Let’s get this out of the way.
If you are above 30 (or close to it), this piece is most likely going to make a lot of sense to you. If you are in your early 20s or below, you are most likely going to point at me at laugh.
Almost four years ago, Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, formerly of Cricinfo, hit the nail on the head with his pensive dirge to a generation of retiring Indian cricket superstars – Losing my Religion. For an entire generation born into Dyanora TV Sets and Gold Spot, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Kumble and Dravid were the 4 cornerstones of a curious love hate relationship with a mostly underperforming Indian team of the 90s.
Siddhartha writes “Our mothers were happy that we had nice heroes – down-to-earth prodigy and studious, brilliant bespectacled engineer. They were honest, industrious sportsmen, embodying the middle class”. Truer words were rarely spoken.
In these 4 years, Dravid and Laxman have joined Ganguly and Kumble out of the game, I got married, moved out of the country and finally realized WWE is not real. Tendulkar meanwhile ploughs on, mocking retirement seeking detractors with b:blunt hairdos, normally seen only on twenty something Bandra locals. But in essence, Indian cricket has moved on. To Virat Kohli.
Sometime in 2008, I was trolling a wonderfully unprivate social network that only Indians and Brazilians apparently used. (Yes, the one with the silly scrapbooks). I chanced upon an exchange between Kohli, then the victorious India U-19 captain, Shikar Dhawan, Ishant Sharma and a bunch of lackeys I can’t place today. The conversation was laced with talks of girls, booze, parties and suchlike. Nubile 17 somethings littered Virat’s page. My mind raced back to 1992.
The Joy Cup was held by the Brijesh Patel Cricket Academy that summer. The juniors and seniors played on adjacent grounds. We got walloped in the final in 23 overs and I made my way down to watch BPCA take on Chemplast. Chemplast was led by the worthy S.Sharath and BPCA by Dravid. Dravid made 67 not out and I saw his whole innings. When he came back, I snuck up behind him and said “Well played”. Rahul Dravid, 18 years old, mind you, sat me down, thanked me profusely and asked me what I did. In a matter of 5 minutes, he advised me to take a leg stump guard and avoid getting bowled off my thigh pad. He suggested at least 50 hours of hanging ball practice a week. You can understand that I’ve been a fan ever since.
Through his entire career, and Laxman’s for that matter, Dravid played with an omnipresent middle-class demeanor, that was precisely the way our generation was raised. You respect your adversaries. Shake hands before and after the contest. If someone whispered too softly and you couldn’t hear , you apologize by default instead of just asking him or her to talk louder.
This elaborate background sums up my reasons for living in denial about Kohli the last few years. I, like many others of my generation, waited for Pujara to make it. We were convinced he was the real deal, because he was, well, our kinda guy. Kohli talks about women and dating on social networks, “flips the bird” at the crowd, has tattoos, wears Ed Hardy tees and reminds me every single day that I belong to a previous generation. Oh Boy, was I waiting for him to fail.
Kohli has let me down immensely. He got thrown into the deep end as an opener when he started his ODI career, and did OK. His “machismo” was challenged in Australia and he didn’t fall apart in the dressing room. He merely lifted his finger (no, not that one) and went to make a 100. He doesn’t make flashy fifties and hole out to deep cover like he is supposed to. He displays a steely resolve and discipline that is most unbecoming of someone of his stereotype.
I recently saw a terrific documentary called “Winning Time” on Reggie Miller, the Indiana pacers legend. Reggie thrived on confrontation. His best games were against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, where everyone in the 10,000 plus capacity crowd wanted to see him eat dirt. He taunted the Knicks veteran John Starks into complete mental disarray. Spike Lee picked a fight with him from the stands. The press just about stopped short of abusing him. He loved it, the city played into his hands.
The Pacers, hell, all Americans loved Reggie and still do. They love him for being the cock of the walk. When he failed, he didn’t shut up. Nobody wanted him to. Virat is our Reggie. He is a true badass. You can pick a fight with him if you want. He is first going to abuse you, then he’ll bend his left knee, elbows raised, and caress you to the cover boundary. At the end of the day, he will apologize for dragging your family into this. Then he’ll do it again. If you do it again.
Virat Kohli is also the single biggest reason to not give up on Sreesanth and the likes. Sreesanth is not going to be a better bowler if he is less obnoxious. Off field issues and Adonis complexes need to be addressed of course, but on the field, one must realize that the “santh” part of his name is purely for ironic relief.
Siddhartha’s piece ends, somewhat ominously “Tendulkar’s retirement may mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but for a generation of 25- to 30-year-olds it will mark the end of the first part of their lives. Switching on the television the day after will be a serious challenge”
I am happy to say I woke up at 4 am in Puerto Rico to watch Virat Kohli steer India to a nail biting test win. And I can’t wait for the next time.
Image Credits: www.zimbio.com