Heads of Royal Challengers Bangalore‘s support staff — Mike Hesson and Simon Katich — on Saturday backed Virat Kohli to remain their captain despite yet another IPL heartbreak and the criticism around it. RCB lost the IPL ‘Eliminator’ against Sunrisers Hyderabad by six wickets on Friday to bow out of the 13th edition of the competition after a poor batting performance. While it disappointed the RCB fans to no end, former India opener Gautam Gambhir led calls for Kohli’s removal from captaincy.
But chief coach Katich and RCB’s director of cricket operations, Mike Hesson, thought otherwise. “From leadership point of view we are very fortunate to have him, he is highly professional and very well respected by the team,” Katich said during a webinar.
“He is very invested in his group and spent a lot of time with the younger players, particularly Devdutt Padikkal. That’s the kind of sight a lot of people don’t see. We hung in the contest and fought right till the end and Virat can take a lot of credit for that.”
Kohli made a little over 450 runs in 15 matches at a strike rate of 121.35 and has often struggled to get going in the middle-overs.
“From batting perspective, we did have consistent partnerships from Padikkal and (Aaron) Finch (in the first half) but then Virat came in to the innings outside the powerpay in a lot of games and that was a challenge for him,” Katich said.
“But we all saw his class, particularly the game against Chennai (Super Kings), where he scored 90 odd in some 52 balls.”
Hesson, who is in his first season with RCB, said the team will do with a bit of tweaking instead of an overhaul.
“One thing is that we got first-hand knowledge of players. We have worked with them for 10-12 weeks and got to know them intimately, got a good idea and gathered a lot of good information.”
“In the current scenario, we know we have to tweak but not overhaul… finishing touches definitely.” The defeat against SRH was RCB’s fifth on the trot after a strong start during which they had won seven out of 10 matches.
Asked about plans for next season, Hesson said, “We will review the performance of the squad and make some decisions. No decisions have been made just yet.”
While the general feeling is that RCB rely heavily on Kohli and AB de Villiers for posting big totals, Hesson said the team will have to become more flexible and adaptable.
“It was a season of two halves for us. As the wicket got slower we could not adapt, and batting first provided further challenges in the last five games. We didn’t quite get the right balance, but it was not due to not providing opportunities to different players,” Hesson said.
“The new support staff members understand their role. They know the players have a very stable platform to work on. We have to be more flexible, more adaptable. The skill sets required will need tweaking. The captain has played a huge part. Our core group of players is good but we certainly need a little bit of tweaking. It’s always a balancing act.”
Hesson and Katich also lavished praise on the team’s bowling unit, especially leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who has performed consistently throughout the tournament.
Both also praised the performance of Indian players such as Padikkal, Washington Sundar and Navdeep Saini.
“As a group, we have made some good strides, we are not the finished product yet but we are headed in the right direction and I am very positive about the future,” Hesson said.
Against SRH on Friday, RCB had lost two wickets for 15 runs inside four overs after being sent into bat.
“Deep down there will be a lot of disappointment after being in contention for top finish, which would have been an advantage in playoffs. In terms of middle overs, numbers don’t lie. We have to do something, we will have to address that.”
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