The imperious Virat Kohli will be eyeing a fairytale ending on Sunday to a record-breaking season when he leads the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) final against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Kohli has been in the form of his life since the recent World Twenty20 where he was instrumental in taking India to the semi-finals before the hosts’ heartbreaking loss to the West Indies.
The 27-year-old was named player of the tournament after scoring 273 runs in five matches at an average of 136.50, and he has again been in a class of his own in this edition of the IPL.
Kohli has shattered the previous best aggregate in a season by scoring 919 runs, including four centuries and six fifties.
Rated as the number one T20 batsman in the world, he has also gained kudos for his captaincy during Bangalore’s rollercoaster ride to the final which is being played on their home ground.
After a disappointing start to the tournament left them bottom of the table at one stage, Kohli inspired them to a charge up the table and secure a second place finish.
He had a rare failure in Wednesday’s final four eliminator when he was bowled for a duck but South African AB de Villiers stepped up to the plate with an unbeaten 79 which just saw Bangalore over the line.
Batting icon Sachin Tendulkar said that in a format where the ability to hit big sixes was once seen as the key to success, Kohli had prospered by playing good cricketing shots.
“He is a special talent and he works hard on his game,” Tendulkar told Gulf News.
“His discipline and commitment has to be emulated. He visualises different formats without ever compromising on his technique.
“In addition, he is very strong mentally and thrives in pressure situations.”
Kohli’s sensational performances have taken some of the pressure off his controversial team-mate Chris Gayle.
Long regarded as T20 cricket’s ultimate superstar, the big-hitting Jamaican has struggled for much of the tournament and only managed one half-century.
He also landed himself in hot water over a newspaper interview laced with sexual innuendo, only months after he clumsily tried to chat up an Australian TV interviewer live on air.
Hyderabad skipper David Warner has had his own fair share of controversy over the years but he has let his batting do the talking this year.
Warner’s scintillating innings of 93 not out in Delhi on Friday night ensured his team’s qualification for the final which is being played in Bangalore.
The Australian’s 58-ball blitz against Gujarat Lions was his eighth fifty, putting him second in the scoring chart behind Kohli with 779 runs.
“The final is about not worrying about their players and executing our plans,” Warner said after the match.
Hyderabad’s seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the leading wicket-taker with 23 scalps and he has received crucial support from his young Bangladeshi partner Mustafizur Rahman who has taken 16 wickets.
After previous editions had been marred by fixing and corruption, this year’s tournament has managed to avoid any major scandal.
However the venue of the final had to be switched to Bangalore after judges banned Mumbai from hosting matches at a time when the state of Maharashtra has been blighted by drought.
Neither of the finalists have ever won the tournament which is now in its ninth year.
Royal Challengers Bangalore : Virat Kohli (capt),Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Varun Aaron, Abu Nechim, Sreenath Aravind, Stuart Binny, Yuzvendra Chahal, Praveen Dubey, Travis Head, Iqbal Abdullah, Kedar Jadhav, Chris Jordan, Akshay Karnewar, Sarfaraz Khan, Vikramjeet Malik, Parvez Rasoon, Mandeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Lokesh Rahul, Kane Richardson, Tabraiz Shamsi, Sachin Baby, Shane Watson, David Wiese
Sunrisers Hyderabad : David Warner (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Moises Henriques, Eoin Morgan, Deepak Hooda, Naman Ojha, Karn Sharma, Mustafizur Rahman, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Barinder Sran, Trent Boult, Ben Cutting, Kane Williamson, Ashish Reddy, Ricky Bhui, Bipul Sharma, Siddarth Kaul, Abhimanyu Mithun, Vijay Shankar, T Suman, Aditya Tare.