I still remember the dismissal vividly, even though it’s been more than 5 years. It was an innocuous half tracker but it had just bounced and spun a bit more. The moment he rocked back and pulled aerially towards deep mid-wicket, we all knew he hadn’t middled it. But the fielder was facing the sun. And then stuttered to his left, only to then come back towards the ball, fall to his knees, and took the catch six inches above the ground with his fingers pointing up. The cameras then zoomed towards the pitch. Virat Kohli just stood there, barely holding onto his bat. Head down, knees bent, shoulders dropped, and eyes in disbelief.
At 242-2, it seemed the man captaining India in whites for the first time was on course to seal a memorable win Down Under with hundreds in both innings, the second coming in a chase of 364 on a Day 5 turning Adelaide pitch. But when he fell with another 60 runs to get and no proper batsmen to come, it seemed like déjà vu of the Sachin era where a great innings would be played but India would fall short of the finish line. India lost by 48 runs.
Few months later, this time on the other side of Australia at the SCG, with India chasing 329 in the World Cup semi-final, Virat would get bounced out for 1 by Mitchell Johnson’s extra pace. It seemed like déjà vu again of the Sachin era with the big fish pulling off a disappearing act in a knockout game. India lost by 95 runs.
The Passing of the Torch
Now let’s rewind back to the beginning of the decade to a moment ingrained in the minds of all cricket lovers. Dhoni walloped the ball into orbit at the Wankhede and India lifted the World Cup after 28 years. But maybe just as significant of a moment was when Virat and co. lifted Sachin on their shoulders that night. A passing of the torch moment. It’s almost fitting the dream that had eluded Sachin all his life was how Virat would be kick starting his career. I think it’s because Virat was born a winner. Let me quickly point out that this isn’t a jab at the Little Master, a man whose straight drive was the definition of perfection, played against maybe the most dominant team of all time in Australia for most of his career, faced Wasim and Waqar, the Windies quartet, and Murali, and lacked the fast bowlers to win in his own team that Virat is blessed to not be facing.
But what has made Virat a winner from day one? With cricket being a team game, obviously the 10 other players play a tremendous role as to what history labels one as. But whether Virat Kohli leads his Men in Blue onto the field or strides out in his helmet to the center, there is something that stands out about him, that maybe no man who has represented India has possessed besides for Dada. I say maybe because I was too young to watch him marshal his troops back in the 2003 World Cup but can never forget him shirtless roaring “F*** yeah” at Lord’s, thanks to a DVD of the iconic 2002 Natwest Final my dad and I like to put on. I believe that intensity and emotion has been missing for too long in Indian cricket. The likes of Dravid, Sachin, and Laxman were true gentlemen of the game and Dhoni’s Captain Cool approach can’t be argued with after the number of trophies he has lifted and the number of matches he has finished.
The Mamba Mentality
However, for too long, people like Virat Kohli and I who wear our hearts on our sleeves, have been seen as too emotional or too aggressive. People like Kohli and I who have this Mamba Mentality are seen as desperate or insane. The Mamba Mentality as Kobe Bryant defines is “to constantly try to be the best version of yourself”. It’s the belief that nothing is beyond your grasp if you work towards it. It’s the mindset where you set the standard for your teammates and require them to bring a 100% effort on and off the field, because you’re giving 110%. It’s no coincidence that India has been producing “fast” bowlers and acrobatic fielders ubiquitously under Virat.
It’s important to note that this Mamba Mentality wasn’t in Virat for most of his life. In an interview with Graham Bensinger that aired only a few months ago, Virat goes in depth about his life, recalling an incident after an IPL game in 2012 when he walked out of the shower and was “disgusted” by what he saw in the mirror. From the next day on, he changed his eating habits and became a gym fanatic. Once the results showed on the field, it became an “addiction” for him. After the humiliating whitewashes in England and Australia in 2011, Virat noted “a gap between India and the other countries” and that for him to “be amongst the best players, you had to do what a lot of people weren’t doing.”
And I believe that’s what has transformed him from the chubby youngster who scored runs to the leader whose hunger to score runs and win matches never diminishes. It’s what empowered him to dominate in England eighteen months ago after the world had declared he couldn’t play quality swing bowling. It’s what has allowed him to revolutionize the concept of chasing the way Stephen Curry recently revolutionized the three-pointer in the NBA. And it’s what has made him the best limited overs batsman of all time. Yes, ahead of Sachin. Go watch the 320 chase against Sri Lanka in Hobart in 36.4 overs to qualify for the CW Bank series final, one of his 26 centuries while batting second. India have won 22 of those matches.
A few weeks ago, Virat flicked Kesrick Williams towards deep midwicket imperiously. The shot in itself was incredible enough for it to make headlines. But what Kohli did after is what I enjoy the most about him. He did William’s “notebook” celebration right back at him, opening up the imaginary notebook, jotting the bowler’s name down, and assertively checking him off. While picking his umpteenth Man of the Match award, Virat explained that Williams had done it to him in Jamaica two years ago and he thought he would “tick a few in the notebook as well but all good… That’s what cricket is all about. Play it hard but have respect for the opponents.” While some may see it as petty, this instance just proves to me how Virat is the personification of competition in the cricketing world.
King Kohli’s Impact on Me
When I went out to the field as captain for the first time a few months ago, there was nothing but tension and anxiety inside my head. Being the youngest member of the team, I wasn’t sure whether I should hide my emotions, stop my friendly sledging, and abstain from playing the scoop shot. But then I thought of Virat. The tattoos. The roar after a wicket. The tenacity. And the pure emotion in that Adelaide Test as he rubbed his eyes in the post-match conference. I didn’t have to change myself or my game to lead. Virat averages 63.8 in Tests and 77.6 in ODIs as a captain. I won my first Man of the Match award that day.
But just like Kohli knows he still needs to lead his team to a global tournament trophy and conquer NZ, SA, ENG, and a full-strength Australia away from home, I know there’s a long way to go in becoming the best version of myself. As a cricketer and as a captain.
Absolute gem of an article!
The writing is absolutely great. Even I was impacted by Virat Kohli. I am a very huge fan of him for 10 years and my affection has only increased. He is such a great person. You forgot to mention his 183* knock.
A very interesting take by alluding to the late Kobe Bryant’s Mamba mentality. The most common factor is that they both needed to always win. In order to learn more about these legends, and others, check out the Xpert app!