RCB may finally field its best XI

In Virat Kohli’s absence, under Shane Watson as captain, RCB has won the lone home game and lost two on the road. MI, on the other hand, after having lost its opening game, has won two on the bounce.

RCB’s Virat Kohli during a practice session at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Under the blazing afternoon sun at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday, he was the earliest to take strike at the nets. After tonking the ball to all parts of the ground for close to two-and-a-half hours, he was five minutes early for the pre-match Press Conference. Then as the warm day gave way to a cooler evening, he was one of the last to leave the field. It seems Virat Kohli cannot wait to return.

“Its been a while since I sat on this chair,” Kohli said with a wide grin ahead of the match against Mumbai Indians (MI). “Never a good feeling, when you have played for seven-eight years without missing a game, to miss one because of injury. I am delighted to be back.”

In his absence, under Shane Watson as captain, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) has won the lone home game and lost two on the road. It is the sort of middling start to the season which the team has become increasingly accustomed to.

But with Kohli back, and A.B. de Villiers firing in his very first outing — albeit a game which RCB lost to King XI Punjab — it may finally field its best XI. All it needs is a performance to match the occasion.

It remains to be seen if Chris Gayle, who was dropped to accommodate de Villiers, forms a part of the playing XI. Kohli coming in might also lead to Kedhar Jadhav donning the wicket-keeping gloves, with Vishnu Vinod making way. Watson too hasn’t had the greatest of starts, unable to make it count while opening the batting twice and has only one wicket from three matches.

“Chris has always been a priority for us,” insisted Kohli. “He is a big contender to be playing the home games. In the first game, me and AB weren’t there. The last game, Chris was not there. So we decided to strengthen the bowling. Now with me coming back into the side and all batsmen playing well, the thinking might change.”

MI, on the other hand, after having lost its opening game, has won two on the bounce. Batsman Nitish Rana has been its find of the season. The bowlers led by Harbhajan Singh and Jasprit Bumrah, gave a stellar account of themselves on Wednesday against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Wankhede Stadium, which mirrors the Chinnaswamy in its short boundaries.

Yet, its a no-brainer as to who will bask under the limelight.

“There is lot happening and to focus on one guy is not fair,” Kohli said when asked why he hadn’t travelled to Indore with the team for the match against the Kings. “I wanted to let the guys focus on their game and do my work on the sidelines. I actually enjoyed it. Not having the camera [on you] when sitting in the dug out, that was quite refreshing.”

There will, however, be no getting away on Friday.