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Indian Premier League 2023

The Faf-Virat show: The RCB faithful witness a homecoming for the ages

Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli thrilled RCB fans with
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 3 minute read

After it was all done, it really didn’t seem like a contest, as much a festival of RCB’s much-awaited return to its home. Aadya Sharma reports from the Chinnaswamy stadium, having witnessed live the Kohli-Faf show, the Siraj new-ball spell, and everything in between.

RCB were prepared. Here’s a franchise, that, a week out from the first game of the season arranged an ‘Unbox’ event, an all-frills extravaganza, curated for fans and fans alone. Mind you, it felt bigger than the actual IPL opening ceremony – there were some A-list Bollywood singers, an international superstar, and two RCB Hall of Famers. The team made an event out of its first practice session and packed the stands. The directive to the players seemed clear – hit the ball into the stands. As a fan, you had to be invested in this ‘homecoming’.

The appetiser was heartily consumed, and the crowd was ready for the actual cricket. A sea of red and black clogged all gates of the stadium, jostling and spilling over onto the roads. Some reportedly stood for half a day in ticket queues. On match day, the entire circumference was packed to the brim.


RCB were prepared, once again. The game unravelled like a dream sequence, barring a few skirmishes in the middle. Toss win? Check. Rohit/Kishan/Surya out cheaply? Check. A Virat show? Check. Two points in the kitty and a healthy net run rate boost? Check check.

For a crowd waiting to drool over Kohli, Faf, and Maxwell, it was actually Mumbai’s young brigade that stole the show for most of the first half. Tilak Varma, very nearly the next prince of Indian cricket, was batting with a clear head. Nehal Wadhera, unknown to many, came in on T20 debut and deposited a 101-metre six out into Queens Road. IPL debutant Arshad Khan, highly spoken of, cracked a nine-ball 15, before walking out with the new ball. It was a reminder that, in T20’s fickle space, reputations matter little.

Those rules don’t apply at the Chinnaswamy, where star power and star power alone rules. Cricketing logic-wise, the image of the senior duo of Faf du Plessis and Virat Kohli opening would have reminded RCB’s fans of their perennial issues – top-heavy batting order, conservative in the powerplay. Could they possibly match the ferocity of the young brigade?

Ninety-eight balls later, the cameras were refusing to leave Kohli. There he was, back home, having churned out yet another chasing masterclass. His opening partner, equally good, collected the Player of the Match award. The blue brigade had been blanked.

Even at 38, Faf continues to tick off new firsts. It was the skipper’s first home game for the franchise and he teed off effortlessly, using his feet like he invariably does to the quicks, walking out and dexterously placing the ball over the infield. The boundaries are short, the outfield fast. After a while, it looked like he was waving a toothpick in the air and the ball was dancing along. Kohli was loving the show too, probably more than his own batting. He pumped the air, tapped on Faf’s helmet with his bat, hugging, cheering, even dancing mid-pitch.

As for himself, Kohli was fueled by the conviction of his thoughts as well as the cheering crowd and was exquisite in his shot selection. He seemed to pick the lengths of the spinners beautifully, was steady and balanced to quicks, and kept finding ways to score. The battle with Jofra Archer was much-hyped, but it ended up being a little side story. The two batters cruised along, unbothered, hardly troubled. It’s as if we were in the Unbox event again, and the directive was clear – hit it into the stands. The chase was blockbuster stuff, worth every penny and more.

For years, the Bengaluru franchise has lived through the topsy-turvy cycle of an IPL season, one that begins with hope, turns into a promising script but falters and shatters near the finishing line. Wins like these ignite that hope.

In all honesty, there were several little cracks that could surface over the next few games. Chinnaswamy’s flat pitches and the unbeatable crowd support can give a sense of false security. Not every surface in this IPL will be as batting-easy, not every boundary this short. A Kohli-Faf-Karthik-Maxwell top four could leave a lot for the middle order if a collapse ensues. In bowling, their economy rates in the middle overs continue to concern. Reece Topley’s injury looks bad, while Josh Hazlewood and Rajat Patidar are already away for quite a bit.

We shouldn’t spoil a great evening though, should we? For now, there are reasons galore for Bengaluru fans to celebrate. Their biggest superstars put on an absolute exhibition. There are more treats to follow: the team plays five more home games within a month. Expect more Kohli & Faf mania, maybe some Maxwell and DK magic too. Forget how cricket works elsewhere – in Bengaluru, the superstars will continue to run the show.

A month from now, when the tournament goes deeper, the scenario might change, but for now, all’s well in the RCB camp. Tom Holland aka Spiderman might be in Mumbai, but the real Homecoming took place in Bengaluru. And yes, much like the Marvel blockbuster, this was packed with entertainment.

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