What makes a Sachin Tendulkar, a Ronaldo, a Tiger Woods, a Michael Jordan or a Virat Kohli look they are superhuman and the rules, the laws of physics and stress that swallows mere mortals like us in one gulp are not applicable to them? Will ponder over that in a moment.
I was talking to dear Naga for an hour yesterday, just couple of days before Deepavali. I was telling him I tried everything, but I am not able to bring back the magic of Deepavali of our childhood back. I said the festival lasted just a few hours in Tamilnadu, but we planned and more importantly started talking about it at least a couple of months before the festival came. Well, the other thing we talked about so much was cricket and some seniors would ask me, “Do you talk cricket?” Everyone did. We could recall all the records of batsmen and bowlers from Bradman to Gavaskar, from Maurice Tate to Kapil Dev. We could recall ball by ball of body line series. It did not matter if we played only at the street level or we were good enough to play league and state level cricket, everyone was good at ‘Talking Cricket.’
Though planning and talking about Diwali has come down a lot, talking about Cricket still is still alive. Cricket is not just a sport in India or for that matter business or religion. It is a part of our DNA. I think every Indian is wired to talk about cricket and worship his/her hero.
When we were talking about Cricket the population in India was about half a billion and we are pushing towards a billion and half now. About 80% of this population has opinion on Cricket and will convince you who should play who should be dropped and how the selectors are always wrong.
Add to this commotion, the sports Channels who make you think that only India will win all the games and all the tournaments.
You take into account 800 million peoples’ considered opinion when you go out to bat or bowl. If that is not pressure what could be pressure?
I am sure Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James must be facing similar pressure when they get on to field as they have fans across the globe. Couple of examples in team sports. How do they play so well when the odds are stacked against them?
Let us get to our hero for the moment Virat Kohli. Every one except the selectors who select the team to play for India wanted him out of the team. He has not been scoring runs or scoring poorly by his standards for the past two and half years. Every one in India who is used to seeing Kohli scoring centuries for breakfast thought his career is over and started looking for the next hero to get on to the pedestal.
I am not easily given to this mass euphoria one way or other. I thought if such a great player knows he can’t perform at the highest level in the game, he will quit. I have seen this happening to one of the greatest players, Sachin Tendulkar. When he was going through a lean patch five or six years before he retired from the game, even Mr. Ian Chappell a much-admired player and columnist wrote, if Tendulkar, looking at the mirror had asked, ‘Mirror Mirror on the Wall, who is the greatest of all?’ It would have said, ‘Brian Lara.’ Sachin proved him and all the cynics wrong. So, I was hoping it is just one innings and Kohli would be back. But even in my wildest dreams, I would not/could not have thought what he delivered today.
For the past month, the Indian sports channel were building up as if this is (India Vs Pakistan) is the only match that is going to be played in this World Cup. I genuinely believed the odds are stacked against India in a T-20 game. Not because they thrashed us last year. Pakistan has one of the best fast bowling attacks. And pitches in Australia would help their bowlers just a bit more than our bowlers. They have top two batsman scoring runs in every match as if they were playing in club games and Babar Azam without a doubt, is the best batsman in the world and our vulnerability to face left arm quickies is widely known. And to that pressure of playing Pakistan in front of 100,00 people in Melbourne is going to be the ultimate litmus test.
We started bowling well, so well, I thought we can expect the same from Pakistan as well. Before we could blink an eye, India was two wickets down and the score book did not even enter double digits. When the inform batsman Surya Kumar Yadav got out, I thought it is curtains. Kohli as always was slow to start. In the first 10 over India were 40 odd runs and needed another 120 runs from the next ten overs and we were four down by that time.
Kohli then stitched a hundred runs partnership with Pandya, but the going was tough. He just scored 12 runs from 21 deliveries not a strike rate that would win T20 matches. When the all-important 19th over was bowled he scored couple of sixes and India won the game in the last ball.
The biggest stage an official attendance of 90,293 people watching, a high-pressure match against an archrival who just thrashed us last year, a seaming wicket and you are four down for nothing, chasing 160 runs. I don’t think there can be a better stage to prove that why you are considered the best batsman across all three formats. And he played the most memorable innings of his career in the shortest format of the game.
If you had missed watching two fabulous shots that won the game
I admire Kohli not just because he is a great match winner. In the T20 format, he remained not out on 18 occasions and India won all the eighteen matches. But because he is the best role model for this young generation of India. He started off on a wrong foot. After winning the under 19 World Cup, he gained weight, partied and thought this was life. With little guidance he changed. He became one of the best athletes in the game, focused on the game and spoke his mind out but always remained in control of what he said. Even today after such a memorable innings he said the right things without any air. Take a bow Virat Kohli.
It is also heartening to note how far India has come in the last decades. India played Pakistan in the 1985 Champion Trophy finals in Melbourne when India beat Pakistan. A fan in the stand was holding a placard that was broadcast on TV. The placard said, ‘Bus Conductors Vs Tram Drivers.’ I did not understand the meaning of it at that time but later understood that it was to poke fun at Indians and Pakistanis who were mostly employed in Public Transport in Melbourne.
Not bad for Bus Conductors and Tram Drivers!
Virat has made this Diwali/Deepavali very special for all Indians. Here is wishing all friends a very HAPPY DEEPAVALI.