest season by Kohli’s standard, and this was directly reflected in the team’s performance when RCB failed to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The subsequent season in 2013 saw Virat Kohli assuming full-time captaincy for the Bangalore-based franchise. The captaincy responsibilities spurred him to his best ever IPL season back then, in which he accumulated 634 runs at an incredible strike rate of 138 which included 6 instances of him crossing 50. However, and rather sadly for the team, they could not make it into the top 4 for a second consecutive time. IPL 2014 was another below average season for the RCB captain and the team finished second last.
IPL 2015 saw Virat Kohli return to his best as he scored 505 runs at an average of 45 and a decent strike rate of 45. Together with Chris Gayle and AB De Villiers, the trio helped RCB make it to the playoffs wherein they eventually finished third.
An astonishing season followed in 2016. 973 runs at a Bradman-esque average of 81 and a whopping strike rate of 152. Virat Kohli, who had not gone past 99 in his previous 8 seasons, had just scored 4 centuries in a single season. In 16 innings that he went out to bat, he went past 50 on 11 occasions. This was a season of epic proportions for the Indian batting maestro. Royal Challengers Bangalore went on to reach the final where they were third time unlucky. But Kohli’s batting genius would be remembered forever.
IPL 2017, in contrast to the previous season, was a disappointing season for him and the RCB side as they finished last for the very first time. An injured Kohli missed the initial few games of the season and the team could never recover from the early loses. Needless to say, he had experienced a new low in his glittering IPL career.
Come April 8th and the Indian captain is still the leader of the Bengaluru based team. Over the past 10 seasons, Virat Kohli has seen it all, from the highs of 2016 to the lows of 2017. From an immature teenager to a responsible leader. And from a brash Delhi lad to a crowd favourite at Bengaluru. He has grown into such a legend that it is hard to think of an RCB team sans Virat Kohli.
It has been hard. It has been tough. But Virat Kohli remains a Royal Challenger forever.