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Virat Kohli: This is Royal Challengers Bangalore's 'most balanced squad' since 2016

RCB captain also feels reduced travel across the tournament would make "competition more even"

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Mike Hesson is all ears as Virat Kohli makes a point  •  PTI

Mike Hesson is all ears as Virat Kohli makes a point  •  PTI

Virat Kohli thinks this is the most balanced Royal Challengers Bangalore set-up since 2016, both in terms of personnel and the support group. The Royal Challengers had finished runners-up to the Sunrisers Hyderabad that season, and haven't come close to the play-offs since.
Having finished with the wooden spoon in two of the last three IPL editions, they overhauled their support staff group entirely, while also bringing in "better balance" - as Kohli termed it - with the signing of allrounder Chris Morris and Australia's limited-overs captain Aaron Finch.
"We've got a great balance of experience, the skill required for T20 cricket and the youngsters in the team who are eager to take up the responsibility and look forward to opportunities that we're going to provide them," he told RCB TV. "It's an exciting time.
"As I said, that 2016 season which we've all loved to be a part of, it was such a memorable season. Since then, to be honest, this is the most balanced I've felt about the squad, as a system where we're heading. It's been very well taken care of now, it's up to us to execute those things on the field."
Kohli, who will enter his eighth season as IPL captain, for long has been the torchbearer of the batting. For most of this period, he had alongside him AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle. With Gayle now part of the Kings XI Punjab, the onus many believe is once again on Kohli and de Villiers to steer the team. Kohli was asked if they have a plan this year and "if the miracle was going to happen".
"We definitely feel it will," he said. "Because we've never felt so calm going into a season before. He [de Villiers] is coming from a very different space, he's been enjoying his life, is relaxed. He came out to play and is looking like playing in 2011 still - he's as fit as ever. I'm in a much better space, more balanced when it comes to the IPL environment.
"It's about disconnecting with things that have happened in the past and not taking that baggage. We've done that way too many times. Just because we have a bunch of players who are so skilled and people like seeing them play, that's why people have had expectations. We're not going to think of what-ifs, we know what we can do, we're very keen and hungry to do it."
Talking about the season at large, Kohli felt reduced travel because of playing at just three venues - all at a driving distance from one another - without the 'home and away' concept would make "competition more even".
"In the IPL, the biggest challenge used to be travel," he said. "You pack your bags for a two-match trip, three-match trip, you come back and it's hectic. It is more of a level-playing field now. Three venues and every team would know the conditions. It boils down to the skill-level rather than the home-away advantage. Competition will be even and high because of this factor."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo