How Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli are combining to make RCB's big play in IPL 2023
The duo of Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli has put on a record 872 runs as a partnership in the 2023 edition of the IPL.
Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis are combining at the business end of this year’s IPL just like they did at the start: raising century partnerships and acing tricky run chases with aplomb. They set the tone for the season with a 148-run stand against Mumbai Indians that allowed Royal Challengers Bangalore to chase down 172 with eight wickets in hand in their opening game. In their penultimate league match in Hyderabad on Thursday, they again came to the fore by stitching together a partnership of 172 — the highest for any wicket in the 16th edition — to make a target of 187 appear fairly straightforward.
Statistically, this is now the best opening partnership in any edition of the IPL. In 13 innings this season, they have added 872 runs for the opening wicket at an average of 67.07, eclipsing David Warner and Jonny Bairstow’s tally of 791 runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2019. And by the time the tournament finishes, it is plausible that they will surpass the record of 939 runs (for any wicket) that Kohli himself raised in partnership with AB de Villiers in 2016.
It is perhaps fitting that the Kohli-Faf partnership tally is within striking distance of the latter. Only because Kohli feels his association with du Plessis is very similar to the bond he shared with de Villiers at RCB. As Afrikaans-speaking mates who shared a dorm during their school days before becoming colleagues for South Africa, du Plessis and de Villiers share much in common of course.
Also Read | 'Someone in dressing room said you would score a century today': Du Plessis to Kohli after RCB maverick's 6th IPL ton
“(On why Faf and him work) I think it’s the tattoos,” Kohli joked at the presentation ceremony after his 63-ball 100 against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday. “Very similar to AB and me batting together. There’s a good sense of where we are and how to take the game forward. It’s been a beautiful transition.”
The Kohli-du Plessis camaraderie is a recent development. They came together only in 2022 when du Plessis joined RCB after spending many fruitful seasons at Chennai Super Kings. Crucially, there doesn't seem to be a note of discord between the pair even though du Plessis took over the captaincy from Kohli. As evident on Thursday, there instead is a genuine recognition of each other’s brilliance. Whether it is du Plessis admiring Kohli’s gifts as a batter or vice versa, the acknowledgement is mutual.
“Kohli and I complement each other well, hit different areas and are good mates on and off the field, which works for us,” said du Plessis.
The South African opener has done much of the heavy lifting for RCB this season. With 702 runs at an average of 58.5 and a strike rate of 153.94 — he is the leading run-getter — he certainly hasn’t given the impression of someone who stopped playing international cricket two years ago.
After a couple of sedate seasons, Kohli is also back to scoring a heap of runs. Though his strike rate in the shortest format tends to be a bone of contention, run chases like the one on Thursday are right up his alley. He’s not one to significantly alter his choice of shots to cater to different formats, instead relying on the solidity of his technique to shine through.
“I’ve never been a guy who tries so many fancy shots, because we have to play 12 months of the year,” Kohli said. “For me, it’s not [about] playing fancy shots and throwing my wicket away. We’ve got Test cricket after the IPL, so I’ve got to stay true to my technique and find ways to win games for my team.”
What will eventually determine the effectiveness of the Kohli-Faf partnership is where RCB finish at the end of the season. If it can help them claim that elusive crown — which Kohli and de Villiers never managed — it has a strong claim for being considered the most successful batting partnership in an IPL season. Never mind what the numbers say.