RCB skipper Virat Kohli expressed disappointment over not being able to play in front of the home fans, but asserted that playing at neutral venues will make the 2021 edition extremely competitive. Kohli further hoped to carry good form and fortune with the national side into the IPL.
Despite the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) returning back to India, teams will have no home advantage for a second year running thanks to the scheduling. No team will enjoy the comfort of playing at home in any of the 60 matches in IPL 2021 as the ‘cluster’ format will see each side play across a maximum of four venues in the group stages - all in neutral venues - with the playoff happening in Ahmedabad, which will again be a neutral venue for all eight franchises.
Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli believes that, like the 2020 edition, neutral venues will make the tournament ‘more competitive’. Speaking ahead of his side’s first game of the season, Kohli expressed disappointment over not being able to play in front of the RCB loyalists in Bengaluru but described the absence of home advantage as a 'positive'.
"There's nothing quite like playing in Chinnaswamy in front of your home crowd. Obviously, the fans are going to miss watching us play. Such are the times that we are in right now. But the good thing is that we are back in India. And one more positive about this edition, like last year, is that there is no home advantage,” Kohli said on Thursday.
"Every team is playing in neutral venues and the strength of your squad really comes to the fore. That's precisely why last IPL was so competitive - until about the last three-four games everyone was in the reckoning to qualify, which I think is great for the tournament. The viewership was through the roof, which I expect to be the case this time around as well.
"Having done well last year in such a competitive scenario and space, we're very confident that as a side, with a stronger squad this time around, we'll have another great season. Just playing in set venues with four teams, I think that's going to nullify all the home advantage that every team used to have."
After failing to make the playoffs for three consecutive seasons between 2016-2019, Kohli’s RCB endured a fine season in 2020 as they reached the playoffs before losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator. The RCB skipper insisted that the Reds’ aim, this time around, will be to go the distance.
"We had a good season last time around, probably would have liked to go a couple of steps further, which we obviously aim to do as a side this year. Very exciting times ahead. I personally feel very relaxed with the resources we have and the strength of our team,” Kohli said.
The last few months have been special for Kohli, as apart from becoming a father for the first time, the 32-year-old also led India to series wins over England in all three formats. He also, apart from that, saw his side successfully book a place in the final of the World Test Championship in June. Ahead of the new season, Kohli expressed that he is generally the kind of player who loves to carry over the confidence he garnered with the national team into the IPL.
"From personal experience, I can vouch for the fact that when you do well with your national team, it's always an exciting time to come to the IPL and really make this tournament your own. I aimed to do that as a youngster, bring the confidence I gained at the international level back into the IPL set up. Our youngsters have become more confident with more experience, and now oppositions know that these are guys that can make an impact in any situation."
Kohli and RCB will kick-start their IPL 2021 campaign versus Mumbai Indians in Chennai on Friday, April 9.