Virat Kohli's resurgence music to the ears of Royal Challengers Bengaluru and India

Star batsman has been in sublime form and that can only be good news for his IPL franchise and national team ahead of T20 World Cup

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How much of a bearing is the Indian Premier League likely to have on the T20 World Cup that follows so soon after it?

As always seems to be the case, India’s stars are likely to be running on fumes if they make it to the business end of the global event in West Indies and the US.

There is less than a week between the IPL final on Sunday in Chennai and, umpteen time zones away, the World Cup opener.

India will get a little extra leeway to recover from the excesses of another marathon IPL, then the exhausting trip to North America.

And the likes of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja will have a little bit of extra down time before then, if not by choice.

A number of the brightest stars of the India squad will be absent for the IPL play-offs, starting with Kolkata Knight Riders facing Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday night.

But the most luminous of the lot will hope he has two more games to play before thinking about national duty.

Virat Kohli is well-practised at shouldering both the burden of expectation as well as an interminable fixture list.

Given the improvement in both his and his side’s form just lately, he might even be better off for it. He seems to be loving life at present.

Kohli is a famously intense cricketer. But rarely has he appeared quite so emotionally invested as during Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s extraordinary late surge to the business end of this season’s tournament.

RCB made it through to the eliminator by the barest of margins. They were 0.067 runs better than Chennai Super Kings over the course of 14 games. The tension of it all briefly moved Kohli to tears.

The concern might be that they have spent all their emotional energy to get to this point. Did they play their final in that last-chance eliminator against CSK in the final league match?

It is possible. Sustaining the run they have been on – six wins in a row to stay alive – will be tough, but there is no doubt they are flying.

Their transformation has been startling. Over the past seven matches, RCB have maintained a run rate of 11.37, which is the best of any side in the competition.

Kohli has been at the tip of the spear. In the league phase of the competition, he struck 708 runs at 64.36, and in so doing became the first player to exceed the 700-run mark in two IPL seasons.

Such is the forensic interest in his fortunes, some had cast down on his ability to up the scoring rate sufficiently. Yet across the competition he has been hitting at 155.60, and been notably rapid at the start of the innings.

The man himself reckons there is a key reason for that. Plainly, it is the buffer provided by having an extra batter available because of the impact player rule.

And, still, despite the fact it has supercharged his own batting – he is scoring faster than he has in any previous IPL – he added his voice to the scepticism previously aired by Rohit on the substitute rule.

“I am telling you, one extra batter is the reason why I am playing with a 200-plus [193 in the past seven matches] strike rate in the power play,” Kohli was quoted as saying. “I know there is a batsman coming in at No 8 as well.

“As a batsman, I can say this rule is good, but the match should be exciting. Only fours and sixes are not exciting in cricket. Exciting is that you can defend 160 as well. So, I think a bit of balance has been tipped over.”

Whatever the influence on the matches themselves, Kohli’s own game has been transformed. He termed it “an evolving process,” which requires “a bit of conviction.”

And, clearly, all the chat about speed of scoring did not pass him by. “I am trying to keep up with the strike rate for me and the team,” he said.

It has done the trick so far. Amazingly, his side have gone from dead last, with one win from eight games, to a shot at the title.

RCB have won five times since Rajasthan Royals, their opponents in Wednesday’s eliminator play-off, last tasted victory.

Whether they can maintain it long enough to earn a maiden title remains to be seen. But the fact they have even made it this far augurs well for both Kohli and his country.

Updated: May 21, 2024, 2:22 AM