'Just because he won't have the captaincy tag, it doesn't make him any less of a leader.'
Virat Kohli's tenure as captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore may have ended without an IPL triumph but the franchise will nonetheless 'celebrate' his contributions over the years, said the team's pacer Harshal Patel.
He stressed that Kohli, who has decided to step down as India T20 captain after the upcoming World Cup and RCB skipper post the ongoing IPL, remains a 'leader'.
"In terms of his captaincy, there are captains and there are leaders, he is definitely a leader. Just because he won't have the captaincy tag, it doesn't make him any less of a leader," Harshal said after RCB's four-wicket defeat to Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL Eliminator match on Monday.
"So, I just want to thank him for whatever he has contributed for this team and to my growth," he said, adding the skipper always supported him whenever he was "down".
"Yeah, I think, absolutely we are going to celebrate his contributions and it would have been nicer to celebrate that with the trophy in our hand, but it was not meant to be. But his contributions, like I said, have been immense and we are definitely going to celebrate that."
Harshal conceded that the entire outfit was disappointed on how it finished the IPL, as RCB's goal of winning their first IPL trophy still remains unachieved.
"Obviously, we are all disappointed in the way we finished the tournament. The way we were playing, I think we should have been in top two. But as we all know, it is a game of small margins," Harshal said at the post-match press conference.
Sunil Narine gave glimpses of his 'old mystery' with the ball and then topped it up with three monster sixes as Kolkata Knight Riders' four-wicket victory in an exciting eliminator dashed Kohli's dream of winning an IPL trophy as RCB skipper
"In hindsight you could have done a lot of things differently, but at the end of the day, we all know that once (the) top four teams are qualified, they are all on the same line.
"So, at the end of the day, who plays better on that particular day matters, but obviously we all are very disappointed in the way we finished but we are also proud of the way we played cricket in the league stage," the Haryana pacer added.
Harshal finished as the leading wicket-taker in IPL 2021, with 32 wickets from 15 games, including best figures of 5/27.
The right-arm speedster, who also took his first hat-trick in the UAE leg of the IPL, was pleased with his performance.
"I am very happy with what I have been able to achieve and very happy with how I contributed to the wins.
"Records are something that I don't really look at, but in the context of the game, it would have been nice if he (Devdutt Padikkal) had taken the catch, we could have gone a little, even a little closer.
"So, in terms of the game, that was probably an important wicket, but in terms of records, it doesn't really matter much to me," added Harshal, who also equalled Dwanye Bravo's record for most wickets in an IPL season.
Coming back to Kohli, he said the captain always backed him.
"Like I said earlier many times, the RCB management and Virat showed a lot of confidence from the start, even though I hadn't bowled in the death overs in the IPL, which I did for Haryana.
"So, suddenly to give me that responsibility, they would have definitely seen something in me and they made that decision that I will be bowling the most difficult overs. So, I am very grateful for the faith that they have shown in me."
He said Kohli always backs his bowlers.
"Everyone knows Virat, the kind of energy and passion he brings to the field. Everyone knows that he backs the bowlers and gives them space, allows them to execute their skills, plans. I have learned a lot playing with him since 2012," he added.