Indian Premier League 2019 starts with Chennai Super Kings taking on Royal Challengers Bangalore as MS Dhoni squares off against Virat Kohli in the season opener
ans couldn’t have asked for a better start to Indian Premier League (IPL) 2019 as defending champions Chennai Super Kings take on Royal Challengers Bangalore in Saturday’s opening match. Led by the two of the biggest names in Indian cricket, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli facing off serves as just the right appetizer for the tournament’s main course.
The Kohli-Dhoni promos are all over television ad space but with a touch of soft banter and not in your face bravado. Might as well with the kind of respect Dhoni commands in Virat Kohli-led Indian playing XI.
But Virat Kohli won’t be able to seek MS Dhoni’s counsel in IPL. On the contrary, Kohli needs to come up with strategies to better his senior compatriot and help RCB begin the season on a high.
Both heavyweights employ completely contrasting styles in captaincy. The contrast in their leadership styles is like fire and ice.
“They are two different style of players. Two different personalities. Goes to show to find a successful captain in terms of results, there are a quite a few ways you can go about it,” Kumara Sangakkara tells India Today speaking at the Star Sports Select Dugout.
“Both are fantastic players. Fantastic individuals. Great captains. Dhoni likes to take a backseat and trusts his players to do the job that they are selected in the team for. Even in a crunch situation he does not over-complicate it.
“Kohli on the other hand, almost bats and bowls for his players because he is that much invested in that particular moment. But it’s going to be an interesting matchup for both the sides opening up. It’s never going to be an easy game,” Sangakkara observes.
Does captain Kohli emotional investment proves counter productive? Is that one of the reasons, he has been unable to lead RCB to IPL glory?
“It seems to have worked for India. They have won series in Australia recently. They have been strong at home, although they did lose to Australia recently because because of some individual brilliance from some Australian players. But overall the last two years have been incredible journey for the Indian side,” Sangakkara added.
“So at the international level Kohli has been very successful. He now needs to transfer that at IPL level,” he states.
That’s where captain Virat Kohli has found it a lot tougher than he has leading India with a richer resource pool. RCB finished eighth and sixth in the last two editions while they finished runners-up in 2016 when Kohli scored nearly 1000 runs himself.
“It’s a whole different ball game because it’s a mash of different cultures with players around the world and it really tests your man management skills. Also your ability to trust and never second guess why you have selected that player in the first place,” says Sangakkara.
Meanwhile, former Australia cricketer Dean Jones feels Kohli simply doesn’t have the squad to win in this format. “I look at it from a coaching perspective. They have got their selections wrong. In terms of what it takes to win a championship and I always believe you need a bowling line up than a batting lines up. RCB thinks we need a lot of batters and runs will win you games,” Jones tells India Today.
“Actually it does not work that way a lot. They have had a few problems with injuries and the way their ground plays has changed as well over the years. But in my opinion you need bowling and they have been a bit too top heavy with their batting.”
Kohli’s opposing skipper in the tournament opener MS Dhoni for all his success, had also begun to face criticism towards the end of his India captaincy that he was past his shelf life. After helping CSK win another IPL title last year, Dhoni was able to blow the criticism away.
“Part of that is because he has put a lot of work on his fitness. He was not a big believer in gym not long ago and physiotherapists and the work they can do. That has changed and a lot of it is because of Virat Kohli and the way he has pulled everybody up in that Indian side and the standards he has demanded. With MS, his game is always outstanding. He is a natural athlete and so he has relied on that. Now that he is putting that work in it toward the back end of his career, he is still getting those results,” Dhoni’s former CSK teammate Scott Styris says.
“Some fans in the public arena thought Dhoni’s time has come and gone but I don’t think the players and commentators thought that way one little bit. He was always respected and feared.”
Whoever wins on Saturday and whether either of the two giants can last the distance in this edition, with the World Cup round the corner, the IPL presents a perfect opportunity for Dhoni to sharpen his batting touch and Virat to further hone his captaincy skills.