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Virat Kohli's character building exercises

by Gaurav Sethi

Captaining Royal Challengers Bangalore is making Virat Kohli appreciate the small things in life: like beating Kings XI Punjab by one run. "Not that any side in the IPL can be taken for granted" as Delhi Daredevils found out by resting all their match winners and losing to Rising Pune Supergiants.
But this IPL has been a humbling experience for the great Virat, there are days when he doesn't score a 50 or a 100. Days when RCB bats first, and Virat's Google Maps has no obvious destination. There are days, like yesterday, when even Virat scores at less than a run a ball and is dismissed at the wrong time. For Virat, being dismissed at any time is the wrong time, so imagine what it must feel like to be dismissed.
"I'M OUT?? I DON'T GET OUT? How can I be out? Why?" And slowly it sinks in, as he drags his feet to the dugout, to sit alongside this season's benchwarmer, Chris Gayle.
Yes, that Chris Henry Gayle, now a daddy off the field but no longer on it. Gayle has scored just eight runs in three games. He missed a few because of his baby's delivery, and then he's missed a few more because of his own non-delivery.
Virat has had to drop the undroppable Gayle and said so in so many words: "No, Gayle wasn't rested, we chose Travis Head in his place." How can someone drop Gayle in a T20 match? Well, Virat just did and continues to. He's been upfront about it, not shying behind sugar-coated explanations of resting a player or using the usual face-saving reasons such as injury niggles for big players.
Talking of big players, Virat has also dropped the rather rotund Sarfaraz Khan. And again, shot straight from the hip, citing fitness or lack of it, for Sarfaraz's drop. Is there a Kingfisher Honesty Award? Create one just for captain Kohli.
If facing brutal facts such as, "I can't win every game on my own" weren't bad enough, realising that neither can AB de Villiers has been a revelation. Virat has made no qualms about being all fanboy about AB's batting. According to him, the South African freak is the world's best batsman.
No wonder he's all freaked out when AB is dismissed. In many ways, AB's dismissal rips through him far deeper than his own. It's as if he's been wronged. It's as if Virat believes he's privileged to play alongside de Villiers. There is a blue chip mutual fund respect between the two.
After RCB lost three in seven deliveries, it took an AB de Villiers laser show to light up the night sky, and with it, Virat's face. All was good with the world again. Virat's belief in mankind was restored.
Though it would take a lot more to restore any belief in his bowling. Is it okay to call them that? Opening with Stuart Binny, where does Virat go from there? Closing with Chris Jordan, that's where. In between there's Varun Aaron. And an uninjured Shane Watson, still somehow bowling, is his best bet at the death.
Virat knows with his bowling no score is safe, so he's constantly trying to outdo himself, but all with an almost bipolar cocktail of caution tossed with aggression. And he's still striking in excess of 140-150. Just imagine what could be, if he went out there and played a frolicking T20 innings, no stress, just strut. But that's not how it is for Virat Kohli.
He's the captain. And with every match as his team's ship continues to sink, he wages a lone war against this deceptive iceberg: the visible part is the opposition, the unseen part is his own team. So far Virat has kept the RCB Enterprise afloat. But can he take it where no Royal Challenger has gone before? This is one captain's voyage, we don't want to miss. Beam us up.

First published here

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