Virat Kohli and David Warner have been ruthless with bat this IPL — occupying the top two slots on the run-getters’ list — and have also led their sides from the front, clobbering the opposition into submission.
But, in the dying hours of Sunday, only one man will be left standing, holding aloft the biggest prize in slam-bang league cricket as Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore host Warner’s Sunrisers Hyderabad at M Chinnaswamy Stadium here for the final game of season nine.
It will be the captains’ form that will be crucial to the outcome. Though both sides chase their first IPL title, stakes are higher for RCB. They have been in the league for nine years and in the final twice — in 2009 and 2011 — but their trophy cabinet is still bare. Their campaign threatened to go off the rails this time as well before Kohli inspired a fightback.
Sunrisers Hyderabad captain David Warner celebrates after guiding his side to victory against Gujarat Lions in the IPL Qualifier 2.
The captains, who have a lot in common, have an on-field history as well. There have been several verbal dust-ups. They are passionate, don’t believe in taking things lying down and are unapologetic about the way they celebrate milestones. A dropped catch, a missed chance or even dodgy running between the wickets can earn an earful.
Leading by example
Their performances have been pivotal in rallying their sides through a long and tough campaign. Kohli’s phenomenal run with the bat turned the tide for RCB, which halfway through the competition was stuck second last on the points table, having lost five of the seven games as the bowling unit struggled to fire.
Kohli’s record four tons and six half-centuries paired with AB de Villiers’ explosive form more than made up for the dismal bowling attack. It also took the pressure off bowlers and helped them find their rhythm.
Warner has done the same for the Sunrisers, who are two seasons old. Their pace battery fired but the batsmen struggled in early games, leaving it to the stocky Australian opener to carry them past the finish line.
He only got better as the tournament progressed. His 58-ball 93 against Gujarat Lions in Qualifier 2 singlehandedly took Hyderabad to their first final. He came good when all seemed lost.
“As a captain or leader, you first try to execute on field the things that you ask of your teammates,” said Kohli ahead of the final.
“We (Warner and Kohli) do think on similar lines… Yes, there’s similarity in approaching the game — whether wanting to contribute for the team’s cause and getting people together or wanting them to be their best and giving it all for the team,” he said.
The RCB bowling, its biggest weakness, is showing signs of improvement. The Sunrisers’ bowling unit — Ashish Nehra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur Rehman – fired in early stages.
With Nehra out injured and Mustafizur nursing a niggle, the team may come under pressure on what looks to be a good batting track. Left-arm pacers Barinder Sran and Trent Boult have been called it and it will be interesting to watch how they perform.