Adelaide December 2014
India have arrived in Australia for the summer tour. But all is not well in their camp.
BCCI President and ICC Chairman, N Srinivasan, is being investigated by the Supreme Court of India for corruption. With it comes the rumours and corridor conversations that perhaps some of the players are involved as well.
The West Indies had recently just upped and left midway through an ODI series. The BCCI claimed that this left them $42 million out of pocket.
Everything was just a little haywire.
The plane ride to Australia should provide some respite. An interruption from these off field shenanigans.
However, shortly after arrival, Phillip Hughes died.
Australia was mourning. Cricket was mourning. The first Test was now somewhat of a distraction. For a while, no one cared about it. But you can’t stop cricket in the Australian summer.
With the country requiring a release from its sadness, Adelaide would become an outlet. A tribute. A required escape. A place for men and women to cry. To remember. To reflect. Everyone needed cricket to resume for their own reasons. Indians and Australians alike.
When Australia won the toss and elected to bat, all eyes were on Michael Clarke. The Australian captain with a back that couldn’t hold him up. Phillip’s best mate. How would he perform? Could he do his buddy justice?
But before he had a chance to do anything, Warner stole the show. The sun was out. It is always out in Adelaide.
When Australia’s score reached 63, the crowd clapped. When Warner reached 63, the clapping gained its own special momentum. Instinctive and natural.
When Warner reached 100, the tears flowed.
Then Clarke. The skipper, who days earlier had said goodbye to his little brother for the last time. Despite the emotional pain, despite the physical pain, and despite the best laid plans of the Indians, he too gave Adelaide something to roar about.
When Steve Smith ran over to the “408” painted on the ground at mid wicket to celebrate his hundred with Phillip, normality was returning. Australia was beating up a touring side in the first Test of a home series. This was how it was supposed to be. This was expected.
But meanwhile, and despite the leadership shown in the toughest of times by the Australian hard men, a small statured Indian man was about to show his worth.
For MS Dhoni had recently hurt his thumb and was unable to play, therefore handing the captaincy reigns over to a young Virat Kohli.
India was passing through the straits of chaos. He was now captain. Unanticipated. He recently had lived the tour from hell in England. He returned with a series average of 13.40 over the 5 Test series. Learned people had claimed he was the next big thing. Learned people were now challenging their contention.
Kohli’s BCCI was in disarray. The team’s recent form away from home was horrible. His form was even worse. The tour schedule was torn up and rewritten on the fly. The passing of Phillip Hughes had momentarily reminded everyone that cricket was not as important as life. Why was he even here?
But this was Virat’s team now. And the only way to prove that was to lead from the front. Make runs. Show spirit. Fight. Take it up to the ugly sledging Australians. Do what touring Indian teams had not done before.
Yet, this would be no easy task. The Aussies had posted 7/517d. A total that appeared to take an Indian win off the table.
Mitchell Johnson has the new cherry. No one wants to see a bouncer, but everyone knows they need to see a bouncer. It is the only way to move forward. The bouncer comes. The crowd applauds. It all feels very strange.
At 2/111, Virat enters the stadium. Bat in hand. His first innings as the head of the Indian national cricket team.
At 5/367 he leaves. 115 off 184 balls. Resilience. Counter-punching. He gives his men a chance to survive the match. But in the scheme of things, with the emotion pouring out, his innings is somewhat buried.
The job is not yet done as India lose 6/77 and collapse in an exhausted heap. Mentally tired. Physically drained.
Australia don’t relent. Warner posts his second ton of the match. Smith notches up a not out fifty. They declare 363 runs ahead. Given India don’t have Faf du Plessis in the side, the locals feel comfortable. This lead is more than enough at Adelaide when you aren’t playing against Faf.
In the chase, India fall to 2/57. The vultures begin to circle.
When Murali Vijay is finally trapped in front for 99, the score is 3/242. Adelaide is heaving. Something special is happening. Test cricket. It is game on.
Kohli senses that he can carry his Indians over the line. All great leaders have this belief. Kohli is discovering that he is a great leader. A great leader can drive his men in multiple ways. It is by actions that we remember the best. Not by words. Kohli is using actions.
Everything is against him. It is his first Test as captain. His team is young. He is in a foreign land against an Australian team who would do anything to win this match. They have to win this match. They have no choice. They are more than desperate. They are obsessed. The Australian public demand it.
But Kohli doesn’t care. He also has to win this match. He also has to prove his worth. He also needs to set the tone for the rest of the series. He needs to mark his territory. Have the world say his name. Have the world learn to respect him.
Kohli digs in. Kohli plays his shots. Kohli is fighting. Kohli is creating belief. Kohli is channelling the emotive cloud that is hovering over Adelaide.
141 off 175.
When he finally falls to Nathan Lyon off a mistimed pull to midwicket, India now believe. But Kohli is distraught. He didn’t finish the job. However, he has done a job that no one had expected from him. He leans on his bat for a second before trudging off. He feels as though he has failed his team. It is the exact opposite of what he has done.
The score is 7/304. Only 59 to go.
But India will never get there.
Virat had told his team the night before that they could win. For many listening, these are just random expected words that he had to say. To Kohli, he was delivering a message that he believed was true. And win they nearly did. All it needed was one more man to ride the Kohli wave. To want it bad enough. To go with him as he made a hundred and then another one. But great leaders do not grow on trees.
And while the Australians celebrated over on the 408 sign in the outfield, and as the cricket world dried their eyes, and as India wondered what might have been, a new King had announced his arrival.
Many were navigating their way through the shroud of tragic death. Kohli found his way out. And on that journey, he also lifted the veil of future standing.
His two hundreds ultimately counted for nothing in the match.
His two hundreds ultimately counted for everything in crowning cricketing royalty.
He had arrived.