Thank you Virat Kohli

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kohli

An India-Pakistan cricket match is not like every other game. Cricketers say that all the time “It’s just another game”, and I understand why they do. But we know it’s not true.

It’s like saying your first kiss is the same as the ones that came after it. No one is buying it.

Because like a first kiss, an India-Pakistan cricket match is an anchor-point in your life. Not all games, but definitely some.

As time passes and one day merges into the other, like an endless march of India-Sri Lanka matches, it becomes difficult to find yourself in your own past. It’s then that you need these little anchor points, to which you can fly back at a moment’s notice when you feel the need to be nostalgic, and this need, as any forty-year old will tell you, increases as you grow older.

At least for me, so many of these anchor-points are cricket matches and out of them so many India-Pakistan encounters.  What exams was I preparing for (or not) when Sohail taunted Prasad? Who did I watch that game with, you know the one with Rajesh Chauhan? How did I dance when Dada defeated the Pakistanis in Toronto?  How did I jump up, in that mixed crowd of Indian and Pakistani fans at Stony Brook,  that first Shoaib Akthar over in 2003? What went through my head when time froze and Misbah turned his bat around for that scoop shot?

That’s what makes India-Pakistan cricket so special. It’s not the humiliation of a country or a settling of long-standing political scores, and I just hate when the media frames it in those terms, but those little moments that make sense, not in just in your life, but in the lives of others. It’s as if the lines of millions of Indians meet at those anchor-points, and then hurry along their respective trajectories. It’s what makes them so powerful, so emotionally intense, this resonance, for only at these anchor-points that we the millions become one, running the exact same gamut of emotions, asking the same questions (“Why isn’t Dhoni playing Bhajji on a spinning Eden pitch”) and making the same jokes about AB Junior.

The Eden game between India and Pakistan had a few of these anchor-points. Mohammed Sami, Pakistan’s version of Ashish Nehra, an old-war-horse trying to prove his best days might be his last, running in full-steam and ripping out India’s top order. Shoaib Malik celebrating an early Jamai Shashti. Didi finally bringing Pakistan to the border of Bangladesh. This little story I made up in my head of Sachin Tendulkar saying “Ek thanda Dasani la” and hospitality then sending Aftab Shivdasani who says, with that smile of his, ‘Sir main Dasani hoon aur kya cool hai hum 3.’ Yuvraj Singh, for a ball or two, pushing back the years and the cobwebs of the mind.

No. Who am I kidding?

All the moments will be owned by Virat Kohli. I will be honest. I have never liked him much as a sportsman. There is no way I cannot but acknowledge his skills, the data does not lie. But a legendary sportsman isn’t just about “skills”, it’s his ability to transcend his sport, a Sachin or a Bjorg or a Pele. And in that respect, Kohli is just too much lost in the reeds of maa-behen and of arrogance and of running forward, chest extended at every provocation, for that high road the truly great take.

But then perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps you don’t need to take the high road. Perhaps all you need to do to be truly legendary, is to go to a place no one has gone before.

And Kohli went there today. He became India’s Ponting, the champion batsman who can consistently and single-handedly win crucial encounters. Something we have never had before. A Sachin yes, but no Ponting.

With further progress in the World Cup on the line, with the weight of the expectations of a volatile 65,000 in the ground and billions outside, against historic rivals, on a spit-fire of a pitch, with the top order gone and in company of someone who inspires confidence in flashes, he played the innings that anchor-points are made of. Like Sachin and Sehwag at their prime (and only them in the Indian team), Kohli has that rare ability to take the pitch and match condition out of the match, being able to play the exact same way, and you realize only how bad the pitch is when you see the other batsman trying to handle the same situation.

Like Sachin and Sanjay Manjrekar in that hell-hole of 96 World Cup Eden pitch, one batting with consummate ease, other flaying around like a cockroach turned on its back.

Like Kohli in that hell-hole of a 2016 World Cup Eden pitch.

And when at the end, Kohli bowed down to the pavilion and the camera went to Sachin’s beaming face, I felt as if a connect had been made, from the anchor-points of my past to those of the future, and I knew, that I would be visiting this moment again.

In the future.

So thank you Virat Kohli. Thank you for the memories made. And even more, for those to come.

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17 thoughts on “Thank you Virat Kohli

  1. Thank you Greatbong. Not only did you help jog back so many memories of cricket, this blog also reminded me of the vintage Greatbong posts – Your Wodehouse like take on mass entertainment mediums (Bollywood, Cricket etc) were always where you excelled the most, IMO.

    While I was watching the match yesterday, it was like watching India in the late 90s all over again. You have 10 batsmen who is playing on one pitch / facing one set of bowlers and then there was one who was playing a game of his own. You are right that Virat does not automatically command the respect that Sachin gets as their personalities are ‘Oh so different’, but their cricket is more or less an exact replica of each other

    As much as I hate Pakistan as a country, I’ve got to say, I am a bit saddened in a strange way how much that team has degraded. For example, a team once that had Sohain, Anwar, Ijaz, Inzi etc., there is no one batsmen in their ranks who I would take to our team. Bowling has been always good for them, but for a couple of left arm pacers now, even that looks bleak (No good spinner, No good right hand fast bowlers). The joy of beating them are a little subdued these days as we almost always start favorites now, which was not the case 10-15 years ago !

  2. Write often GB. Commenting to encourage. When I get the email that a new post is up, I add another anchor point to a string of highs, since discovering your blog in the mid-2000s.

  3. Really nice post. You have captured, in words, the feelings of millions of people, including your 70+ dad.
    Baba

  4. Boy….can u write!! Keep em coming….its been slim pickings over the last 1 year…

    Like the point you made abt Kohli…pavilion… Sachin smiling and the interplay/ almost handing over the baton/ we are in safe hands kinda emotion being captured…..

    You are blessed with your ability to write…don’t stop them.just because a few morons play daughter-in-law/ Mother-in-law in the comments section for every post u write

  5. Thank you for this, especially this bit:
    >>I have never liked him much as a sportsman.
    I agree, though I dont know why. He hasn’t done anything to put off viewers, but I never thought he was in the league of great cricketers until this match brought it home to me.

  6. Thank you for that! I am nearly 40 myself, stopped watching long time ago (Shoib Akhtar first ball six ago), so need a justification for WHY this is important. :-D, this bit about we connecting and touching here and then proceeding to speed away on our own trajectories resonates. 🙂 Precisely why now having done and dusted with my Delhi nostalgia now brushing up my Bengali beecause I spent 4 years in Kolkatta as a kid, street culture WAS about Mithunda and BappiDa. But NEVER about books. 😀
    So some questions for you,
    Whom to read? What do you like? anyone near Humayun Ahmed in West Bengal?

  7. Thank you for that! I am nearly 40 myself, stopped watching long time ago (Shoib Akhtar first ball six ago), so need a justification for WHY this is important. :-D, this bit about we connecting and touching here and then proceeding to speed away on our own trajectories resonates. 🙂 Precisely why now having done and dusted with my Delhi nostalgia now brushing up my Bengali beecause I spent 4 years in Kolkatta as a kid, street culture WAS about Mithunda and BappiDa. But NEVER about books. 😀
    Also clarifies clearly WHY we need common reference points in popular culture – magic is ALL about shared emotions but as a reformed Amitabh fan, I should have known that. 😀
    So some questions for you,
    Whom to read? What do you like? anyone near Humayun Ahmed in West Bengal?

    • read Sunil G – a great writer and to be honest better than Humayun
      Spent 9 years in Gushan and there also the culture is not about Humayun

  8. Great piece. But Dada you are leaving your gold mine i.e. this blog ignored for a while. But you are active on twitter. Twitter is ok – but it will be like the small flashy innings played by Robin Singhs. Your blog is your Sachin. Let’s make it the future Kohli so that 10 years long fans keep coming back here in search of interesting reads 🙂

  9. Welcome back, GB. There’s so much going on in American politics at the moment. I have been visiting your blog frequently to check what you might have to say about the totally unexpected rise of Trump, or the Sanders challenge to Clinton. This has been a primary season like no other (at least in recent memory). Your total silence on the matter is surprising (you were probably on a break). Anyways, now that you are back, can you give us the lowdown on what you think is going on in this crazy primary season in the US?

  10. Welcome back!
    I’ve been rabidly following your blog for a time now & have been keeping an eye out for that notification updating me about a post from you. Imagine my delight when I finally get to see it.
    I’m not a fan of cricket- not at all & this is testament to the power of the words you wield that saw me reading this post till the end.
    As usual, most enjoyable; as usual, anxiously waiting for some more!
    Cheers!

  11. Finally a post after a long time by GB. Do you have only 1 GB net pack ? For me the turning point was top edged six of kohl I over square leg. Had that been a catch, match could have gone either way. And dhoni enjoyed himself after a long time with that six. Jokes about comparing him to a barati who drinks through whole barat and then does 5 minutes of nagin dance at doorstep of brides place are spot on. People remember his 20s rather than 40s of other player like shikhar.

  12. I was positive that you would blog after the India-Pak and India-Bangladesh match. And I am only half-happy right now :-). Both matches have those moments I will never forget. Hoping to see another post on the India-Bangladesh match.

    Initially, I did not particularly like Kohli for his hyper-aggressiveness on the field but I have come to admire the man immensely because of the way he bats and the maturity he shows when he talks in his post-match interviews. Just goes to show that you cannot judge a book by its cover or even its 1st few pages.

  13. One of your finest write ups. Just like Kohli’s batting these days, you write at a different level where no one else can reach, especially when it comes to cricket and movies.

  14. I hated kohli like the earnestness of a Greg Chappel induced vomit. I ensured I enjoyed the time rohit sharma had against pace and his straight bat. And then kohli made his way into a packed middle order by scoring a gazillion runs. I accepted his presence in this Indian team but lusted for the Inzamamesqe elegance of Sharma. That was a decade ago. I am starting to discover grace in Kohli, I am yet to find the steel in Rohit.
    A side note :”NoThat’s what makes India-Pakistan cricket so special. It’s not the humiliation of a country or a settling of long-standing political scores, and I just hate when the media frames it in those terms”…. You gift literature to Kanti shah, don’t expect the same standard of others!

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