“I couldn’t be happier to pass on the baton to a good friend, someone I’ve known over the years,” says Virat Kohli
“I couldn’t be happier to pass on the baton to a good friend, someone I’ve known over the years,” Kohli said in a recorded video. “We’ve been in touch for many years now. He’s one of the few guys I’ve gotten to know a little bit more apart from the cricket. My partnership with Faf is going to be exciting. The squad we’ve put together is amazing. Our team looks balanced and strong, and I can’t wait to get started.”
du Plessis, the former South Africa captain, became a frontrunner as soon as the franchise outbid Chennai Super Kings, his former team, and Delhi Capitals to sign him for INR 7 crores last month. Super Kings aside, du Plessis has also represented Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016 and 2017.
Glenn Maxwell, one of their three retentions, and Dinesh Karthik, another signing at the auction, were among the other candidates in the fray. The franchise, however, looks at all of them – Kohli included – as part of a central leadership group along with du Plessis and Mike Hesson, the director of cricket.
“Coming in as an outsider, I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity,” du Plessis said in Bengaluru. “It’s no small thing to trust an outsider, an overseas player to do the job as a leader leader. My style in doing that is not going to be ‘my way’. I will rely heavily on amazing experience of our domestic and international players.
“Having been a leader for a while, I’ve been on the journey for creating a culture, it’s close to my heart. First and foremost, my style will be a relational style. To connect with players and start to get to know everyone. The first part of my journey would be to build relationships, try and make sure what are the small things that make each individual tick and how to get the best out of the them.”
du Plessis, a four-time IPL winner with the Super Kings, scored 633 runs during their title-winning run in 2021. He formed a terrific opening combination with Ruturaj Gaikwad and was instrumental in the team bouncing back from a last-placed finish in 2020.
“Faf is not only a world class player, he has also shown tremendous ability to lead on the international stage in all three formats of the game,” Hesson said. “His contribution on the field is eminent but a leader who leads by example is very inspiring to any team. His experience and inclusive style of leadership will certainly be crucial in maximizing the knowledge from all of the leaders within our RCB squad. Captaincy is not only about tactics it’s also about getting to know individuals and helping them achieve special things, we are confident that together with this group we can build on the success of this team in the season ahead.”
Now retired from South Africa colors, du Plessis is free of International commitments. He will be available for the entire season, even as some of the other South African players are likely to miss the early stages due to their home series against Bangladesh.
Yet to win an IPL crown, the Royal Challengers are looking to build on their two back-to-back playoffs appearances as they build towards the new season. The three-time finalists open their campaign against Punjab Kings in Mumbai on March 27, the second day of the season.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo