Can Lions silence the Kohli-AB roar?

The sooner the Gujarat Lions think-tank finds a way to break RCB's Kohli-de Villiers combine at the Saurashtra Cricket Association, the higher is its chance of winning the marquee game.

AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli... going great guns.   -  Vivek Bendre

First things first — new dad Chris Gayle has set out on the long journey from the Caribbean to this part of the globe, but nobody in the Royal Challengers Bangalore set-up knows where he exactly is! In other words, the big man from Jamaica will not feature in the game against Gujarat Lions here on Sunday afternoon.

That, surely, is one less headache for Suresh Raina, but the puzzle is far from solved.

Fathom this: 157 vs. Sunrisers Hyderabad, 107 vs. Delhi Daredevils, 59 vs. Mumbai Indians and 155 vs. RPS. This is the numerical representation of the damage done by two chaps called Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in this edition of the IPL. Two of these partnerships have resulted in easy wins. Simply put, the sooner the Gujarat Lions think-tank finds a way to break this combine at the Saurashtra Cricket Association, the higher is its chance of winning the marquee game.

Gujarat Lions performance coach Monty Desai, who made a name for himself by identifying little-known players like Pravin Tambe, Sanju Samson and Dinesh Salunkhe during his time with Rajasthan Royals, acknowledged the importance of dismissing Kohli and de Villiers early. “Even Pune (Rising Pune Supergiants) must’ve thought of ways to stop them (on Friday evening). But when they are on song, it is difficult to get them out. Of course, we have some plans. In the past, we’ve had plans which have worked (for Rajasthan Royals). So, we’re planning to get them out early. Once we get them out early, obviously we (will) have the upper hand,” he said.

Easier said than done, but Gujarat Lions has among its ranks an unheralded but mystery spinner in Shivil Kaushik. Let’s just say he is the desi avatar of yesteryear South Africa spinner Paul Adams. Yes, that ‘frog in the blender’ guy. The 20-year-old Kaushik, who has plied his trade in the Karnataka Premier League, is such an enigma that even he doesn’t know which way the ball turns.

On Saturday, one saw him repeatedly turn the ball both ways with the same action. Incredibly, he wasn’t even bowling on the practice pitch. A member of the coaching staff took him far away from the action, and he generated prodigious turn delivery after delivery on the grassy outfield!

An hour later, head coach Brad Hodge helped Kaushik make some adjustments to his head position at the point of release. Basically, the Aussie was trying to get the lad to watch the ball soon after delivering it. Kaushik passed this test with flying colours and made his way to the nets where the big boys — Suresh Raina, Brendon McCullum, Aaron Finch and others — were in smash mode. Kaushik took some stick, but he also beat the bat on a few occasions. One delivery foxed Raina, who stepped out with élan, only to offer a horizontal bat. He missed it, and would have been stumped by a mile. Did Kaushik do enough to convince his skipper to hand him his first IPL cap? Does he feature in Desai’s plans for Kohli and de Villiers? You never know.

SECURITY BEEFED UP

The Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium resembled a fortress on Saturday afternoon. That’s nothing new, but security was beefed up following a weird incident on Friday night. A few members of the Rashtriya Dalit Mahasangh, a local outfit, made their way into the stadium and tried to damage the pitch. Apparently, they wanted to make their displeasure known against the hosting of IPL matches in view of the water crisis in the region. Four persons have been arrested. The incident occurred in the wake of former Bharatiya Janata Party legislator and Mahasangh president Siddharth Parmar staging a demonstration and a 48-hour fast outside the stadium recently.

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