Virat Kohli may be on top of the wishlist of every IPL franchise if they had the wherewithal to get him, but the batsman is going to stay put with Royal Challengers Bangalore, the only team he has played for across all editions of the IPL. “To me it has been a most special experience. I don’t see myself leaving or playing for any other franchise,” Kohli said at an event to launch a new app for franchise.
But while the India and RCB captain has decided he’ll be staying, his IPL team has yet to lay its hands on the trophy after 11 seasons. This despite being among the most popular teams, and one that has had some of the game’s biggest starts consistently playing for it. This despite reaching the final three times. Kohli reckoned the lack of silverware for the second-most-expensive IPL franchise has been poor decision-making at key moments.
“The failure lies where decisions aren’t made properly,” Kohli said. “If I sit here and say our luck was bad, that won’t be right. You make your own luck, and if you make poor decisions and the other team makes good ones, you will lose. When we played big matches too, our decision-making wasn’t right. When your decision-making is spot on and balanced, those teams win the IPL. The teams that are more relaxed, don’t take the pressure too much, and take good decisions in pressure moments – they should get the credit for winning.”
Gary Kirsten, who joined RCB in 2018 as a batting consultant and mentor and has now become one of the two coaches of the franchise alongside Ashish Nehra, said the team has tried to rectify the areas they had been weak in.
“I don’t think it takes rocket science to work out where our weak points were,” Kirsten said. “We’ve certainly tried to address that in our recruitment for this year. But as much as sport is about getting the right players on board, we have no clue if someone we’ve recruited is going to fire in this IPL or not. What we do know is we try to build a balance as best we can, based on learnings from past tournaments.
“You’ve got to have a hard edge around your performances, you’ve got to build some momentum in the competition. And if we’re able to do that, then some players that people think are not good enough might fire. There’s a lot of teams that wouldn’t have expected someone that did really well for them to do so. And we’re no different. A lot of doing well in this tournament is around how you build that momentum and how you understand to win games in really close situations.”
RCB endured a poor 2018 season, finishing sixth on the league table and suffering from questionable recruitments and glaring deficiencies in death bowling and support batting. Their misfortunes coincided with a marketing campaign built around a Kannada chant that went “ee sala cup namde (This year the cup is ours).” Kohli acknowledged that this was perhaps not the wisest move.
“We realised this last year. You shouldn’t create an atmosphere even before the tournament has started, that ‘We are going to win this year’, because there are seven other teams too. You have to be realistic. It’s not a one-team dominated tournament,” Kohli said. “From my point of view, I can ignore it. But if you can’t take a guarantee that everyone else is going to ignore it, then it can stay in your mind.
“That’s why I said it’s very important to be aligned with the team’s culture and vision, and be a part of the team and not put expectations that are far away. No one wants to win more badly than the players, that anyone will guarantee you.”
What Kohli wants from his team this season is for everyone to buy into the team culture while being individually responsible for themselves.
“What we’ve spoken about this year is to lay down a culture, which is the most important thing for any team,” he said. “One thing that remains an essence for any team is striving for excellence and being committed to what you want to achieve. That takes commitment on a daily basis, and that is something I’m looking forward to this season. We will require absolute professionalism from all our players. We’ll give responsibility to the players to handle themselves on the field, off the field, and take good decisions, be responsible about their life and the sport as well.
“We all are here taking care of that culture for now. We’re not going to be here after a few years, none of us can be here forever. But RCB will remain for a long, long time and the next lot of players that come in should feel that culture, embrace it and be proud of being part of this franchise.”
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.