Virat Kohli – The myth, the man and the magician who stands alone on an exclusive summit
Back in the late 90s, when Indian cricket was trying to find a way to survive, to stay afloat in the midst of an absolute meltdown, a certain Sachin Tendulkar was coming of age as he spearheaded the Indian batting charge. From being a stable pillar alongside the big names to being the God of cricket, the Master Blaster rose above everyone and stood atop the mountain overseeing the nation that worshipped the sport for almost a century.
When Sachin stepped down, what followed suit was one of the most bittersweet questions - who next? Truth be told, Indian cricket was both a war of survival for the fans lived, breathed and grew around that sport while it was also a battle to find the successor to one of the greatest that the game had ever seen.
Fast forward the clock by nine years, a young Virat Kohli who carried Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders back in Wankhede in the 2011 finale, had come to the fore, shining like a blazing lodestar, all set to conjure all possible records that could have been racked up as a batter. But then life has its own ways and Bam! The ever-glistening flourish was gone. And there remained none.
To be honest, Kohli never really stopped scoring and singing the song of a great in all those years where his centuries completely dried up. It was just that the world was so accustomed to him scoring tons for sport, that it simply couldn’t take the fall. Come 2021, the woes worsened as alongside the triple-figures, the runs dried up too.
Gods were being invoked and yet they never answered. Fans believed that Kohli was done. Eminent cricket experts said, ‘we have already seen the last of the King’. Oh, only if they knew what was to come!
The 71st century did come, it took him some doing, but the King shook off the jitters after a brief break from the sport and when he returned, the world knew that the one who has come back from the ashes is a phoenix all set to take flight higher than Icarus, higher than the sun, higher than any known stars ever charted.
One magical knock after the other set us ablaze and come the 2023 ODI World Cup, the King started off with a roar. He missed out on a well-deserved century but he was just warming up. He had to wait for three games to finally cross that triple figure mark in the ongoing global extravaganza and what a thrilling occasion it was! Bangladesh tried everything in their repertoire to stall the magician from raising his bat but as they say, when the King speaks, you listen!
The 49th came against the unstoppable South Africa that saw the Men in Blue script a remarkable win against a team that fared in the fray without any remorse, slaying others in a heartbeat with extremely superlative displays. And then there was Kohli who arrived, who saw, who conquered and equalled the Master Blaster on 49 ODI centuries.
Last night, when the ghosts of the past swirled around in a tornado engulfing India, when the Indian fans had the deja-vu of that cursed reserve day in Manchester, that young kid who carried Sachin on his shoulders back in 2011, had his eyes on a feat that would send him ahead of the Master Blaster.
It was the 42nd over of the Indian innings as Kohli batted on 98. The entire Wankhede was heaving and swirling with anticipation of history being penned. Lockie Ferguson came charging in for the fourth ball of the over and the former Indian captain glided him through the leg-side and notched up a couple of crucial runs, leaping in the air to a fistpump before eventually bowing down to the Master Blaster himself.
As Kohli cruised past that line, celebrating his century, Harsha Bhogle’s booming voice echoed through the microphone, screaming, “Number 50 arrives for Virat Kohli and he stands alone, aloft that summit.” Virat Kohli, what a man!