Shane Watson will lead Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2017 till Virat Kohli returns. © BCCI

Shane Watson will lead Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2017 till Virat Kohli returns. © BCCI

Shane Watson will lead Royal Challengers Bangalore in the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League until Virat Kohli returns to full fitness, the franchise confirmed on Monday (April 3).

Kohli, who sustained a shoulder injury during India’s Test series against Australia, will be assessed in the second week of April, which means Watson will be the captain for possibly the first four matches that Bangalore will play, with the fourth one scheduled on April 14 against Mumbai Indians at home.

Daniel Vettori, the Bangalore coach, had earlier announced that AB de Villiers would be the skipper in Kohli’s absence, but with de Villiers’s own fitness also not 100% with a back niggle, the franchise has turned to Watson. De Villiers will miss the IPL opener on Wednesday, when Bangalore take on Sunrisers Hyderabad away in a rematch of the last year’s final which they lost, but the franchise is hoping he’ll be available for their second match,  against Delhi Daredevils at home on April 8.

“AB De Villiers has traveled well. However he still has some minor discomfort and we felt that couple of days off would be best before we have him back in action,” said Vettori. “We hope to see him on the field in good form by the 8th April match against Delhi Daredevils.”

Amrit Thomas, the chairman of the franchise, said Kohli would continue to mentor the team alongside Vettori. “His presence on field is dependent on him passing the fitness tests and we hope for a strong recovery for him,” said Thomas of Kohli. “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.

“Virat who is a core pillar of the RCB team will be working closely with the RCB coach Daniel Vettori and mentoring the team to make sure the team hitting the field on April 5 and beyond is well prepared and motivated to play bold like always. We have a line-up of exceptional young batsmen who are strong assets to the team and we hope to see our bold team to come together to create new milestones this season.”

Watson has previously led Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, and said on Saturday that he was prepared to shoulder more responsibility with Bangalore, given Kohli’s certain absence and the possibility of de Villiers also missing some part of the tournament.

With de Villiers not available for the first match, Bangalore will be without their top three scorers from IPL 2016 for the opener, given that KL Rahul has been ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury.

In a further injury blow, Bangalore also looked like they had lost the services of Sarfaraz Khan, the promising young batsman who had played a couple of eye-catching innings in IPL 2016. Sarfaraz suffered a leg injury during Bangalore’s final practice match at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in the city, and after initially sending out a release that said the batsman was out of the IPL, the franchise amended it to say he was ‘most likely’ to be unavailable. “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,” said Vettori. “We are evaluating the same with the BCCI. His absence will be definitely felt on-field and we wish him a speedy recovery.”

Sarfaraz was fielding at the square leg boundary when he fell behind the ropes. He was stretchered off the field then, and though he came back later, the leg injury meant he has become the latest to join the list of injured players that Bangalore in particular will have to struggle with.