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RCB vs RPS - Virat Kohli, Steve Smith clash again in high-voltage IPL showdown

Virat Kohli versus Steve Smith soured the India-Australia Test series and the India skipper, injured for the deciding match, gets a chance to make a big point when Royal Challengers face Rising Pune Supergiant on Sunday.

ipl 2017 Updated: Apr 16, 2017 15:45 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
IPL 2017,Virat Kohli,Steve Smith
Steve Smith and Virat Kohli will square off one more time and sparks are expected to fly as Royal Challengers Bangalore take on Rising Pune Supergiant in the 2017 Indian Premier League.(PTI)

Skippers Virat Kohli and Steven Smith will have unfinished personal business to settle from an acrimonious Test series when their franchise teams square up in Bangalore on Sunday. (IPL 2017 full coverage)

Last year’s runners-up Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rising Pune Supergiant are both searching for top form in IPL 10. Injuries in the RCB line-up --- Kohli and AB de Villiers didn’t play from the start and KL Rahul is out for the season --- and Pune’s underwhelming bowling attack have played a part so far.

Hostile atmosphere

However, sparks can fly in the clash at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. It is the venue where Virat Kohli brilliantly led India to a comeback win in the second Test against Australia and then pointed an accusing finger at counterpart Steve Smith, who sought dressing room assistance to decide whether to go for DRS redressal after being given out.

ICC match referee Chris Broad didn’t even reprimand Smith was a sore point in the Indian camp while Cricket Australia CEO, James Sutherland, sensationally dubbed Kohli’s criticism of Smith ‘outrageous’.

The two cricket Board put out a joint statement to douse the fire temporarily, but Virat Kohli was sidelined due to shoulder injury when Ajinkya Rahane led the hosts to a brilliant win in the final Test in Dharamsala to clinch the series 2-1.

Kohli, targetted by the Aussie players and the country’s media throughout the series, did shake hands with Smith after the win. But the India skipper declared minutes later that he won’t consider Aussie players as friends anymore.

Though Kohli took to Twitter to qualify his statement, and said some Aussie players were still friends, the bitterness India players felt was obvious.

The Aussie camp has looked to cool things down. RCB’s Aussie fast bowler, Mitchell Starc, out due to a foot fracture, reached out to Kohli in a Twitter message while David Warner, the Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper, has said he is on good terms with India players despite the heated on-field exchanges.

But Kohli is not one to let go a golden chance like this, playing on ‘home turf’ with thousands of RCB supporters to back him. Besides, there is some disquiet in the RPS ranks too, after Mahendra Singh Dhoni was unceremoniously replaced by Smith as captain.

Virat Kohli made a strong comeback and struck a fluent half-century but that couldn’t prevent Mumbai Indians from handing RCB their third defeat in four games. RPS too have managed to win one match out of three.

Kohli and Smith will shake hands again for sure on Sunday, but will there be animosity on display? There is Dhoni and Rahane in the RPS ranks and Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson in RCB to help calm things.

Kohli holds the record for the IPL aggregate, but he would any day swap that for a match-winning knock against Smith’s side. And he and RCB’s power-hitters will fancy taking on the shaky Pune bowling line-up.

First Published: Apr 16, 2017 15:40 IST