“The barrage of words has started and the battle that is set to ensue will push one player closer to eternal greatness, but how a cricketer chooses to celebrate his heydays will go a long way in defining his aura once he has walked into the horizon”
Ambiguous. Relative. Perspective. The reaction to success and failure is largely personalized and the behaviour towards them goes a long way in defining human traits. There are the exuberant characters who flash their medallions snobbishly and then there are the humble beings who refuse to get robed in the garb of arrogance and keep working hard and harder every single time.
James Anderson and Virat Kohli – both absolute legends in their respective nations – have made it a habit of rubbing off against each other every time the Test arena brings India and England together. In the combat between the two cricketers, Anderson has thus far enjoyed the upper hand but these achievements have been greeted with ugly remarks, flamboyant statements and ugly face-offs. The most successful English bowler who dismissed Kohli four times when India toured England in 2014 has stood firm in dissing aside the Indian skipper’s achievements time and again, either mocking him for his repeated low scores in 2014 or grotesquely stating that the flat decks in India are the sole reason for the truckload of runs amassed by the latter.
He does have strong bragging rights though because until the tour of 2014 Kohli was being regarded as a Superman who could do no wrong. He scored runs everywhere in all situations and he soon emerged as the all-conquering Zeus who hardly had a flaw. That was until the summer of 2014.
That trip exposed major chinks in the right-hander’s armor where he was exposed both psychologically and technically. All the deliveries that accounted for his dismissal were planned and executed to perfection and Kohli’s weakness outside the off-stump was exploited to the T. On all four occasions, Anderson got him out behind the wickets after the bowler got Kohli to the front foot by bowling inswingers or the straighter ones.
When Kohli was tentative to push the ball that was coming towards him, he surprised by bowling an outswinger that swung so late that Kohli could not go back once he had committed to the shot. It pained to see the next Sachin Tendulkar falling to the outside edges time and again, but the Tests only showcased the humanness of Kohli who in his short career was inching towards the journey of superstardom.
In 24 games before the series then, Kohli had played 24 games whilst averaging 46.51 in the Test format. While his Test credentials were still on the rise, he had marked his identity in the LOIs where titles like ‘chase-master’ and ‘run-machine’ were already accorded to him. However, scores of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0, 7, 6 and 20 in ten innings with an average of 13.5 was enough to end his status as an immortal and the cricketing circuit started doubting his worth.
Taking cue from Anderson, the other English pacers too starting adopting the same technique to nullify Kohli’s threats. They forced him to juggle between the front and the back foot with impressive variations. In moments, they forced Kohli to drive on the front foot and then bowled a surprise inswinger that swung late to get a sharp inside edge. When the batsmen started adapting to the inswingers, the bowlers turned to the outswingers and the full-length balls that came with a change of pace as well. Over time, it started affecting Kohli psychologically who, with every failure became more determined to succeed and this intent forced him to commit a number of glaring errors. But while Anderson revelled in the glory days with an air of arrogance, Kohli stuck around silently in his determined universe to change his fortunes.
The hallmark of a great player lies in his ability to dig deep and get to the core of his dilemmas and needless to say Kohli who was massively jolted by the string of low scores buried the flaws to script a remarkable turnaround in Australia later that year. He scored 692 runs in only 4 innings, averaging a jaw-dropping 86.50. In a series that was marred by the unfortunate death of Philip Hughes, Kohli got off to a flying start making two consecutive hundreds in the first two innings where he also captained the side. His own run of form and the Indian team’s reaction to his leadership forced MS Dhoni to retire midway through the series, which is when the Delhiite upped his game to transcend boundaries and emerge as a player with serious goals to overhaul. There were no cuss words and no immature reactions this time around as Kohli realized the importance of allowing the bat to do all the talking. The huge failure in England had shown that cricket is, at the end of the day, a game of glorious uncertainties where downfalls are but an indispensable part of the career. Vociferous celebrations then, were plainly irresponsible.
While Kohli rode away on his juggernaut, averaging 64.89 in 37 games since the English Summer four years ago, Jimmy Anderson has faced inconsistency but is still the best bet to run amok when the Test series begins. He has picked up 18 wickets in 5 games this year but his performances have suffered a dip and inconsistency has come around to engulf him.
“I wish to enjoy my time in England rather than obsessing over my individual form as long as the team does well.”
“It doesn’t matter if he gets runs or not? I think he is telling lies there.”
The barrage of words has started and the battle that is set to ensue will push one player closer to eternal greatness, but how a cricketer chooses to celebrate his heydays will go a long way in defining his aura once he has walked into the horizon.