A Letter from the Past, to Virat Kohli, by Virat Kohli


A Letter from the Past, to Virat Kohli, by Virat Kohli

Illustration: Ahmed Sikander

March 26, 2015; Sydney, Australia

Dear Captain Virat,

It is almost midnight. I am sitting inside the Sydney Cricket Ground changing room. The 2015 World Cup has just ended. I mean, it has ended for us, after a defeat to Australia in the semi-final. It feels as if we are mourning a death. Nobody has said a word for the last half an hour.

Just an hour ago, I saw something that I had never anticipated. I saw tears in the eyes of Mahi bhai. Exactly four years ago, I was in another dressing room. I had seen tears then too, but everything felt so very different then.

As Mahi bhai smacked the ball over long on in the 2011 World Cup final, I saw tears in the eyes of Bhajji pa, Yuvi pa, and Sachin paaji. Those were exuberant scenes in the dressing room of the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Everyone, no matter whether they were a player or part of the support staff, even the security personnel, were overcome by passion and joy like I have never seen before. As all of us ran onto the field, I could hear some 40,000 people singing “Vande Mataram”.

We were in a huddle, jumping around, taking the lap of honour. I lifted Sachin Paaji on my shoulders. Paaji has carried the burden of the team for 24 years; it was now about us carrying him and making him feel special by winning the World Cup, I remember saying so that night.

Paaji’s eyes were moist, yet he was smiling all along. In fact, this is the most cheerful I have ever seen him. Next day, Paaji said told the media that those were “happy tears” and it was the first time in his life that he had such an experience. At that moment, I did not completely understand the meaning of those tears.

Even in the 2007 World Cup, when I saw Rahul bhai crying after we were knocked out of the tournament, after a loss against Bangladesh, I was heartbroken. This was during my U-19 days and I firmly believed that you must indeed be passionate on the field, but a win or a loss, the result should not affect you. We are professionals at the end of the day. It is just a sport, after all.

I’m coming for you, World Cup 2019. Those Australians won’t be so lucky this time around.

The next 12 months turned out to be exciting. First, Mahi bhai led the boys to win the inaugural T20 World Cup, and then in March 2008, I lead the team to win the U-19 World Cup. It suddenly hurled me into the limelight. I made it to the IPL and the India squad.

And voila, a couple of years later I ended up playing the ODI World Cup for the country. As I was saying, the experience was so surreal that it did not hit me when I was part of the frenzy. I kept going through the motions and even struck a hundred against Bangladesh in our first game of the tournament.

However, as I have continued taking strides in my international career, I have come to understand the meaning of those tears. The media starts creating the hype for the tournament one year prior to the main event, but as a cricketer, your build up for the next edition starts right after the World Cup ends. All this time, while training, in team meetings, that is the one thought at the back of your head. You get so involved in the process, especially if you are the leader or one of the senior members of the team, that when the actual thing ends, whether in your favour or against you, tears are bound to roll down; they are cathartic.

This edition did not go great for me. My phone has been continuously beeping since I got dismissed. I don’t mind facing my fair share of criticism, but what’s worse are the people who are trolling Anushka. Nevertheless, I’ve taken an oath today, to right the wrongs of 2015’s edition in the 2019 World Cup.

I will return four years later. I will be 30 then. But, rest assured, I will have the same fire burning inside me. I have won one for Paaji. Now, I will win one for myself. I can almost see the silverware in my hands. I’m coming for you, World Cup 2019. Those Australians won’t be so lucky this time around.