NAVI MUMBAI: Quitting captaincy may unburden Virat Kohli the batter but the focus will still remain on the maestro in Royal Challengers Bangalore's IPL-15 opener against Punjab Kings here on Sunday.
For, it will be the first time Kohli will not be leading RCB in nearly a decade, turning out only as a player, instead.
Relinquishing captaincy, however, will in no way take away any attention from Kohli, who will look to rediscover his glorious touch and power the franchise to a maiden title triumph in the 2022 edition of the event, which begins in Mumbai on Saturday.
Both RCB and PBKS will have new captains at the helm in Faf du Plessis and Mayank Agarwal respectively, but Kohli will certainly attract a lot of attention now that he is not entrusted with leading the side, something which he last experienced in 2012.
In the 2013 edition of the lucrative tournament, Kohli took over the captaincy from New Zealander Daniel Vettori, and left the post last year after leading the team for eight seasons.
RCB's best performance under Kohli's captaincy was in 2016 when the team emerged runners-up with the skipper amassing more than 900 runs with four centuries, exactly the kind of season the 33-year-old will look forward to.
A veteran of many a battle, Kohli though still had "butterflies in the stomach" ahead of the start of the tournament.
And so is the case for most of the players gearing up for the tournament, now a 10-team affair with the addition of Lucknow Super Giants and Gujarat Titans.
Still eying their maiden title triumphs, both teams will be eager to make a strong statement first up.
Seasoned South African du Plessis, who was acquired by RCB for Rs 7 crore in the IPL mega auction last month, will captain the side even as it continues its search for its first-ever title, having failed in the previous 14 outings.
At 37, du Plessis doesn't have many IPL seasons left in him and he would be too eager to guide the team to an elusive triumph.
While they will have a new captain with fresh ideas, RCB will have to grapple with the absence of the Australian duo of Glenn Maxwell and Josh Hazlewood in the team's first few matches.
Maxwell is away for his marriage while Hazlewood is in Pakistan with the Test side and will miss three matches at least, so is pacer Jason Behrendorff.
But RCB still has some good options in players like Sherfane Rutherford, Finn Allen, etc.
A lot of focus will be on Sri Lankan all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga and Dinesh Karthik, representing the team for the first time.
On the other hand, the Kings will miss the services of Jonny Bairstow, who is in the West Indies with the England Test side in their first game, and also Kagiso Rabada as he has just finished his ODI engagement for South Africa against Bangladesh.
In the absence of Rabada, their bowling attack looks quite thin and they would hope that backup players deliver the goods against a strong RCB batting unit.
There will also be a lot of focus on the explosive Shahrukh Khan who was bought back in the auction for a whopping Rs 9 crore for his excellent season at the domestic cricket across formats.
Teams (from): Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli, Glenn Maxwell, Mohammed Siraj, Faf du Plessis, Harshal Patel, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dinesh Karthik, Josh Hazlewood, Shahbaz Ahmed, Anuj Rawat, Akash Deep, Mahipal Lomror, Finn Allen, Sherfane Rutherford, Jason Behrendorff, Suyash Prabhudesai, Chama Milind, Aneeshwar Gautam, Karn Sharma, David Willey, Luvnith Sisodia, Siddharth Kaul.
Punjab Kings: Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, Arshdeep Singh, Kagiso Rabada, Jonny Bairstow, Rahul Chahar, Harpreet Brar, Shahrukh Khan, Prabhsimran Singh, Jitesh Sharma, Ishan Porel, Liam Livingstone, Odean Smith, Sandeep Sharma, Raj Angad Bawa, Rishi Dhawan, Prerak Mankad, Vaibhav Arora, Writtick Chatterjee, Baltej Dhanda, Ansh Patel, Nathan Ellis, Atharva Taide, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Benny Howell.
Match stars at 7.30 PM IST.