Virat Kohli said he was caught off-guard by the way the M Chinnaswamy pitch behaved during Royal Challengers Bangalore’s 19-run defeat to Rajasthan Royals on Sunday (April 15).
When Kohli put Rajasthan in to bat on a surface that had much lesser grass than the previous game and looked a lot drier, it seemed like he was following the trend of teams chasing down targets this season. Nine of the ten games prior to this had been won by teams batting second, with only Delhi Daredevils going down against Rajasthan in a rain-curtailed game.
Rajasthan rode on Sanju Samson’s unbeaten 92 off 45 ball, studded with ten sixes and two fours, to amass 217 for 4. Bangalore’s chase was rocked early, but Kohli’s half-century and a late blitz by Mandeep Singh ensured the deficit wasn’t too much.
“When we saw the wicket we thought it was going to be slower than the previous game,” conceded Kohli, who even fielded an extra spinner in Pawan Negi. “There was even lesser grass than this one, but it didn’t turn out that way. It surprised all of us. The ball came nicely on to the bat. First innings, it kept coming on nicely even when the ball got old. It surprised us a little bit. We thought it was not going to be a 200 plus wicket at any stage.
“That is T20 cricket, it can go any way, but 220 proved a little too much in the end. That is why they say one ball at a time is very crucial. Even though you are hit for runs you need to make a comeback and contain some runs. Credit to Rajasthan, they played very well. That was our mindset behind chasing.”
Bangalore’s death bowling woes from the earlier seasons came back to haunt them as their bowlers conceded 88 runs in the last five overs. Umesh Yadav, who took three wickets in an over against Kings XI Punjab to set up the four-wicket win, ended up conceding 59 runs in his four overs, while Chris Woakes gave away 47 while accounting for Ajinkya Rahane and Jos Buttler. Even Kulwant Khejroliya, the left-arm seamer, leaked 40 runs in three overs.
But Kohli defended his bowlers, saying they had a rare off day, having bowled extremely well in the previous two games.
“When you concede 200 it is tough, we got 200 [198 for 6] as well. In hindsight we have to sit down and see whether we could have been more composed when they were going really well and try and have 10-15 less. That would have given us a little more confidence.
“Today was just an off day for everyone. You can’t sit here and think just because you have picked him [Woakes] in the auction he will give 24 off 4 every game and pick you two-three wickets.
“It was a big, big batting day. I don’t think the bowlers need to be too harsh on themselves. There is not much you can do when opposition batsmen are in that kind of a flow. They executed their shots and plans well. We have to accept it.”
Kohli lauded Samson’s efforts saying he was “brilliant” on the day, despite beginning cautiously, scoring 34 off his first 25 balls, before cutting loose in the 16th over.
“He is a really talented player, we have seen over the years he has done well in the IPL,” remarked Kohli. “He has got a good, simple game; quite strong in the crease, very balanced. He got off to a good start, then bowlers bowled well, he kept his shape, kept hanging in there. Eventually in the end, he was watching the ball well, striking it really well. Credit to him, he played a really good innings.”
Samson has been a part of the IPL since he was a part of Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012. Although he didn’t feature in single game for Kolkata, Samson made a mark with Rajasthan and Delhi Daredevils under Rahul Dravid’s guidance.
Kohli, however, had no answer to why Samson hadn’t graduated to the next level – playing for India beyond the lone T20 against Zimbabwe in 2015 – or replicated his IPL form at the domestic level either.
“Sanju can answer that better,” he said. “I don’t know how he prepares for certain games and formats. It is really up to the individual, but what I have seen of him, he is a really, really talented player and he can bat like that on his day.
“You should give him credit for doing well on a particular day and wish him well for the future games as well because all young guys who have talent should feel confident with these kind of tournaments. Then you keep creating that pool of players that each team looks at.
“I am more optimistic for these guys. If they don’t score in first-class cricket, I don’t think I can answer that. He can answer that better.”
Kohli also praised Washington Sundar (35 off 19 balls) and Mandeep Singh (47 not out off 25 balls), who added 66 runs for the sixth wicket to keep Bangalore in the hunt, but they were left with an uphill task as the asking rate kept on mounting.
“Mandeep and Washington were outstanding. Mandeep has played for us for a while and Sundar, as we have seen him, he is very composed on the field. He is very confident about his skills. He is striking the ball very well, he is an ultra-talented player also. So, them stringing in a partnership of 60-odd in that stage in 25-26 balls was an outstanding effort. That gives us confidence as a team even when you know that when top guys do not do it, you still have guys who can do it in the lower batting order for you.”