AB de Villiers scored 687 runs for RCB in IPL 2016    AFP
AB de Villiers scored 687 runs for RCB in IPL 2016 AFP

As expected, in place of Virat Kohli, who is currently injured and unsure of playing in the initial matches of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2017, AB de Villiers will lead the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) side. RCB coach Daniel Vettori has confirmed that de Villiers will take over from Kohli as captain in his absence as the regular skipper remains unfit. Interacting with media in RCB’s first press conference of this season, Vettori confirmed that Kohli would join the side from April 2 but also mentioned that his availability for the matches would depend on BCCI doctors and physios assessment.

He will come in on April 2, Vettori said on Thursday (March 30). Between now and then, the BCCI doctors and physio will speak to us and our medical staff will get a clearer picture. Right now, we don t have a clear picture on his availability. We ll know in the next few days. The likely scenario is that AB de Villiers will take over the duties, but we ll answer that once we find out if Virat is out.

Despite absence of Kohli, on whom RCB depends heavily, Vettori looked confident and said that the side has enough bench strength to manage in his absence. Fortunately, we have a number of exceptional batsmen who haven t got many playing chances, like Sarfaraz Khan and Mandeep Singh, he said. It s a huge asset for us that someone else can fill in those gaps. Sarfaraz has been really good. At the back end of the domestic season he started to put some runs on the board. Everyone knows how talented he is. With possible injuries, he could get an opportunity early on in the tournament.

Once again, Kohli might be seen giving drinks to his RCB teammates during the matches, like he did during the fourth Test between India and Australia at Dharamsala. Also, players like Kohli and KL Rahul had a long tiring season. Reacting to it, Vettori said he is confident of both the players being mentally fresh.

They are accustomed to this, he said. Virat has played for the country for so long, so he s familiar with the rigours of international schedule and the IPL. Yet, he still performs well like we saw last year. KL too was part of the Test squad in the past. Most important thing is that they are fit and prepared for this. If we give small mental breaks for them now and then, [it will be enough]. Physically, I think they will be fine. We ll just try to keep it as relaxed and calm as possible. It s going to be an incredibly busy April because we have to play around 15 games. Managing players is important. Possibly more than anything is giving the rest that players need. We won t overdo it. For now, we ll build up to a great game on the fifth.

Vettori also opened up on Mitchell Starc’s absence and since they have got Tymal Mills in the side, he will have to fill in the shoes of the Australian pacer. I hope so. We don t want to put that sort of pressure on him. Starc is a top-class bowler and Mills is only finding his way into international and franchise cricket now. We want him to do well, but he will go about it in a different way than what Mitchell did. He s obviously happy. It wasn t just us bidding for him. A lot of teams had scouted him and understood that he was a good player, how he could be effective for a team. It s always nice to be popular, isn t it? I ve known him from Brisbane Heat, got a really good feel for him as a person and a player. He ll fit in really well with our group, Vettori added.

Talking about plenty of overseas bowling options, Vettori quipped, The good thing about smaller auctions is that every team has a new list and they can add players who can help improve their performance from last season. That s why we went for Tymal Mills and Aniket Chaudhary, and the new ball bowling will be assisted by those two. We have a strong batting line-up (anyway) and confident bowlers now. It s an improvement from last year. Having a lot of overseas options, is not a headache. It just gives us an opportunity to manage our fast bowlers, going by how tough our schedule is. We ve got Stanlake, Tymal, Milne and Badree all proven performers. I m sure they ll all get an opportunity.