Kohli has a point


Virat Kohli also has an intelligent take on criticism. It shouldn't deviate from a line of balance, he says — not so high that it raises cricketers to kings, and not so low that it crashes them to the ground, utter failures. By S. Ram Mahesh.

Melbourne had an aged charm about it, Sydney, its glazed-eyed bustle, Perth, its laid-back wackiness, and Adelaide, its many, many restaurants. How a city is perceived depends so much on where one stays, what one experiences. The light it's seen in, literally, varies, if you enter by road, inter-city, or through the airport. Despite Sydney having its New Year revelry, it never seemed the city of joy to the diary. While Perth, which everyone found boring, was to the diary, the very essence of Paradise. Come to think of it, Perth was very Chennai, a delight the diary knows well.

* * *

The diary feels a strange wistfulness come over it. Faithful readers of Sportstar — we have them, don't we? — will remember the diary's cunning childhood plan: buy Don Bradman's ‘How to Play Cricket', follow the advice prescribed within, become a great Test cricketer.

Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men don't always bear fruit, or bring cheese. In the diary's case, it came down to as small a thing as not being able to find the blasted book. Not till Napier in 2009, by which time it was too old to convincingly act 17. The diary, being something of a pop philosopher, took it in its clumsy stride.

But in the Bradman Museum at the Adelaide Oval, the pain awakens and twists a cruel knife. Inside a meshed-wire cage is a replica of the water tank, the stump, and the golf ball, the great man used to sharpen his eye and reflexes in his home in Bowral. The diary chooses a moment when no one is watching, and tries its hand. The discovery is sickening: it's a genius in hibernation; the ‘lil golf ball, a softer version actually so it doesn't damage anything, is smashed to all parts. What Bradman could do, the diary can do as well. And more stylishly, let the diary add.

As the diary mulls over the loss Indian cricket has suffered, it sees a curious thing. A young kid, who won't be 17 till the next decade, does what the diary has done, but does it left-handed. Then right-handed. Then with its eyes closed. The diary begins to sledge the kid. “Throw it harder against the tank, you weakling,” it says, smiling its sinister smile. But before it can bring out its most cutting barbs, the kid's dad appears. Always one to mind its behaviour in front of the elderly, the diary retires to a bench in the front, from where it can watch old newsreels of Bradman asking kids in his nasal voice not to play cricket on the road; for, accidents happen.

The museum is well laid-out, but not as full of memorabilia as one might expect. Well, perhaps the diary misses a few things trying to avoid the kid and his dad. It does, however, see the boots the Don wore in his last Test series, in England in 1948, and several of his bats. It decides to have another try at the batting cage, but there are others there now, including a chap who trips on his way into it, can't tell his left from his right, but meets nearly every ball with a straight stump. Just how difficult is this supposed to be? If it can convince Chris ‘Tommy' Martin to have a go, it will rest easier, for he's the Litmus strip of incompetent batting. But he isn't here; nor, unfortunately, is McGrath.

* * *

Virat Kohli makes his maiden Test hundred, and says something every newspaper owner will shudder about. He refused to read the papers after Sydney this allowed him to get into a good mental space, he says, after the mental pressure he had put himself under. Kohli also has an intelligent take on criticism. It shouldn't deviate from a line of balance, he says — not so high that it raises cricketers to kings, and not so low that it crashes them to the ground, utter failures. He might consider a future as a roving editor-at-large, or whatever it is these high-flying, full-of-themselves types do. But such well-spoken thoughtfulness isn't evident on the field when Kohli rips into the Australians after they unnecessarily provoke him. “We were just saying, you've played so well to get to 99, don't throw it away,” says Peter Siddle, with a sinister smile, not unlike the diary's. The supposedly quiet Ben Hilfenhaus is named and shamed by Kohli. The diary has a simple line on this: It has never heard any athlete in the heat of the moment say anything remotely sensible. So why give them the kind consideration of listening?

* * *

Lovely moment this. There's talk of whether Australia will enforce the follow-on, and Ian Chappell brings up the incident of a former Australia captain, who had West Indies on the ropes, but wanted to bat another time and give them 900 to chase. “I was vice-captain at the time” says Chappelli. “He wanted my advice on what to do.” Mr. William Lawry weighs in: “I made a lot of mistakes. One of them asking Chappell that question.” And, by the way, Australia won the Test — at Sydney against West Indies, which had Fredericks, Sobers, Kanhai, Lloyd, Hall, Gibbs. Also the series 3-1.

* * *

And so ends another tour, dear readers. For those who have had the patience to read these petty ramblings, many thanks. For the others, you don't know what you missed. Bother those fine, upstanding men at Sportstar, and buy the back issues!