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A leap, a bow, a kiss and Kohli's perfect painting

Last updated on 16 Nov 2023 | 03:42 AM
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A leap, a bow, a kiss and Kohli's perfect painting

He scored his 50th century, breaking Tendulkar's record in front of Tendulkar, on his home ground, and in an ODI World Cup semifinal against New Zealand

A batter running hard for the second run. He completes it, leaps up, punches the air aggressively, then stops, falls to his knees, rises again, face gleaming with sweat and gratitude and takes a very elaborate bow. It’s followed by a flying kiss, a look up to the heavens, and that’s it. 

You can hear the thousands of human voices, but they don’t go inside you. As if someone has not only blurred the background from the celebration but has also muffled the noise. 

Only the artist, the athlete clad in blue, is what you can see. Only Virat Kohli exists in that space, along with your eyeballs. You watch him do his elaborate emotional display upon achieving the milestone. And suddenly, you feel what he’s trying to say. Every different gesture of his in that celebration feels like a beckoning to look deeper into its significance, and then a smile follows once the realisation dawns upon you. 

Virat Kohli, until then, had painted the most Kohli-esque painting through a knock whose template is on the tongues of all those who have seen him in ODIs — a circumspect start, a steady initial phase with a few boundaries and a lot of running, then a period of low aggression followed by absolute carnage at the end. His strike rate rises along with the number of balls he faces, reaching somewhere above run-a-ball by the time he ends his day with the bat. 

On Wednesday (November 15), he came in to bat when India had just lost their first wicket after scoring 71 in just the ninth over. Rohit Sharma had done his bit like he has done in almost every game this World Cup. And because the run rate was already taken care of, Kohli can now come and play at the exact tempo he prefers. 

In the 2019 World Cup, even Rohit was taking his time and getting the big tons, but this time, his controlled aggression has allowed Kohli to bat throughout the innings and the others to continue tonking the ball. It all fell into place in a semifinal as well, as Kohli scored 117 in 113 balls in a total of 397 for 4. 

Until yesterday, he had scores of 9,1,1 in the three ODI World Cup semifinals he had played in. So when he leapt and punched the air in aggression after he completed the record-shattering century, it felt like an unrestricted dissipation of all the built-up frustration after scoring big in an ODI World Cup knockout game. 

It took him four World Cups and 12 years, but he finally got one at a packed Waknkhede, reaching where no batter has ever reached before in Cricket history with a 50th ODI century. His hero was there. His partner was there. His fans were there. His teammates were there. Even Kohli couldn’t have timed or placed it better.

After the leap came the bow.

When Kohli bowed after scoring his century, he was bending over in gratitude to his hero, his “Sachin Paaji”. How can a boy ever go past his hero? How can the devotee ever be bigger than the deity? Kohli’s bow and face showed all that and a lot more. 

Sachin tweeted about Kohli’s record-breaking innings, narrating how Kohli has gone from “touching his feet” to “touching his heart”. Kohli’s journey from the feet of a batting God to his heart was all there in that bow if you were willing to see it. 

A bonafide great bowing to another bonafide great.

However, Kohli’s greatness is also unique in a certain sense. You see, greatness generally comes with a big condition attached — a certain reluctance to take extreme positions, even though they might come on the behest of not being on the side of what’s right. Or simply saying (if you’ll allow me to be a bit crude here), greatness often insinuates spinelessness

The unique thing about Virat’s greatness is that it’s honest, unapologetic and often so full of spine that it’s too upright and ends up hurting his own back. 

The stance he took when he responded to Shami’s trolling and backed him up with his unconditional support, his messages on Diwali, Holi, etc, support of animal rights, speaking his mind, and not accepting lies about him. All these things make him stand out even in a line of greats. 


After the leap and the bow came the kiss, finally!

The kiss was to his wife, Anushka Sharma. Kohli’s unapologetic expression of love is like a lighthouse in the destitute darkness of toxic masculinity that makes it ‘unmanly and uncool’ to exhibit your love publicly. And if you think about it, this also takes a lot of spine. 

Even after reaching the zenith of cricketing stardom, these things make Virat Kohli relatable. There’s a generation that started watching cricket when Kohli started playing for India. And they grew along with that brash and rash West Delhi boy and saw him become this mature, sensible statesman he’s turned into now. He understands his stardom and its impact; hence, he is vocal about the causes he supports. 

However, he also never shies away from appreciating the role his wife has played in his life and cricket. Because not very long ago, remember how his obituaries were written and laments were sung about his downfall. His batting technique was thrashed, his personal life thrown in a drain, with his wife dragged in between and made to be the bad omen that brought his fall. And with the captaincy saga, he was made into a scandal. 

But Kohli took a mental health break and made a comeback so hard that ever since returning from the brief hiatus, he has scored at an average of 69 and a strike rate of 100 – a big deal even for him. It wouldn't have been possible without his wife's support.

“Everyone fails at being who they are supposed to be. The true measure of a person, a hero,” said Thor’s mom (in Avengers Endgame), “is how well they succeed at being who they are.”

The King is, after all, a human made of skin and bones and shit. He is no god in human clothing. Lightning bolts don’t shoot from his fingers. Virat Kohli's success yesterday was only possible because he finally accepted his own humanness. 

Today’s generation loves vulnerability and imperfections in their heroes. They rip apart the pretence of stardom and question the spinelessness of greats publically. That’s why Virat Kohli is their hero, their brightest star. 


“If I could paint the perfect picture, I would want this to be the picture,” said Kohli after his innings ended. 

With the leap, the bow and the kiss, Virat Kohli has executed the perfect last (brush) stroke, completing the most picture perfect painting one could ever hope for. Coloured by his life, executed by the King himself, and displayed in the centre of a colosseum that had already turned blue in anticipation of it — it will always hang proudly in the hearts of all those who had watched it. 

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