IPL: Virat Kohli, again the tragic hero for Royal Challengers Bengaluru

A total of 741 runs and aggressive intent on the field – what more could he have done?

Virat Kohli dislodging bails after RCB's exit on 22 May (photo: PTI)
Virat Kohli dislodging bails after RCB's exit on 22 May (photo: PTI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The blank look at Virat Kohli’s face on Wednesday night said it all. Like time and time again, he stood as the fallen hero at the end of yet another unsuccessful Royal Challengers Bengaluru campaign – possibly wondering what more he could have done to end the title jinx of one of the most passionately followed teams in the history of IPL.

This time around, the master batter had carved out 741 runs from 15 games (with the contentious strike rate at an impressive 154.69) till the eliminator on Wednesday to lead the race for the Orange Cap – a mark which is unlikely to be overhauled by any of the two other batters still in the race. Riyan Parag of Rajasthan Royals stands third at 567 and Travis Head of Sunrisers Hyderabad fourth at 533 and they have got a maximum of two more games – a scenario which keeps Kohli in pole position to emerge as the leading rungetter for the second time.

The only other time he did it was back in 2016 with a record tally of 973 runs from 16 matches when RCB ended as the runners-up to Sunrisers Hyderabad in a final heartbreak. The RCB fans were inclined to draw parallels with that campaign as much like that season, they had literally come back from the dead while Kohli had been continuing a phenomenally consistent run across all formats since last year. What's more, he has also become the first batter to score 8000 IPL runs, highlighting the irony of still remaining trophy-less.

 Add to his nearly 750 runs this season another 150-odd which Kohli may have saved on the field with his intent and supreme athleticism, the latest effort coming last night when he sent in a lightning throw after chasing the ball in the deep for almost 20 yards – something which helped Cameron Green run Dhruv Jurel out. It’s been a full three-year cycle that he had relinquished the franchise captaincy to focus on his role as a batter, was often too in-your-face against younger opponents in giving them send-offs - but it has failed to yield any luck of luck for the Challengers.

At 35 and been there and done that, Kohli may have learnt to cope better with his failure of not having a single IPL trophy on his shelves. The absence of what’s essentially a franchise league trophy will possibly not rankle him more than failing to win a single major ICC tournament under his captaincy – but it does not make him any less a performer. However, the question that still begs to be asked is: whether it’s the over reliance on Kohli at his prime along with other batting galacticos which has made them pay the price?

If simply big names were enough to seal matches on their own, then the combination of Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers or Glenn Maxwell would have been enough to earn them at least a few titles. However, Ambati Rayudu, the plain-speaking former Chennai Super Kings batter and now a TV pundit perhaps gave a peek to a bitter truth that the RCB management had always relied on star power but could never place enough faith on local talents – like the successful franchises.

Take the case of Maxwell for example. For all the hype that the Australian has enjoyed over the years during his 12 seasons in IPL, Maxi has crossed the 400-run mark in a season just thrice – while he has an average of 5.78 (yes, that’s right) from nine games this season. The horrible shot selection off the first ball against a wily Ravi Ashwin spoke of a height of irresponsible approach in a big game.  

The theme of Kohli ploughing the lonely furrow was amplified this season with skipper Faf du Plessis not at his best, even though there had been a few positives in Rajat Patidar, Will Jacks or Cameron Green finding his bearings in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, they couldn’t rise to the occasion when it mattered the most – leaving Kohli as the quintessential tragic hero one more time!

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