When he drives, it feels likes someone has slayed all the tensions in our mind. When he pulls, the aggression that comes in with the shot is enough to get inspired for a good time period. I know many would tell something similar about Virat Kohli given the kind of form he is in, but my liking for Virat is no where close to being ordinary.
As the modern day batting maestro turns 28 in few more hours, I couldn’t have chosen a better occasion to write this letter.
As many of us know, the under-19 Indian side led by Virat went on to win the under-19 World Cup in 2008 and the announcement was made to the world, a world class player is on his way to the helm. Numbers suggest his ODI debut came in 2008, but till 2011, I never found anything special in him.
It was the most momentous occasion in the history of Indian cricket, the World Cup final against Sri Lanka, at the Wankhede, in front of 35,000 hearts in the stadium at the stake and Billion others across the globe. When Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag (My childhood heroes) came on to the field, to chase down an incredibly challenging target of 275, there was a hope, “The god’s going to do it today”.
It didn’t transfigure the way I expected though, as it happens always in life. Sehwag went back in the very first over and when Tendulkar was caught behind by Kumar Sangakarra, my heart beat stopped for a moment and that horrific silence across the country said it all. Hope was on its way to the grave and the tears, the sad ones, were knocking the doors of my eyes to come out.
It was all numb in my mind and somewhere down the line, one of my senses suggested a 22 year old Virat Kohli walked in at number 4, to join Gautam Gambhir. Reluctantly, I was in front of the TV, hoping for some miracle to happen and save the day and these two people stuck in the crease and started laying the foundation to chase the World Cup down.
They kept rotating the strike, striking a boundary occasionally and the hope was reignited. This present day I feel, that 83 run stand between Gambhir and Kohli was the time, when the world saw the chase master in Kohli for the first time. He may have scored only 35 runs, but that partnership under pressure and the fearlessness on the youngster’s face was something which slayed my heart.
His potential was something none could belittle, yet he introduced himself on the grand stage as an “Angry young man”. Getting into verbal rifts with his opposite numbers, the aggression which came with his passion for the game, sometimes unnecessarily, were seen as a hindrance for Kohli’s growth.
Not just that, there were a good number of “How to improve yourself” theories given by experts, media and the fans as well. Things haven’t changed drastically this day, its just that his aggression comes out from his bat and the eyes, not from his words.
Time passed by and he has been scoring a century, followed by another and the comparisons with the god of cricket, quite inevitably had started. The super run of form, which began a good time ago, didn’t seem like ending in the near future.
People have many favorite Virat Kohli moments and he has given so many of them to cherish in such a short span of time. But my all time favorite remains to be his first Test match as a captain, against Australia, in Adelaide.
Few years before the start of that game, a 23 year old Virat Kohli cemented his spot in the Test side amidst severe criticism by scoring an astonishing hundred and it was fitting that he should have made his captaincy debut at that very place.
India needed well over 300+ runs on the final day of the Test and most captains would have preferred to settle for a stalemate by playing out the overs. But the captain, who led from the front, went all guns blazing and was keen to chase down the target. He scored his second century of the game, following his ton in the first innings and a stage was set for one of the most memorable wins in Indian history.
But when Virat Kohli was caught in the mid-wicket with the target a little distance away, the team faltered and India lost the Test after coming agonizingly close to the target. His tactic to go for the target was severely criticized by the “Purists” of the game, but not many have noticed the inspiration he gave to many with his fearless captaincy and batting.
Two times, in 2014 and 2016, India faltered right at the business end of the ICC World T20 and on both occasions, Virat was the lone ranger for the Indian side. The Indian contingent, which went into the tournament as one of the favorites, would have failed to make it to the semi finals, if it had not been Virat Kohli saving the team on every single occasion.
Such is the brilliance of the man. When the conditions are not suitable, when the chips are down, when the rest of the team have lost the battle, he will raise his hand to try and ensure no Indian fan gets to bed with a somber mood.
In my view, Virat stands as a synonym for the words hope, dedication, passion and consistency. If the Indian flag is flying so high in the fraternity currently, he is one of the main reason behind it. Yes, there were times when he went through a rough patch, most notably the 2015 World Cup and the England tour in 2014.
People keep talking about his weaknesses outside off stump as though its the easiest thing in the world to get his wicket, but only few have actually realized that Kohli has overcome his weakness by mastering his cover drive. Others may prefer to stop chasing for the balls outside off, but he doesn’t belong to the “Others” category.
The toughest thing in the world would be to put you into words Virat bhai, but one thing is certain, you perseverance and audacity will win you all the accolades you deserve and if not the accolades, there are a lot of hearts which beat just for you. Even that’s not a bad thing to earn isn’t it?
Thanks for all the entertainment over the years and we Indian fans wish you a whole lot of success and wealth in the time to come. Even if the world goes against you, do remember Virat, you will never walk alone.
Happy 28th! VK, We love you to the core!!