From Kohli’s aggro to MS Dhoni’s CSK legacy, India’s non-cricket stars reveal IPL favourites
With most sporting events either cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian Premier League (IPL) starting on Saturday couldn’t have come at a better time.
The almost two-month long cricketing fiesta scheduled in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) boasts of world stars like Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle among many others.
Even non-cricket playing Indian sportspersons can’t wait for IPL 2020 to start.
Indian tennis player Yuki Bhambri has been following Mumbai Indians religiously since the IPL began in 2008 and although some of the legends have retired over the years, Bhambri’s fandom has continued.
“I started supporting Mumbai Indians because of Sachin Tendulkar,” Yuki Bhambri told the Olympic Channel.
“Even though I am from Delhi I felt a connection with Mumbai Indians right from the start and even after Sachin Tendulkar retired, I have remained an MI supporter.
“My favourite player now is (Mumbai Indians captain) Rohit Sharma,” Bhambri added.
Though Mumbai-lad Chirag Shetty has a large chunk of his heart set on four-time IPL champions MI, the shuttler loves Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore as well.
“I’ve been supporting both Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore right from the first season. Virat Kohli from RCB and Rohit Sharma from MI are my favourite players,” Chirag Shetty revealed.
“I’ve watched more matches of MI because I live in Mumbai. In the initial three-four years of IPL, I have watched at least one game in the stadium.
“I am really hoping for a better campaign for RCB this time and expect them to be in the knockout stages,” the Indian badminton doubles player added. RCB has never won the IPL despite the presence of Kohli and De Villiers.
Two-in-one for CSK and Dhoni fan Sathiyan
For top Indian table tennis player Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, who is an ardent fan of the Indian cricket team’s 2011 ICC World Cup-winning captain MS Dhoni, the choice was simple.
“It’s a two-in-one when your favourite player plays for your home team,” G Sathiyan said.
“I have been watching the IPL since the year it started and I have been a Chennai Super Kings fan for the last 12 years.
“I fell in love with the yellow colour as well. I think CSK has made yellow look great. Dhoni, who has just retired, will not wear the blue jersey again. I hope he can make wonders in the yellow jersey
“I’m obviously waiting to see Dhoni in action because it’s been long already,” the TT player added.
Yuki Bhambri hopes MI breaks the jinx
A big Mumbai Indians fan, Yuki Bhambri has followed the team's squad build-up process closely. And the former junior tennis world No. 1 believes they are set to reap the rewards.
“I’ve been keeping track of all the updates,” Yuki Bhambri said.
“Mumbai Indians have retained most of their players this year. Even though Lasith Malinga is missing, we have Aussie pacer James Pattinson in his place.
“Mumbai will be happy to have Hardik Pandya back after he was out for a long time. Apart from that, they have a good set of Indian and foreign players.
“MI have always won in odd years (2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019), I feel they can break that jinx this time,” Bhambri added.
Admiration for Virat Kohli’s aggression
Virat Kohli is arguably the best limited-overs batsman in world cricket. Fans admire him not only for his batting but also his on-field aggression.
Chirag Shetty and G Sathiyan, who excel in very different sports, can also relate their playing traits with that of the RCB captain.
“If I had to pick one player who suits my playing style, it would be the aggressive Kohli,” Yuki Bhambri said.
G Sathiyan added, “I really love Dhoni but if you have to say the kind of player who resembles me, it would be Virat Kohli.
“He is not a great hard-hitter but Kohli is fast and aggressive. He is always looking for opportunities and scoring continuously.
“He plays his shots nicely with great timing and is quick on feet as well,” added the Commonwealth and Asian Games bronze medallist.
Chirag Shetty summed up the Indian cricket team captain’s attitude on the field: “Virat Kohli is always expressive, which quite resembles me when I am playing on the court.”
PV Sindhu dons Sunrisers Hyderabad’s jersey
Indian badminton star and Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu is a Sunrisers Hyderabad fan and turns up to support her home team whenever she is free.
Born in Hyderabad, the Andhra shuttler has been seen donning the orange jersey and cheering SRH at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium.
"When I'm off from badminton and I am at home I come to watch Sunrisers Hyderabad's matches," PV Sindhu told the IPL website.
“I follow SRH’s progress in the IPL and I come to the ground to enjoy and chill from time to time,” she added.
Veteran Indian tennis player and 2017 French Open mixed doubles winner Rohan Bopanna is a Royal Challengers Bangalore fan.
Hailing from Bengaluru, the tennis player has not hidden his fandom on social media, even following their matches when he is overseas for tennis tournaments.