Sruthi Ravindranath is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Royal Challengers Bangalore captain Virat Kohli believes that the additions of Sri Lanka duo Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera, especially in the UAE conditions, will be a "huge help" for the team's campaign in the second leg of IPL 2021.
Kohli said that missing the likes of Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson should not have that big an impact on the team, considering they have roped in players who have a significant understanding of subcontinent conditions.
"Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa who were with us in the first leg for a bit, were an integral part of the team, they made a decision not to play in the second leg for reasons which are absolutely understandable," Kohli said during the unveiling of the team's blue jersey on Saturday. "The replacements we have got for those guys are two players who know these conditions. The conditions in subcontinent this time of the year are pretty similar. Wanindu Hasaranga and Dushmantha Chameera are two guys who have played so much cricket for Sri Lanka and they understand how to play on pitches like these and their skillsets will be of huge help for us playing in Dubai. Understanding how hot and humid conditions can be and how the pitches will play out, they know everything.
"The guys coming in blend into the team culture and the plan of the team very well. The core group is also motivated. We haven't focused at all on what we've missed out on but we feel stronger as the new additions have given us few other dimensions."
Legspinner Hasaranga could straightaway slot into Royal Challengers' first XI - that's the sort of impression he has made in recent times with his bowling smarts coming to the fore especially during Sri Lanka's recent series against India. He has played 17 of his 25 T20Is in the subcontinent, and he also has numbers to show how impactful he has been in these conditions: 26 wickets at an outstanding average of 14.65 and an economy rate of 6.60. During the tour of England, he also showed off his batting skills, contributing some handy runs from the lower order.
Seamer Chameera, who made a comeback into the Sri Lanka side in all three formats earlier this year after missing out on selection for two years, has also been among the wickets, particularly impressing in England in June and then against India at home. He has picked up 15 wickets in 12 matches at a 17.86 average and 6.51 economy rate since his return to the T20I side this year.
Kohli, along with his India and Royal Challengers team-mate Mohammed Siraj, flew to the UAE from England following the postponement of the Manchester Test last week. He spent six days in mandatory quarantine, following which he joined the rest of the squad in the bubble for his first practice session on Friday. He found the team to be in great spirits during training despite meeting them after months.
"After quarantine, I stepped out to practice yesterday for the first time," Kohli said. "I did not feel that we went away at all. I felt like this is just an extension of where we left. The camaraderie was the same, there was excitement in the air, players understanding what they work hard for at the start of the IPL in the first leg. It was a high-intensity practice that we had and everyone was giving everything they had. I was very pleased to see that and very happy to finally be out of quarantine and get into the groove of the IPL."
Royal Challengers are currently third on the table, having won five out of the seven matches during the first leg. Kohli said that the team was keen on playing with the same kind of passion and commitment as they begin their second leg on September 20 against Kolkata Knight Riders in Abu Dhabi, when they will be wearing blue jerseys to pay tribute to frontline workers.
"We've had a great start to the campaign and that is our value factor and our motivating factor knowing that we can play a certain brand of cricket which we have shown in the first leg, with really strong and consistent performances and every player chipping in somewhere or the other, and people standing up and making impact performances for the team.
"Having played this game for so long at this level we understand that whether you have seven wins in the row, you have to start the next game with the same passion and commitment. And if you have no wins in five games which we have experienced as a team, you still have to find motivation. You just cannot afford to take things for granted. The reason why we played that way was because we were not looking beyond the day that we were part of - we never looked at how many games are left, how many points we need to qualify. We did not focus on that at all. What we focused on was the culture of the team, enjoyment among the players."