Mohali, March 4
Virat Kohli brought joyful mayhem to Mohali today. It was him the fans came to see on Matchday 1 of the first Test against Sri Lanka, it was his shirts that were sold by street vendors selling cheap counterfeits near the stadium.
His devotees took time off from work or school, they traveled from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, hoping he would get a 100 on his 100th test.
The man himself was a bundle of nerves. “I had butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t realize the magnitude of the event until today when the presentation took place and there were people in the stadium. I felt very nervous,” he later said.
This sudden onset of nervousness would not be surprising to a visibly emotional man, who wears his heart on his sleeve. There were multiple reasons. His wife, whom he publicly dotes on, was around; the man whose poster was on the wall of his house, Rahul Dravid, honored him with a special memory; the crowd greeted him with a roar, cheered his blows, were appalled at his dismissal. Something to strike a chord with a man of emotion that is Kohli.
Cricket returned to Mohali after September 2019 when the world and the way we saw it was very, very different from now. It was the second factor that drew fans to the stadium, as they were desperate to see any cricket action, even if it was just the dull old Test cricket.
Kohli agreed with a near 50 that included some of his best shots, including a glorious straight drive, ferocious pull-ups and coverage drives. But a 50 was denied to him by left arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya.
In the build-up to that game, he had been troubled in the net by a left arm spin – those watching him counted no less than seven occasions when he was beaten by a homegrown left arm spinner in a single session .
Left arm rotation did it today. Around the stumps, Embuldeniya threw a fast, full ball that pinned him in the crease – she stayed a bit low and overshot her bat and hit the stump. Kohli stared at the ticket office in disbelief and began the desperate march to the pavilion.
India, however, had cause for celebration overall, scoring 357/6 at the stumps.
A 45 in Kohli’s current mental situation wasn’t such a terrible score – since October 2019 he’s averaged 30.26 in 18 tests, and his career average has dropped from 55.10 to 50.39.
His mind was racing. He had publicly stated that he wanted to captain the Test and ODI teams for a few years – and as India’s most successful Test captain, he was to expect his wish to be granted. But a bitter public disagreement ensued between BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and head coach Chetan Sharma. Add India’s loss in the Test series to South Africa, and the writing was on the wall. Kohli read it and quit as test captain, instead of waiting for a possible sacking.
Street vendor Raja Mondal from West Bengal travels wherever the team plays. A fan wanted to buy a Kohli shirt, but Mondal told him, “No Kohli shirts.” I sold them all. There won’t be any more.
The same could be said of Kohli – there would be no one like him, India’s greatest cricketer of the 21st century to date.
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