Australian duo Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Starc insist the side has moved on from the 2018 sandpaper scandal that rocked the team last time they met South Africa in a Test series.

Australia and the Proteas will lock horns for the first time since the fateful 2018 tour of South Africa in a three-game Test series starting on Saturday at the Gabba in Brisbane.

The 2018 scandal rocked Australian cricket, leading to Steve Smith and David Warner's 12-month bans, along with the loss of their leadership positions. Head coach Darren Lehmann stepped aside, with Justin Langer instilled in the aftermath to restore the team's reputation.

Khawaja was part of the side for the third Test in Cape Town in 2018 when the ball tampering saga emerged but said those ghosts had been banished.

"It honestly hasn't been and I'm being genuine," Khawaja told reporters on Thursday when asked if the sandpaper scandal had been discussed internally. "It's because time heals all wounds.

"The guys have come so far from there, both as individual players, but also as a team.

"Everyone's got so many different things going on in their life from where they were four years ago. That actually gave guys a lot of perspective.

"Australian cricket, both as a whole and as individual as players, we were probably at rock bottom right there."

Starc was also part of that Australian side in Cape Town, but echoed Khawaja's sentiments.

"I think both teams have probably evolved since," Starc said. "It's been an evolution of our group across the formats.

"We're very happy, chilled, relaxed, [in an] enjoyable environment and hopefully it's going to show in our cricket and result in a positive performance in these three Tests."

Faf du Plessis, who was the South Africa captain during the 2018 series, fueled the flames ahead of the series with an extract in his newly released book, accusing Smith of "milking" physical contact with Kagiso Rabada in the first Test of that tour.

The 2018 series was full of intensity, with the Smith-Rabada clash one of many heated incidents leading up to the fateful sandpaper scandal.

"This episode has almost been forgotten against the backdrop of what the series still had up its sleeve, or more accurately, down its trousers," Du Plessis wrote.

"They brushed shoulders during one of KG’s overs but Smith milked it like a football player. We knew that KG was one demerit point away from a suspension."

Johnson Charles of the St Lucia Kings and Kyle Mayers of the Barbados Royals were among the 12-man 2022 Hero CPL Team of the Tournament released on Friday. Noticeably absent, however, is Brandon King of the Jamaica Tallawahs, who is the second highest run-scorer in the tournament and one of only three men who have scored hundreds in this year’s tournament.

The team that was picked by the Hero CPL commentary team – Ian Bishop, Samuel Badree, Daren Ganga, Simon Doull and Danny Morrison, also includes South Africa’s Faf Du Plessis, who captained the Kings and Tallawahs’ captain Rovman Powell.

 In fact, players from the Kings and Tallawahs dominated the selection with only Sunil  Narine of four-time champions Trinbago Knight Riders among the selectees while other than Mayers, only Jason Holder was selected among the 11 from the Barbados Royals.

 However, the selection panel picked the Royals’ Ramon Simmonds as the 12th man as a result of his impressive performances throughout the tournament.

 Simmonds is one of the 12 emerging players in the Hero CPL squads and has been an important part of the Barbados Royals team in 2022. 

 The 2022 Hero CPL Team of the Tournament: Johnson Charles (Saint Lucia Kings), Kyle Mayers (Barbados Royals), Faf Du Plessis (Saint Lucia Kings), Rovman Powell (Jamaica Tallawahs), Raymon Reifer (Jamaica Tallawahs), Imad Wasim (Jamaica Tallawahs), Jason Holder (Barbados Royals), David Wiese (Saint Lucia Kings), Alzarri Joseph (Saint Lucia Kings), Mohammad Amir (Jamaica Tallawahs) Sunil Narine (Trinbago Knight Riders) and 12th man – Ramon Simmonds (Barbados Royals).

St. Lucia Kings captain Faf Du Plessis hopes his team’s good form with the bat will carry over into their Eliminator against the Jamaica Tallawahs in the Caribbean Premier League in Guyana on Tuesday.

The Kings finished third in the league phase of the tournament with nine points from their 10 matches.

Their batting was led by their prolific opening combination of Du Plessis and Johnson Charles.

Charles, who was recently recalled to the West Indies squad for the T20 World Cup, finished the league phase as the leading run scorer with 342 runs from eight matches including four half centuries.

Du Plessis finished fourth on the runs chart with 291 runs in nine matches including three fifties and a magnificent 103 against the Guyana Amazon Warriors

“I think any batting team would say to you that form plays a big role. As a team I feel like, with myself and Johnson Charles up front, there’s some really good form in there. Some of the other guys are looking like they’re hitting the ball better as well so that’s a pleasing sign,” Du Plessis said.

“When guys are in form you want to cash in on that. Our start has basically been a weapon for us so, hopefully, we can get off to a good start again.”

Du Plessis also commented on the conditions of the Guyana pitch, saying “I’m really impressed with how the wicket has been playing. Based on my experience from the past here, it looks like a pretty good cricket wicket so it sets up nicely for what would be quarterfinals and semi-finals in the next two days.”

The Kings and Tallawahs will square off at 6:00pm Jamaica Time (7:00pm ECT) and the winner will advance to Qualifier 2 on Wednesday against the loser of Qualifier 1 between the Barbados Royals and Guyana Amazon Warriors.

 

 

 

Guyana Amazon Warriors made it two from two in their home leg of the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) with a thrilling run chase to defeat the Saint Lucia Kings on Thursday night.

The Kings won the toss and opted to bat first, and their captain Faf Du Plessis showed why with a magnificent century to lead the way.

His 103 came off 59 balls to help his side set the highest team total in the Hero CPL this year. An outstanding 194-5 looked like an unshakeable target but the Amazon Warriors had other ideas.

Rahmunullah Gurbaz and Chandrapaul Hemraj got the Amazon Warriors' reply off to a fantastic start reaching 71 runs at the end of the PowerPlay and that enabled the Warriors to always be in the hunt for victory. Despite a flurry of wickets after the PowerPlay, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer paced the chase superbly and the Warriors were able to get home with four balls to spare. 

Earlier the Kings had shown what a good wicket it was, teeing off from ball one to reach 100 runs in 10 overs. Du Plessis was faultless in his stroke play targeting all corners of the ground and brought up his century in the 17th over of the match.

Late runs from Roston Chase helped the Kings set the Warriors 195 to win but if the chase seemed insurmountable the Warriors made light of it in front of a fever-pitch Providence crowd.

 Gurbaz set the tone in the PowerPlay blasting 52 off 26 balls and this laid the platform for Hope and Hetmyer to pace the remainder of the chase appropriately. When Hetmyer fell for 36, Hope simply took up the mantle leading the Warriors home with a superb half-century.

 His 59 runs came off 30 balls as he made it back-to-back fifties in the Hero CPL and consecutive wins for the Amazon Warriors.

Scores: Guyana Amazon Warriors 195-4 (Hope 59*, Gurbaz 52; Deyal 2-32, Joseph 1-20) beat Saint Lucia Kings 194-5 (Du Plessis 103, Dickwella 36; Al Hasan 2-33, Shepherd 1-19) by 6 wickets.

 

Saint Lucia Kings made it three wins on the spin in the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) with a thrilling one-run victory over the Trinbago Knight Riders on Sunday night.

The Knight Riders won the toss and opted to field first and that decision appeared to have backfired when Johnson Charles’ half-century got the Kings off to a lightning start.

Although the Knight Riders pegged the Kings back in the middle overs a devastating 33 off 14 balls from David Wiese ensured the Knight Riders were set a very difficult 148 to win.

 The Knight Riders’ task became even more difficult when they lost three early wickets inside the PowerPlay including that of Nicholas Pooran for a duck. 

 They never really recovered from that and left themselves too much ground to make up in the back end resulting in the narrow defeat.

 The Kings had got off to a flier in the PowerPlay with the tournament’s top scorer Charles hitting another barnstorming fifty. His partnership with Niroshan Dickwella added 59 runs before Ravi Rampaul carried on his good form by removing the latter.

 When Rampaul removed the set Charles it led to a squeeze on the Kings scorecard as 82-3 quickly became 117-5.

 However, David Wiese was able to produce an excellent counter-attacking innings at the death to help the Kings post a challenging 147.

 The Knight Riders' response saw their top order fail again as Leonardo Julien, Colin Munro and Nicholas Pooran all fell inside the powerplay to Roston Chase.

 That left the middle and lower order too much to do and despite a late salvo by Andre Russell in the final over of the game, it was too little too late.

 The two sides swap places in the table following the results and both will now head to Guyana with all to play for in the race for the playoffs. 

Scores: Saint Lucia Kings 147-6 (Charles 54, Wiese 33; Rampaul 2-10, Narine 2-31) beat Trinbago Knight Riders 146-6 (Seifert 44, Pollard 34; Chase 3-17, Joseph 2-26) by 1 run.

Saint Lucia Kings moved back into the play-off spots with a 49-run victory over St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the 20th match of the 2022 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) season on Saturday.

St Kitts and Nevis Patriots won the toss and chose to field first, but it was Faf du Plessis who got the Saint Lucia Kings off to a dominating start by scoring boundaries throughout the opening overs. Johnson Charles then continued to score runs, before big hitting from David Wiese and Roshon Primus powered the Kings to a total of 189-7. 

In their chase, the Patriots could not find fluency as they lost four wickets in the first 10 overs. Wiese was the stand-out bowler for the Kings, taking three wickets for just eight runs as the Patriots finished 140 all out and lost by a margin of 49 runs. 

Saint Lucia Kings had a positive start to their innings with du Plessis and Charles comfortably hitting boundaries at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, although the former would lose his wicket attempting a scoop shot. Despite losing wickets at regular intervals, the Kings managed to score 189-7 largely thanks to the performance of Charles, who scored 61 and was at the crease for over 15 overs. 

St Kitts and Nevis Patriots had begun to build a foundation in their chase but lost both openers Andre Fletcher and Evin Lewis in the fifth over. With Wiese then taking the wickets of both Darren and DJ Bravo, the Patriots began to rebound with Dewald Brevis scoring some crucial runs before he was caught out. As the Patriots lost more wickets, Kesrick Williams proving a threat with the ball, they could not keep up with the required run rate and were bowled out for 140, losing by 49 runs. 

 Scores:  Saint Lucia Kings 189-7 (Charles 61, du Plessis 41; DJ Bravo 1-26, Khan 2-45) beat St Kitts & Nevis Patriots 140 all out (Brevis 32, Khan 26; Wiese 3-8, Williams 3-32) by 49 runs.

Saint Lucia Kings kept their Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) hopes alive with a dominant victory against St Kitts & Nevis Patriots at the Darren Sammy Stadium in St Lucia Sunday night.

 The Patriots won the toss and opted to field first and that appeared to have backfired when Johnson Charles and Faf Du Plessis put on a blistering opening partnership that saw them post 61 runs in the PowerPlay. 

 However, much like their performance against the Guyana Amazon Warriors, the Kings faltered badly in the back end of their innings losing nine wickets for 75 runs.  

Despite the stuttering end to their innings, the 161-9 the Kings posted always looked tricky and the Patriots got off to a bad start in the PowerPlay losing three wickets for 48 runs.

They never recovered from that position as the Kings blew them away with an excellent performance in the field. Tim David led the way with a Hero CPL record-equalling five catches in the outfield. 

The Kings needed a good performance in this must-win game and led by captain Faf Du Plessis’ 60 runs from 35 balls they set off very quickly. 

Ably assisted by the in-form Johnson Charles the pair put on 86 for the first wicket but once Charles fell the Kings innings fell away. They regularly lost wickets in clusters and when Alzarri Joseph departed for a duck with the score on 124-7 it looked as if the Kings may not see out the overs. 

However, late hitting from Matthew Forde ensured the Kings were able to post a par score of 161. 

The Patriots' innings was in deep trouble very early on in reply. Matthew Forde ripped through the top three to leave the Patriots teetering at the end of the Powerplay.

 From that point, the Patriots failed to build any meaningful partnership as their top order continued to struggle.

 When Alzarri Joseph removed Darren Bravo for 20 to leave the Patriots on 81-6, that was the last of the recognised batters and the innings soon ended with the Patriots ending on 100 all out.

Saint Lucia Kings 161-9 (Du Plessis 60, Charles 41; Pretorius 3-37, Dananjaya 2-30) beat St Kitts & Nevis Patriots 100 (Lewis 24, Bravo 20; Wiese 3-17, Forde 3-19) by 61 runs.

 

Guyana Amazon Warriors secured their first victory of the 2022 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) season with a win over Saint Lucia Kings by six wickets in front of a lively home crowd on Saturday.

 The Guyana Amazon Warriors won the toss and chose to field, yet the Kings got off to a blistering start, racing to 77-0 in the powerplay before being held back by spinners Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi. The Kings finished on 161-7, with Johnson Charles batting throughout the whole innings and scoring a superb 87 off just 59 balls.

Despite losing early wicket, Guyana Amazon Warriors navigated their chase through Shimron Hetmyer and Heinrich Klaasen, who built a 66-run partnership. Klaasen would go on to score a sublime 61 from 46 balls to take Amazon Warriors to their first win of the season with ten balls to spare.

Saint Lucia Kings got off to a dream start, Charles combining with Faf du Plessis to reach 77-0 after six overs, the highest powerplay score of the season so far. Yet Shamsi and Tahir highlighted their quality by restricting runs and picking up wickets that held up scoring for the Kings. Tim David launched a late counter-attack, but it was Keemo Paul who shone with the ball in the final over, picking up two wickets and giving away just four runs, which saw the Kings end on 161-7 after 20 overs. 

Guyana Amazon Warriors started their chase with intent, Chandrapaul Hemraj scoring five boundaries before being dismissed in the 4th over, with fellow opener Shai Hope being caught two balls later. Nevertheless, Hetmyer and Klaasen worked together to score runs and keep the Warriors close to their target. Despite Hetmyer losing his wicket, Klaasen would bat through to the end, and supported by Keemo Paul, managed to get his side across the line with ten balls remaining. 

 The win means Amazon Warriors have registered their first victory of the season, while Saint Lucia Kings have suffered their second successive loss. 

 

The Barbados Royals made it two wins from two with a comfortable DLS victory against Saint Lucia Kings in game six of the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) on Sunday.

The Kings won the toss and opted to field first hoping to take advantage of the effects of the inclement weather. However, that decision backfired somewhat as Kyle Mayers and Rahkeem Cornwall once again got off to a flyer in the PowerPlay.

The Kings managed to slow the innings down in the middle and back end with wickets at regular intervals but that did not stop the Royals from posting a very challenging 162-7.

In reply, the Kings chase was almost over before it began with Mayers removing the top order with a two-over spell of four wickets for four runs.

Rain threatened to end the match with a no result but DLS reset the total to 103 to win from 9 overs. Faf Du Plessis and Alzarri Joseph took the game down to the last over but ultimately fell short with the asking rate proving too much.

The tone for the Royals' victory was set with the power of their opening partnership. They raced to 49 runs before Cornwall was dismissed for 32 off 17 balls.

When Mayers departed for 36 with the scorecard reading 76-2 the Royals looked set for a huge total, however, between the 13th and 17th over no boundaries were scored and regular wickets fell to seemingly hand the Kings the advantage.

However late order hitting from David Miller and Joshua Bishop ensured a competitive total was set all the same.

Kyle Mayers was yet to bowl in this year's Hero (CPL) but when he was handed the ball at the beginning of the Kings innings, he produced a devastating two-over spell that ended the game as a contest.

His clever in-dippers cleaned up Johnson Charles and Roston Chase’s middle stump before also dismissing Mark Deyal and Roshon Primus to leave the Kings tottering at 10/4.

The rain came to offer some respite but when the players returned the Kings needed a highly improbable 93 runs from 30 balls.

Some enterprising hitting from Alzarri Joseph and Faf Du Plessis nearly pulled off an unlikely heist, but the equation proved too steep to overcome.

(Barbados Royals 162/7 (Mayers 36, Cornwall 32; Deyal 2/15, Joseph 2/31) beat Saint Lucia Kings 91/4 (Du Plessis 47*, Joseph 29*; Mayers 4/4) by 11 runs (DLS))

Faf du Plessis, who captained the Kings to a second successive Hero CPL final in 2021, will return this season. Tim David and David Wiese will join him after were both instrumental to the Kings' success during the 2021 season.

This season will also see the return of Scott Kuggeleijn who played for the Kings in 2020, where he finished as the tournament’s leading wicket taker that season. The Kings have one more overseas spot left to fill, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Kings will have six more spots to fill at the Hero CPL draft with details of these picks released during the draft show which will be broadcast this Thursday 7 July – at 9 am Eastern Caribbean Time.

The Kings' squad so far: Faf du Plessis,.

To be confirmed: Tim David, Roston Chase, Johnson Charles, Kesrick Williams, David Wiese, Alzarri Joseph, Scott Kuggeleijn, Mark Deyal, Jeavor Royal.

 

Virat Kohli returned to form with a crucial 73 as Royal Challengers Bangalore kept their Indian Premier League playoffs hopes alive with an eight-wicket victory over Gujarat Titans.

Titans opener Wriddhiman Saha scored a brisk 31 and David Miller added 34 in a 61-run partnership with captain Hardik Pandya, who finished unbeaten on 62 as Gujarat posted 168-5 at the Wankhede Stadium.

That total was boosted by a late flurry from Rashid Khan, who smashed 19 off just six balls, but the target seemed below par as RCB's openers raced out of the blocks.

Kohli and Faf du Plessis made a blistering start to the chase, the India star reaching his second half-century of the tournament off 33 deliveries with a six against Khan (2-32).

Khan then removed Du Plessis, caught by Pandya, for 44 with the score on 115-1 in the 15th over, before beating Glenn Maxwell for pace and clipping the stumps without the bails coming off with the next ball.

Maxwell capitalised on the reprieve by blasting the next Pandya over for 21 and, although Khan had Kohli stumped in the 17th over, the Australian's unbeaten 40 off just 18 balls saw RCB over the line with eight deliveries to spare.

RCB's playoff hopes now rely on Delhi Capitals losing to Mumbai Indians on Saturday, while IPL debutants Gujarat are already assured top spot after winning 10 of 14 games.

King Kohli

Before this game, Kohli averaged just 21.45 in the IPL this term – his lowest in the tournament since 2008, when he averaged 15 – and had been dismissed for under 10 runs six times, including three golden ducks.

The 33-year-old has acknowledged he may need a break to rejuvenate mentally and physically, but he was at his imperious best here, smashing eight fours and two sixes in his 54-ball 73.

Hasaranga keeps it tight

Wanindu Hasaranga, who claimed 1-25 from his four-over allocation, continues to dominate through the middle overs for RCB.

The Sri Lanka international dismissed Miller with a wonderful caught and bowled to pick up his 24th wicket of the tournament – the joint-most with Rajasthan Royals' Yuzvendra Chahal.

South Africa have named a strong 16-man squad for their upcoming five-match T20I series against India, but former captain Faf du Plessis has been overlooked.

Paceman Anrich Nortje is back in the fold for the first time since last year's 2020 World Cup after proving his fitness in the Indian Premier League following a hip and back problem, while Tristan Stubbs has received a maiden call-up.

All of the South African players who opted out of the Test series against Bangladesh in March and April in favour of playing in the IPL have been called back up for the tour, which takes place next month.

That includes Kagiso Rabada, who has taken 22 wickets in the IPL this season - the third-best total in the competition.

However, in-form batter Du Plessis, who is the seventh-highest run scorer in the IPL with 399 at an average of 33.25, misses out again.

Du Plessis, who captains Royal Challengers Bangalore, has not played white-ball cricket for the Proteas since December 2020. He retired from the longest format last year.

Head coach Mark Boucher remains in place after Cricket South Africa "formally and unreservedly" withdrew the charges of gross misconduct against him.

South Africa's selection convener Victor Mpitsang said: "This is the Proteas like we have not seen them in a long time. The injection of the IPL players means that we will have a team that's ready to fire on all cylinders immediately and has vast experience of the conditions that we will be playing in.

"The country can also join us in a collective sigh of relief at the return of Anrich Nortje, who has been working hard to recover from a frustrating injury. The National Selection Panel and I are really excited to watch our full-strength Proteas take on the world's number one T20 team."

South Africa's squad in full: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs, Rassie van der Dussen, Marco Jansen.

Royal Challengers Bangalore secured a routine victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday, with captain Faf du Plessis and Wanindu Hasaranga playing a big part.

The South African batted through his team's 20 overs, scoring 73 from 50 balls as RCB set their opponents a target of 193.

Opposite number Kane Williamson marched back to the pavilion without facing a ball, which set the tone as Sunrisers were bowled all out for 125, with Hasaranga taking 5-18.

Having won five of their first seven matches this season, Sunrisers have now lost their last four outings.

Things could not have started better for them as Jagadeesha Suchith claimed the wicket of Virat Kohli with the first ball of the match, but Du Plessis and Rajat Patidar (48) put on a partnership of 105 to rescue the innings.

Glenn Maxwell's 33 helped RCB tick along, before Dinesh Karthik came in with some fireworks at the end of the innings, hitting 30 from just eight balls, including three sixes and a four from the final four balls.

It was a disastrous start for Sunrisers, with Williamson run out without facing a ball, before fellow opener Abhishek Sharma was also dismissed without scoring by Maxwell.

Rahul Tripathi's 58 from 37 balls was the only real fight put up by Sunrisers, with Aiden Markram (21) and Nicholas Pooran (19) the only other batsmen to make double figures.

Hasaranga and Josh Hazlewood's economical bowling ensured there was never a question of who was going to win here, and Harshal Patel wrapped up the 67-run victory after dismissing Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

A captain's innings

Karthik may get some headlines after his explosive efforts in the final over, but Du Plessis was the spine of his team's innings, playing the entire 20 overs and setting the table for the win with his eight fours and two sixes.

Hasaranga and Hazlewood shine

Hasaranga was deadly with his four overs, taking out the middle order with exceptional ruthlessness, while Hazlewood was even more economical with his 2-17 from four overs.

It could have been even better for the Australian, who conceded seven of those runs in his final over to a nothing-to-lose attitude from 11th wicket partnership, Kumar and Fazalhaq Farooqi.

The Punjab Kings claimed a dramatic five-wicket victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore in their Indian Premier League opener, despite Faf du Plessis' impressive debut at the DY Patil Stadium.

Former South Africa skipper Du Plessis made the switch to the Challengers after leading the Chennai Super Kings to glory last year.

Du Plessis mustered an impressive 88 off just 57 balls alongside Virat Kohli (41), who he replaced as captain, as the 37-year-old made his mark on his new side in emphatic fashion.

That partnership generated 118 runs from 61 balls, while fellow veteran Dinesh Karthik added 32 off just 14 deliveries as the three-time runners-up concluded on 205-6 from their 20-over allocation.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa (43) and Mayank Agarwal (32) led the Kings’ response as they chased the target of 206.

Their momentum stalled at the start of the 14th over; Mohammed Siraj dismissing Rajapaksa before Rajangad Bawa was trapped in front for a duck with the following ball.

Akash Deep claimed Liam Livingstone (19) soon after but a late surge from Odean Smith, who managed 25 off only eight balls, and Shahrukh Khan (24) saw the Kings over the line with an over to spare.

Fantastic Faf

Du Plessis hit 633 runs last season – a tally only bettered by Ruturaj Gaikwad (635) – as he inspired the Super Kings to a fourth IPL title.

The veteran began this campaign in the same vein, although his 10 boundaries (seven sixes, three fours) came in a losing cause for the Challengers.

Late surge stuns Challengers

Du Plessis' side must have thought they had contained their opponents after claiming three wickets in the space of two overs.

But Smith and Shahrukh had other ideas as their partnership brought 52 runs from 25 deliveries – including 38 in the final two overs – to complete a remarkable chase down.

Virat Kohli feels "much more relaxed" without the responsibility of being captain ahead of Royal Challengers Bangalore's opening game against Punjab Kings on Sunday.

Kohli relinquished the captaincy at the end of the 2021 IPL and Faf du Plessis has been charged with the task of replacing him.

The former India skipper is in no doubt it was a wise decision to step down from a role he had held since 2013.

He told RCB's official website: "It's a good change; I'm much more relaxed.

"The same excitement of coming to practice and just focusing on my skills and what I need to do as a batter, looking forward to these sessions is something that I used to experience very regularly before.

"Not that you don't focus on it, but somewhere when you have other responsibilities, that tends to kind of take a back seat, and over a period of time when you do it over and over again, and your mind is only running in one direction, then you can tend to lose that joy to come and practice.

"For me, that's always been the essence of playing cricket and something that I've always wanted for it to be alive within me. And I certainly feel that joy of purely coming here and hitting the ball again."

Kohli says he can see things from a different perspective without being captain, but will still be a leader.

He said: "I see it from a very different point of view. When you take a decision like this, a lot of people go, 'One should look at things from a point of responsibility and you have to take responsibility'. 

"And people don't understand that if you as a player cannot be the best version of yourself on the field, then that responsibility for me personally as a player means nothing."

Kohli added: "You can still be a leader within the team, drive the team forward towards success and winning trophies and titles, but I take a lot of pride in contributing for the team.

"If something, I feel, is pushing that joy down, that fun factor of just playing cricket, and just looking forward to doing something special on the field.

"If anything is coming in between that, and having the knowledge that you do have people who have able minds to be able to take the team forward, then I think it’s a wise thing for anyone to create some space for themselves.

"Just take a deep breath and restructure things and say, 'Hold on, I might not have looked at a lot of things that I need to work on, and here's a chance for me to restructure, rethink about what I want to do', and just find things to improve, find a little bit at practice something that you look forward to. That is something I’ve experienced in this phase."

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