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The comings and goings of Virat Kohli

by Gaurav Sethi

Virat Kohli had had enough of Virat Kohli. The umpire had given him out LBW, not even India’s two reviews could stop him from walking away. At 204, he looked like a man thankful for his innings, wanting to just switch off the game for a bit.
By walking off, and not using a review, Kohli had just decided to play captain, umpire and executioner, all rolled in one. If Kohli had cut his first ball for four, he had decided to now cut himself to size on his last ball.
Why a batsman on song, going through the form and daresay, fortune of his life, would not use a review will be baffling to most people – Virat Kohli is not most people. He had now been given out LBW for the second time in his innings. On the first occasion, he reviewed and the decision was overturned, somewhat surprisingly for Kohli, who appeared almost relieved then. Kohli was on 180 then.
19 runs later, on the cusp of a fourth double century in four successive series, Virat Kohli decided to just go for it – mishit over covers for four, from 199 to 203, beyond Bradman and Dravid’s record of double centuries in three successive series.
Cricket is often just about runs and the men who make them. Those who had watched Kohli make those 203, will remember how they were made, those wrists, that fearlessness, from that first boundary to the last one – the unstoppable surge, the intelligent risks, lucky breaks, but most of all, the will to walk away when he thought he was out.
At best of times, Virat Kohli hates to get out. His love to bat on and bat long almost exceeds his love to impulsively review a decision. When given out, the child in Virat snaps, cries and howls. He can be in single digits, or he can be on a hundred and some, it’s usually that same reaction – as if his work is far from done, there is this mountain to not just climb but climb through that scientific route that only he knows.
By getting out, it’s as if he’s aware that everyone has been denied their treat – to watch this great mountaineer climb a mountain on a flat field. It was his task to deliver, and while there’s both an awareness and acknowledgment that others in the team can climb the mountain, Kohli wants to be there on the climb – with his teammates. Often showing them the way, as he did with Ajinkya Rahane on a comeback.
Before the match, Virat had already undertaken the climb with his deputy, Ajinkya. He had backed him in the press, repeating, that the mountains climbed by Rahane in the past were not forgotten. Virat had backed his return over the triple centurion. As had the coach, Anil Kumble. Together it was a uniform team voice.
Rahane walked in to keep Kohli company at 3/234, he was finding his touch, a tad tentative. With his captain’s ascent, he too started the climb up the mountain. Nothing like a good hike in good company, the climb flattens, urging you up like a tonic. 223 runs later when they parted, Kohli had achieved much for both himself and Rahane. While Rahane fell short of a century, these 82 runs will be priceless as he prepares to climb into Australia in a fortnight.
As for Kohli, the climb from 50 to 100 to 150 and then 200 happened almost organically. It was preordained. There was talk of a triple hundred as there is talk of a toss before the match. In our collective mind space, Kohli had already scanned various summits.
In doing so, he was combining various forces of past Indian greats – Virender Sehwag’s ruthless means to score big and score fast; Sachin Tendulkar’s unquenchable thirst for centuries; and Rahul Dravid’s demeanour – to know when the show’s over and it’s time to walk off.
That this match is being played in VVS Laxman’s hometown, Hyderabad, is apt. One look at that wristwork that rushed Kohli to a hundred from 96, and you know, this innings was a toast to something far greater than meets the eye.

First published here

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