The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,
Shone round him o’er the dead.
Once again. Over and over again. It just does not stop. Twenty20 is supposed to be unpredictable, isn’t it? Someone tell Virat Kohli that. Match after match, the setting remains unchanged. A sorry Royal Challengers Banglaore dressing room. Grim faces everywhere. Negativity exuding from every pore.
And Virat Kohli, stony-faced, having to answer at the inquisition.
Why did your team lose? How can they lose like this? Why aren’t they winning? What’s going wrong? Can you fix it?
A nightmare of a season
And he stands. The boy on the burning deck. He fumes inwardly. He grimaces. He gives a ghost of a resigned smile. He talks about intent. He talks about the fear of failure. And he goes back fuming. Only to see it happen again in the next match.
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Virat Kohli does not deserve it. He is a proud man. He is used to excellence. He demands it. He expects it. He gives as good as he gets. He’s just led his Test team to successive victories and to the top of the rankings.
This season was supposed to be the grand celebration to top off the glorious home season. Back to the Indian Premier League again. Back again to the site where he evoked comparisons with Don Braman last year after reeling off four centuries. This season was supposed to be the coup de grace. With Kohli flying high on his international success, with his generals AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle next to him, this was supposed to be the season of RCB.
Yes, Twenty20 is unpredictable. Just not the way Kohli would have thought it would be.
What have RCB reduced Kohli to?
Even if you hate Kohli, you can’t help but feel sorry for what his joke of a team have reduced him to this season. This, right here, is alien territory for him. He has struggled as a batsman earlier, but this year, he is carrying the entire burden of his star-studded team’s utter failure.
What hurts even more is that, in his own capacity, he has tried. After coming back from injury, he’s hit three fifties. RCB have lost two of those matches. Against Rising Pune Supergiant on Saturday, Bangalore even gave up the fig leaf of support: the second highest score in the innings was eight.
“It’s hard for a captain to stand here and speak after a performance like this,” said Kohli after the defeat to Pune. Bangalore had scored just 96 in their 20 overs.
What can he say really? He does not deserve this humiliation. He is not responsible for this humiliation. He cannot force his other batsmen to play. All he can do is sit and hope they come through. And then, when they don’t, he has to go up and answer on their behalf.
But do not cry for Kohli, just yet. Because even in this darkness, there is some hope.
It is darkest before dawn. And make no mistake, this is the darkest it can get now for Kohli and RCB. Their playoff chances have been consigned to a dustbin. Forget about it now. No need for miracles.
But Kohli remains India’s captain. India’s inspirational, emotional captain. And this loss will only make him angrier. Hungrier. This expressionless, stony-faced Kohli is not normal. He is burning inside. Burning with fire. He has to prove a point.
Kohli is a winner. He hates losing. This succession of losses will only ignite him further. India (hopefully) have a Champions Trophy coming up. And Kohli will stride out there in United Kingdom to prove a point. His IPL team has reduced his captaincy into a laughing stock. Kohli, the proud warrior that he is, is seething inside. It’s playing on his ego. And he will be desperate, ravenous to rewrite that script.
And that can only be good news for Indian cricket.