Virat Kohli celebrates his half-century during Royal Challengers Bangalore's first match against Mumbai Indians in Bengaluru on Sunday. Image Credit: Source: IPL Twitter

New Delhi: Former Royal Challengers Bangalore stalwart AB de Villiers believes letting go of leadership duties in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has played a big role in talismanic batter Virat Kohli appearing to be more relaxed and happier in the ongoing season of the tournament.

Kohli had stepped down as the RCB captain after the 2021 IPL season, followed by exiting as the skipper of the Indian cricket team across all formats. Since September 2022, Kohli has been in a rich vein of form internationally to break a prolonged lean patch, and began the 2023 IPL season strongly with an unbeaten 82 to help RCB beat Mumbai Indians by eight wickets in their opening game.

Plenty of energy

“To be honest, I have not seen much change, everything is similar. The technique looks solid; he has got good balance at the crease. He is still that ‘busy’ player with a lot of energy at the wicket. I just feel, this season he has come in looking really fresh. I have seen some of his interviews, where he is laughing more than ever and makes jokes.

“I think letting captaincy go last season played a big role in him just relaxing. He was a fantastic captain, but he did it for a long period of time internationally and in the IPL, which can be daunting. You don’t have time off to chill to spend time with family and have a laugh with your friends,” said de Villiers during a virtual media round-table.

Fun and games

In that match against Mumbai, Kohli was in sublime touch to be 82 not out off 49 balls, including hitting six fours and five sixes to propel RCB in chasing 172 in 16.2 overs. De Villiers, currently seen as an IPL Expert for JioCinema, also backed Kohli to have a great time with the bat in IPL 2023.

“I think that’s his mantra for the season, ‘just go out and have fun, keep smiling’. When he is having fun, the natural talent takes over, and he scores runs at ease, which he did in the first match. We will see some fireworks this season, and I think the best is yet to come, which I am looking forward to see.”

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Former South African captain AB de Villiers is confident that the fans can expect more fireworks from Virat Kohli. Image Credit: AFP

Strong start

With RCB off to a strong start in the competition and set to face Kolkata Knight Riders in their first away game of IPL 2023 at the Eden Gardens on Thursday, de Villiers is expecting that the Faf du Plessis-led side can go all the way to clinch their first-ever IPL trophy.

“The Gujarat Titans are a really strong team, and probably the favourites in my opinion to win the tournament. But RCB have had a fantastic start, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that they can win the tournament. T20 cricket can be up and down; it’s not always the best looking team on paper that wins you the tournament.

Plenty of talent

“It’s a long road ahead. There are a lot of things that need to fall in place, but there’s no doubt in my mind (that) we (RCB) can win the tournament, and I’m hoping for the best. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

“If we can just get through to the knockouts, it’s our first goal, then anything can happen in those knockouts. We have the talent in the team, there’s no doubt about it.”