IPL 2017: Shane Watson to captain RCB in Virat Kohli’s absence

Former Australian all-rounder Shane Watson will stand in as captain of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the initial stages of Indian Premier League 2017. Watson will skipper RCB until Virat Kohli, the regular captain, makes a full recovery from a shoulder injury sustained during the recently-concluded Test series against Australia.

Watson, a two-time recipient of the player of the tournament award, has previously skippered the now-suspended Rajasthan Royals franchise. RCB’s head coach Daniel Vettori had earlier hinted at AB de Villiers taking over the reins of the side in Kohli’s absence but the swashbuckling South African batsman will also miss Wednesday’s tournament opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad with an ongoing back trouble.

De Villiers, who also missed the final of the Momentum One-Day Cup in Centurion last Friday, has been advised an additional couple of days of rest, and is likely to begin his IPL 2017 in RCB’s first home game of the season – against Delhi Daredevils on April 8.

“Virat Kohli, the RCB Captain will be missing the first few matches of the VIVO Indian Premier League owing to an unfortunate shoulder injury. His presence on field is dependent on him passing the fitness tests and we hope for a strong recovery for him,” team chairman Amrit Thomas was quoted as saying by an official media release.

“In the interim, Shane Watson, will lead the RCB team as the stand-in captain. Shane has been one of the top performers and a great mentor for the team, making him an ideal choice to lead the team this season till Virat is back on field,” the release added.

Kohli sustained an injury to his right shoulder while diving to save a boundary on the opening day of the Ranchi Test against Australia. The injury ruled him of the series decider in Dharamsala. In the aftermath of India’s series victory, Kohli informed that he was still a few weeks away from regaining full fitness.

Kohli, who is undergoing rehabilitation, will work closely with Vettori in a mentoring role until he is passed fit to compete by the doctors and the team India physios.

His absence, brief or otherwise, is likely to significantly hamper RCB’s quest for a maiden IPL crown. The team has already been stung hard by the injury to KL Rahul, which has ruled the young wicketkeeper-batsman out of IPL 2017.

Kohli, the league’s all-time highest run-getter (4110 runs at 38.41), has missed just one game for the franchise in the nine years of the tournament’s existence. In 2016, Kohli aggregated a season record 973 runs in RCB’s run to the final, where his team was pipped at the finish by Sunrisers Hyderabad.

The 35-year-old Watson, however, brings with him oodles of IPL experience, having played a pivotal role in Rajasthan’s title-winning team of 2008. In 94 IPL games, the burly Australian has 2551 runs at 32.71 including two centuries to go with 81 wickets at an economy of 7.72.

Sarfaraz Khan likely to miss IPL 2017

RCB’s injury-riddled pre-season suffered another blow when 19-year-old batsman Sarfaraz Khan suffered a leg injury during an inter-squad practice game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, that is all but set to rule the precocious teenager out of the tournament.

Sarfaraz picked up the injury while sliding to field the ball and immediately appeared to be in pain.

“Owing to a leg injury during the final Bangalore based practice match session, Sarfaraz Khan will most likely be unavailable to play as a part of the RCB squad this VIVO IPL and we are evaluating the same with the BCCI. His absence will be definitely felt on-field and we wish him a speedy recovery,” Vettori revealed.

RCB, whose batting stocks have been deeply dented by the injury loss of Rahul and Sarfaraz, will be forced to name replacements at the earliest. Tamil Nadu’s N Jagadeesan and Kerala’s Vishnu Vinod are understood to be the frontrunners to earn a place in the Bangalore squad.

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