The King’s Landing

The King’s Landing

23rd October 2022 – the world of cricket will remember this day for many things: a gully cricket style of getting a single run through a wide, a young Indian fast bowler stamping his authority at the world stage by claiming the wickets of arguably one the best opening pairs in T20 cricket, three runs taken of a free-hit but after the batsman getting bowled. Most importantly, all of these were happening in a highly electric World Cup match between India and Pakistan. But something that led to absolute astonishment of everyone watching the game happened in the 5th ball of the 19th over.

I have been watching the game of cricket for more than 25 years, and I consider myself privileged to have watched the greats like Sachin Tendulkar in the peak of his career, Rahul Dravid dead bat a full toss, Virendra Sehwag making his legendary upper cut, Harbhajan Singh spinning a doosra, Yuvraj Singh belting the six sixes in an over, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni whacking away the helicopter shot. I had thought I had seen everything, but Virat Kohli in the 19th over defied not just the wildest of my imaginations, but in a way, the very laws of physics. It seemed like a backfoot punch for a six of a short ball over long-on. It was something that the cricketing world had never witnessed; the ‘King had taken his place on the throne’, said ICC’s official Instagram handle the next day. The King had truly arrived but it was never easy, the arrival had taken its time, something that had tested the character of Virat Kohli.

The man had taken time off from the game, failed to score a century for almost three years, stripped off the captaincy, even a part-time bowler was getting his wicket in the India Premier League, where he failed with the bat miserably. There were rumours about him getting dropped from the shortest format of the game, but what happened after the comeback is a life lesson for all of us. He rose like a phoenix out of the fire and set the cricket grounds on fire. A glimpse of his comeback was seen when he scored a century against Afghanistan after almost three years, the century was against a small cricketing nation but it also gave hope to millions of his fans worldwide.The game that actually showed that Virat had gotten back his mojo was the World Cup practice game against Australia. He did not score much with the bat but a one handed stunner of a catch at the boundary line and a direct hit at the stumps for a run-out were signs of the King’s arrival.

The man never gives up and there is no doubting his commitment for the game and the love for his country. How can one forget the incident when Kohli was playing for his Ranji side, at the start of his career? Kohli was then only 18-years-old, when his father passed away in the early hours on December 19, 2006.  Kohli was playing the Ranji Trophy match for Delhi against Karnataka, when he received the news of his father's demise. He was batting on 40 overnight and much to the surprise of his teammates, Kohli returned to bat and scored 90 to save Delhi from the follow-on. There could not have been a bigger example of how Kohli respects and loves the game of cricket. Almost a decade after his father's death in an interview to CNN, Kohli talks about how it did not stop him from batting for Delhi, he said, ‘ I still remember the night my father passed away as it was the hardest time in my life but the call to play the morning after my father's death came instinctively to me, I called my coach in the morning  and I said I wanted to play because for me not completing a cricket game is a sin’.

For Virat Kohli cricket has been the biggest leveller. In pain or happiness, Kohli has not let his cricket suffer.

During his toughest time on field he took time off from the game, focused on basics and then slowly started enjoying the game. Is it not something that all of us must do? Pause, reflect and then come back afresh. For Kohli, not completing a game of cricket was a sin and for us not completing our lives’ mission or purpose should be a sin.

What the cricketing world saw was something truly special, Kohli not only helped the team win the crucial encounter against Pakistan but that knock could also mean the starting of a new chapter in the King’s diary. Will the knock define the World Cup? I’m hoping it will, but only time will tell if India brings home another ICC trophy. Whatever said and done, I’m proud to have witnessed the sheer dominance of undoubtedly the best batsman in world cricket right now.

(This article was penned during the course of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup tournament. India went up to the semifinals, whereas England went on to win the tournament.)

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Chinmaya Udghosh