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IPL 2021: All eyes on Kohli as RCB take on KKR

Abu Dhabi, Sept 19 (UNI): Royal Challengers Bangalore will be adamant to resume from where they left the first phase of IPL 2021 as the Virat Kohli-led side faces a sluggish Kolkata Knight Riders in match 31 here on Monday.

Placed third in the points table while tied with No. 2 Chennai Super Kings on 10 points, the Bengaluru franchise will feel no comfort in the scorching heat of the Middle East. More so for Kohli, whose captaincy calls will once again be put under the microscope.

After all, the 32-year-old Team India skipper has decided to step down as the national team’s T20 skipper after next month’s World Cup amid reports of BCCI’s displeasure over Kohli’s captaincy.

The task to prove his doubters wrong has further scaled up with RCB forced to make four overseas changes ahead of the resumption. Sri Lankan duo Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga, England all-rounder George Garton and Singapore’s Tim David replaced Australian trio Adam Zampa, Kane Richardson and Daniel Sam, and New Zealand’s Finn Allen, who pulled out over various reasons.

However, the availability of key stars in big-hitting Glenn Maxwell (223 runs in seven games), in-form AB de Villiers (201 runs), and all-rounder Kyle Jamieson (9 wickets) means the outgoing players won’t be missed much.

Apart from Kohli (198 runs in seven games), domestic faces like opener Devdutt Padikkal (195 runs) and, spin duo Yuzvendra Chahal (four wickets) and Washington Sundar will be self-motivated to prove a point post-T20 WC squad selection snub. Fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Harshal Patel will be expected to do good work with the ball with the latter being the purple cap holder with an impeccable 17-wicket haul.

KKR, on the other hand, will be aiming to start fresh after five defeats in seven games saw them dwell at the seventh spot in the table. The Knights have failed to make a case for themselves this season with their new skipper Eoin Morgan.

The English captain himself has struggled to justify his place in the line-up with just 92 runs in seven matches while his predecessor Dinesh Karthik, who returns from his stint as a commentator, has largely misfired with just 123 runs to his name so far.

This means the burden of putting runs on the board in the first 10 overs will be on Indian batsmen Shubman Gill, Nitin Rana and Rahul Tripathi. While Gill’s consistency has been in doubt, Rana (201 runs) and Tripathi (187 runs) have come good as the team’s top scorers.

Overseas all-rounders Andre Russell and Shakib Al Hassan will be expected to be the famed match winners instead of blowing hot and cold as they did in the first phase; especially when Pat Cummins is not there to save the day.

His replacement Tim Southee will have big shoes to fill given the shortest format of the game is not considered his forte; making fellow Kiwi pacer Lockie Ferguson vital for the side.

Morgan and Co. will still like to take confidence from the fact that KKR have turn things around from such a low with nine wins on the trot to lift the title in 2014 but RCB’s firepower is a reality too hard to ignore.

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