The Day He Came Back

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.

So far.

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

4 thoughts on “The Day He Came Back

  1. Well written as usual.
    Just the question is : was this ‘come back’ a one last burst of a dying flame? or is this going to be a ‘second wind’ of a great career – like Tendulkar had 2008-10 after the horror of 2007 WC – culminating with the WC win; Federer coming back in 2017-19 post injuries & surgery to lift more slams and rising to no 1 at 35 etc.
    For Kohli & Indian Cricket – the later is not only hoped for but necessary – A legend to lift the 2023 WC at home would be perfect.

  2. Well written as usual. The sixes and boundaries at the end of the game sure brought India back into the match. But that’s not the entire story. Throughout his innings and his partnership with Hardik, the one thing worth noticing was his penchant for finding the gaps and looking for that second run which was not even there.

    Virat Kohli always takes the first run in a way as if his very life depended on it. So by the time he completes his run, he creates time for a second non existent run and even makes a run for it, in the process creating extra pressure on the fielders who sure enough fumble. This trait was present in the great Sachin Tendulkar too but sadly not in Sourav Ganguly or Rohit Sharma. These guys, though amazing batters in their own right, always depended on the big hits and sadly ignored the benefit of stealing runs like Sachin and Virat.

    A run here and run there can add up to 53* making it an ideal launchpad for the blitzkrieg Virat unleashed. I sincerely hope that in the elation of beating Pakistan, the wise men of the Indian team management learn this simple lesson from Virat’s knock, a lesson cricket coaches teach their pupils right at the beginning after shadow
    practice.

  3. I had been a critic of Kohli for the past two years. But, this innings had me rooting for him. Glad he’s back in form. And hope we win the world cup this time!

  4. This a great post honoring a great sportsman. I admire Kohli always, his battle style, and captaincy, whether he performs or not. He is always a great cricketer.

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