“Rabba bakshiyan tu enniyan meherbaniyan, hor terto kuch ni mangda, bas tera shukar ada.”
Just a few days before bringing up his 73rd international century, his 45th ODI century and 20th ODI century at home, Virat Kohli had posted an image of him with his daughter and wife thanking lord. It perhaps talks a lot about Kohli’s journey – from an aggressive youngster to a tranquil and calm father – one that has seeped into his game.
Over the last two years, luck had turned a blind eye to Kohli’s struggles. In the 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kohli bagged three golden ducks. When he was dismissed on 20 against Punjab Kings, he looked up to the heavens sort of asking the lord, “What’s happening,” and it was probably the first time that the invincibility factor ceased to exist.
“If you play long enough, luck evens out,” said Sanjay Manjrekar and it was quite valid. Luck had evened out over time, and even beyond that made it seemingly look like the golden touch that Kohli possessed was waning out. The magic was fading away and the image of Kohli struggling was all over the country.
You name the opponent and it continued. It continued for the longest time even when Kohli was on song, even when there were several instances of the ball racing like a dachshund. All of this said, what you do with your luck is what matters.
“I was quite looking forward to the home season. I had to bat through the innings as I always do but still manage a high strike-rate. I am glad I could play at the tempo of the game,” said Kohli during the mid-innings break. After a long time, after almost three years, Kohli finally had broken his ODI century drought in the third ODI against Bangladesh.
Every great batter in the history of the game have had a lean patch or a dip but all that has ever mattered in this game is how they have bounced back. What you do with your luck is what matters, and on Tuesday, Kohli ensured that he not just took the luck but rode on it with such elance.
“Luck is important, it plays a part. I am grateful for it, and bow my head and accept it. But more importantly, I am glad we have the extra 30 runs because there will be dew. Because Rohit and I were in good flow, and we batted at a high strike-rate throughout the innings,” Kohli had specified during the mid-innings break.
Kohli has forever been pictured as this brash adult, someone who cusses at the opponent and only tries to sledge them. Maybe the last part still remains but it is on the field. Over the last few years, the 34-year-old has slowly but steadily transgressed all boundaries of zen and approach in his cricketing life.
During the first ODI, Kohli did something that he hadn’t done in a long time, bringing up two consecutive centuries, which also was his 10th such instance of doing so. Even if Kohli hadn’t done what he did on Tuesday (January 10), he was still head, shoulders and miles ahead of the next player on the list – AB de Villiers – who had scored six consecutive centuries.
The 34-year-old was arguably one of the finest chase-masters but with the changing landscape of the game, it required the right-hander to adopt a fierier approach with the bat, when India are setting a target. It is something that he has consciously tried to do, and the result on Tuesday showed exactly that.
Before his century against Bangladesh, his last ODI three-figure mark was brought up way back in 2019, and since then it has been a familiar frustrating cut figure from the former Indian skipper. But more importantly, his approach to the game has gone through major shifts.
It was him, who came out batting for the mental health of the players, the importance of not over-obsessing over the game, privacy and more importantly, his new outlook on the game.
"I was far off from my cricket. My attachments, my desire, had totally taken over. That's when I realised that I can't be away from who I am. I have to be true to myself. Even when I am vulnerable, I am not playing well, I am the worst player around, I have to accept it. I can't be in denial," Kohli admitted his frailties.
During the same conversation with Suryakumar Yadav, Kohli emphasised on a very important aspect, stating that expectations, especially keeping up with them is a very intense process. Like his cricketing career during run-chases, Kohli saved the best for the last.
“If you feel even a little bit of desperation, take two steps back rather than pushing more.”
Kohli took two important steps back, removing his desperation and ignoring the intense process of keeping up with the expectations. It is probably the start of many things for the 34-year-old, but more importantly it will change all our perceptions and stigma that we attach with our stars. They are not immune to the noise, they are just like us, vulnerable.
And, Kohli’s words stays true to all aspects of life, taking two steps back rather than pushing more. Over the last two years, this is exactly how the former Indian skipper has converted a turmoil into a tranquil while still broadcasting his message to the world from time to time. While he may not go on to score 40 more centuries and another 10,000 runs but he has taught something more valuable to the younger cricketers, on the game of life.
It is only time before Kohli goes down as an icon.
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