South African talisman AB de Villiers has been part of the Indian T20 League since the very beginning in 2008, playing alongside some of the best cricketers to ever grace the game. But, the hard-hitter is still counted amongst the elite list of cricketers who have never lifted the title.
However, that could change over the next few weeks. From batting to bowling, several things have gone Virat Kohli’s way over the last few weeks and sheer luck does not explain them all. Bangalore are one of the few teams who have benefitted from the yearly tournament getting shifted out of India to UAE, where the totally different playing conditions suit the strengths and team combination of the Kohli-led side.
CHINNASWAMY CURSE LIFTED
With the iconic M Chinnaswamy Stadium being Bangalore’s fortress over the past decade, the team has had an indomitable task of besting their opponents owing to the shorter boundaries. Considered to be one of the smaller grounds in India the batting-friendly Chinnaswamy pitch has seen opponents taming Bangalore bowlers with ease time and again, something the think-tank hasn’t been able to crack. However, with the tournament shifted to UAE for the year, Kohli saw that lid being lifted.
With the Indian conditions of dew and pro-batting turfs not factoring in UAE, Virat Kohli has seen his players excelling. Yuzvendra Chahal, who is used to conceding tons of runs every season owing to his wrist spin flight – the effect of which is often negated by the dew in the evenings – has been one of Bangalore’s best bowlers this season. He has taken 16 wickets in the first 11 matches with an average of 18.50 and a strike rate of 17.75.
Apart from Chahal, another bowler who has worked wonders this season, despite not being Bangalore’s strike bowler, is Isuru Udana. The Sri Lankan pacer’s slower balls have been difficult to deal for most batsmen with the larger boundaries converting shots into easy catches. Udana has taken seven wickets from eight matches so far, with an economy rate of 9.91. These small, yet significant, contributions by Chahal and Udana have helped Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj and Chris Morris to spit fire on the other end with most teams getting bundled for low scores.
It had taken only the first few matches of the tournament to realize that the stars of this season could only be bowlers. Hence, once Bangalore got Chris Morris fit to play after the first few matches, they didn’t change the combination at all. It meant giving opener Aaron Finch a longer rope despite his repeated failures. After 11 matches, Finch has garnered just 236 runs and the Australian has no concerns of losing his place in the first eleven. A KL Rahul, Chris Gayle or Quinton de Kock wouldn’t have seen such leniency from the Bangalore management until last year, and it seems Kohli is finally learning to give second chances.
Bangalore have some tricky encounters left before the playoffs, and given the confidence that the team has ridden on so far, AB de Villiers could realize his lifelong dream of lifting the title this time.
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