Cricket lives in two realities. One is of shenanigans, politics, and capitalism on steroids. The other: the reality of our dreams, of Sachin in the desert, Dhoni at the crease, and Dada through the off-side, of great games and of moments, of heartbreak and of elation, of lumps in throat and tears in eyes, of understanding, in an era of disbelief, what it means to have faith.
While we live in the world of the former, it is the latter that keeps us there, and so now add to those memories that last a lifetime, one more, of Kohli against Pakistan, on a juiced-up pitch against seamers hurtling thunderbolts, with all falling around him, taking India to a victory against their arch-rivals Pakistan.
It’s the kind of thing you never forget, even in this day and age, even with age and overexposure to the game and the skepticism that comes from both, every scorecard melts into another, of social media noise “in the moment” and yet nothing left in the lake of memories in a few days, covered up under the noise of the next match.
You do not forget this though for a reason.
For you have seen sport at its very best.
Harris Rauf is a fast man, and he bowls a mean ball. On a sizzling pitch in Melbourne, made even more lively by overhead clouds, he has been the pick of the Pakistani bowlers. India is on the verge of being closed out of the competition in the 19th over, being left to get a near-statistical impossibility in the last over, and there are two balls left. The tactics are simple, bowl short and pack the square boundaries. It has worked.
Fifth ball. Rauf goes slow, and Kohli catches the variation and straight-bats a short ball, an almost impossible shot, over one of the largest grounds in the world straight back to long-on.
Sixth ball. In steams Rauf, furious, and this ball is fast, and Kohli is waiting for that too, like a panther about to pounce. Pirouetting deftly to the side, using his wrists like a gladiator administering the killing blow with his broadsword, he uses the express pace of Rauf to send the ball into the stands at fine-leg, for another six, sending billions in the world into near religious rapture.
This isn’t just an unbelievable shot, straight out of the dreams of childhood, but the coming back from the abyss, no make it roaring back, of a great sportsman waging a public battle in the last two years against doubt and declining form, putting to rest in two shots heard around the world, the shadows of his personal demons.
The universe, for a moment, is perfect.
And that perfection puts our hearts in a vice-like grip, as we well up, unable to understand this sudden burst of emotion, but then realize is not to be understood, but ridden, like the crest of a wave, and so we do exactly that, letting the moment wash over us, and then sear itself into our memories forever.
So in the future, when we remember it and we will, we will find ourselves magically in that story.
We were there that day when Kohli beat Pakistan.
We were there that day when he came back