Some sportsmen are blessed with an uncanny sense of prescience that allows them to express themselves in resplendent fashion on the global stage. Every time Usain Bolt crouches down like a starved tiger eyeing its prey, one can almost sense that the finishing line is just an extension of a destiny that has been foretold. A Michael Phelps calmly preparing to leap into an Olympic pool is just waiting for the whistle that would indicate the beginning of the end for his competitors. Sergei Bubka with a pole in hand portrayed the impression that he had already written and re-written the record books into which he would soon vault effortlessly.
Virat Kohli is one of those impeccably gifted sportsmen. A veritable Nostradamus of chases, Kohli scripts his play to absolute perfection. Kohli’s very metabolism seems to undergo an incredible transformation when India is required to run down a target. The more insurmountable the chase, more memorable the effort from this master craftsman. Looking up to a challenge is something; living up to the expectation is something else altogether. Kohli not only affirms his affectation to a challenge, but he endures it. He invariably comes out unscathed, an imperial gladiator walking away into the setting sun after feeding his challengers to the lions.
This elegant middle order batsman has more or less become the Messiah of Indian cricket in recent times. A cricket crazy country was desperately looking for a demigod upon whose shoulders the unenviable burden of unrealistic hopes, untrammeled aspirations and unimaginable pressure could be foisted after the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. Exit Tendulkar; Enter Virat Kohli. At 26 years of age, Kohli has accumulated 25 centuries in One Day International cricket and truck loads of runs in all formats of the game. The Indian public had found an uncomplaining pair of shoulders that did not comprehend the meaning of sagging.
Those very shoulders worked overtime in putting paid to the hopes of an entire Continent when India met Australia at Mohali in a virtual Quarter final game in the ensuing T20 World Cup on the 27th of March 2016. In this crucial knock out game, Virat Kohli decided to be the judge, jury and executioner. He judged the game to perfection, was the juror of the line and length fed to him by his opponents and he executed their ambitions with utter disdain. A knock of 82 off a mere 51 deliveries was not only worth its weight in gold, but was also reflective of the fact that the game was being embellished by a genius who was extraordinary in talent and exemplary in temperament.
Chasing a tricky total of 160 which could have been much more after a whirlwind start (post winning the toss) saw Australia savage the Indian bowling attack for 53 runs off the first 6 overs, India found themselves in a familiar state of bother when both the openers flattered to deceive (as seems to be their customary wont these days). With the fall of a haplessly out-of-form Suresh Raina and a crippled Yuvraj, who did his ankle in going for a run, India’s scoreboard did not do for heartwarming reading at 94-4. The fact that the required run rate had exceeded the 12 run mark did not make matters easier. It was at this stage that Kohli decided to give free vein to his astounding fecundity. In the company of the philosophical Dhoni, Kohli upped the ante in stages. Benign stroke making made way for belligerent richness as controlled fury replaced caution. While a pair of magical wrists flicked and pulled deliveries towards the onside fence, a powerful bottom hand whipped and drove the ball through the cover region. It was as though the bowlers’ length was made malleable to suit the choice of destination pre-determined by Kohli’s blade. The ability to spot the length a fraction earlier than his peers and contemporaries is what makes Virat Kohli comparable to the likes of Sir Vivian Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Hashim Amla. This rare attribute bestows upon Kohli the incredible advantage of playing a few nano-seconds late, an advantage that allows the delivery to be placed with precision and timing. Ian Chappell once famously remarked that Sachin Tendulkar was blessed with a ‘peripheral vision’ that allowed him to have the ascendancy over his opponents most of the time. The way in which Virat Kohli collared the Australian bowling attack before plundering and pillaging it into involuntary submission, makes one wonder whether that same peripheral vision which was the preserve of Tendulkar, is now the secret weapon in Kohli’s armoury.
Kohli played the spinners with exquisite aplomb using nimble footwork to get to the pitch of the ball before depositing the delivery high over the mid-on boundary or whipping them inside out through cover. The pacemen were put to the sword by a breathtaking combination of hand-eye co-ordination. Deliveries bowled short of length were either brutally cut through square or stylishly pulled through mid wicket with the wrists rolling over in surgical precision. Full length deliveries were magisterially driven through the off side employing subtle wrists that worked overtime and went into overdrive. Running like a demented hare between the wickets, Kohli kept the scoreboard ticking even when the boundaries were difficult to come by. But the fact that made Kohli’s knock most enduring was the flawlessness of it. Never giving even a semblance of a chance, Kohli exuded the image of a batsman who was in absolute and total control of proceedings. Kohli can be readily excused for even nurturing a wee bit of Narcissism about his ability to take charge of a chase. The repertoire of shots that Kohli brings to the fore in a run chase is one that would even mesmerize a phalanx of Gods deciding to while away their time watching a game of cricket being played on Earth! The full brunt of Kohli’s stroke play was unleashed upon a bunch of bewildered, battered and bemused Australians who could only watch in utter exasperation, an innings of inimitable class, incredulous caliber and indomitable courage!
When that incorrigible finisher of games, Mahendra Singh Dhoni heaved James Faulkner to the onside fence, India had won the game with 5 deliveries to spare and had booked a place in the semi-finals against the team from the Caribbean. Kohli who until that moment had been spurred on in his magnificent endeavour by pure adrenaline, sunk to his knees overwhelmed by the relief of victory. However, it was the Aussies who had gone down on their haunches as the emerging super star of Indian and World Cricket stood tall covered in glory! Kohli had yet again led India in another great escape!
The shoulders are still strong and sturdy and devouring the burdens hoisted upon them!
Drive.Cut.Grit.Grimace.Gumption.Pull.Covers.Flick.Run.Dive.Scream.Jump.Inside out.Sweep.Holler.Punch.Bunched-up fists. Gnarl. Victory – VIRAT KOHLI!