“Even as an opposition captain, [he is] someone that I always admired in the way he went about things”
“He is a very able captain, someone that I have a lot of respect for,” Kohli told the Royal Challengers website. “Even as an opposition captain, [he is] someone that I always admired in the way he went about things, [and] in the way he went about, [he] got his team to rally around him. That is the most important thing for any skipper.”
He might be 37, but du Plessis, who retired from Tests last year, is not only one of the fittest players still, but also a hugely successful batter in IPL, having won the title four times with Chennai Super Kings. At the player auction in February, Royal Challengers outbid Super Kings and others to bag du Plessis – who was part of the marquee set of players – for INR 7 crore (USD 933,000 approx.).
In his first public remarks upon taking over as the captain, du Plessis had said his would be the “relational” style of leadership. Kohli said the former South Africa captain had already put that in practice during the preparatory camp last week.
“Even here you can see he is at ease with everyone in the squad, the whole environment in general,” Kohli said. “And people have a sense of respect for him where if he is making plans or talking about stuff, people are saying ‘hold on, let’s really get into it, listen to it, we got to make a plan around his vision’.”
Kohli still remains the central cog in Royal Challengers’ wheel, and is bound to be the go-to man for du Plessis as he gets acquainted with the players, the coaching staff led by Mike Hesson and Sanjay Bangar, as well as the franchise management. Having declared last year that he would play for Royal Challengers till the day he retires, Kohli said he was ready to help du Plessis with anything and everything.
“Lot of people see transitions happen when they are away from the system. I’m lucky enough to see it happen in front of my eyes while I am still part of the larger picture. That for me is a very exciting space to be in because at the end of the day, you are still an individual who is part of a team whether you are a captain or not. You have got to still look for ways to contribute to the environment. I’m certainly in a space where I’m going to help him with anything that I can.”
Kohli is now happy to enjoy the little things like having a net session with a free mind. And the joy of doing that, Kohli pointed out, has the derivative effect of him going into the match with more energy.
“When you take a decision like this [stepping down as captain] a lot of people go: ‘oh well, one should look at things with a point of view of responsibility and you’ve got to take responsibility’. People don’t understand that if you as a player cannot be the best version of yourself on the field, then that responsibility for me personally as a player means nothing.
“You can still be a leader within the team, drive the team forward towards success and winning trophies and titles, but I take a lot of pride in contributing to the team.
“But if something I feel is pushing that joy down, that fun factor of just playing cricket and just looking forward to do something special on the field, if anything is coming in between that and having the knowledge that you do have people who have able minds to take the team forward, then it is a wise thing for anyone to create some space for themselves, just take a deep breath, just restructure things and say ‘hold on, I might not have looked at a lot of things that I need to work on. And here’s a chance for me to restructure, rethink about what I want to do, and just find things to improve, find little bit at practice something you look forward to’.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo