What makes a man drown? Not knowing how to swim? What if he knows how to swim, and still drowns? Is it because the currents are too strong? The muscle memory gone? Fear kicks in? It just seems easier to drown than to fight drowning? Who knows. To fight drowning, uncannily, is not dissimilar to fighting defeat in a Test match. By not winning it but by saving it. By playing for a draw. And once you do that, you can never un-know that.
Once you know you can fight defeat, you let defeat know that. You let yourself know that. You do not forget that in a hurry.
In Rajkot, Virat Kohli experienced the powers of saving a Test match on November 13, 2016. On the eve of Children’s Day, Kohli had become a man in true cricketing sense.
He was among the first to admit how it added something to his game:
That gave me more satisfaction as a batsman than scoring a hundred or getting a big score. Taking up challenges is something that always feels nice when you achieve it. As I said, it was an opportunity for me to learn as well and that’s something that I learnt about myself
The Rajkot draw provided the belief
India left Rajkot with the series still locked at 0-0. Virat Kohli’s 129 minutes at the crease did not win him the Player of the Match award, it got him to Player of the Series.
Over the next four Tests, if England knew what hit them, they feigned very well. After winning the toss at Rajkot, England lost it and much more at Visakhapatnam. 1-0 India.
The third Test in Mohali is where Karun Nair, whose “saved from drowning” story is now part of cricket lore, made a brief entry on the big stage. Sold down the river by his captain, Nair exited for four. But there was another role up for grabs as Ajinkya Rahane was injured.
Just the one innings to bat in Mumbai, Nair made 13. Was Karun Nair drowning again? That is where a lake and Test cricket are slightly different. In that lake, someone saved Nair, here, in Test cricket it was up to Nair – was he going to swim those 22 yards against the tide?
How Karun Nair swam against the tide
And how he swam. He drowned an already sunk England even deeper. 4-0 India. The much chronicled triple hundred was all about the belief Virat Kohli picked up in Rajkot – and smeared on his 11 men. No matter who those 11 were. No matter who came in for whom – Jayant Yadav for Amit Mishra or Amit Mishra for Jayant Yadav. Bhuvneshwar Kumar for Mohammad Shami or Ishant Sharma for Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Parthiv Patel for Wriddhiman Saha or Parthiv Patel for KL Rahul or Parthiv Patel for Murali Vijay. KL Rahul for Gautam Gambhir or KL Rahul for 199. Karun Nair for KL Rahul or Karun Nair for Ajinkya Rahane or Karun Nair for Karun Nair or Karun Nair for 303 not out.
As for England, their skipper, Alastair Cook continues to live in denial. Nothing he says comes without the disclaimer of “home conditions”. If only they knew better, they would have had a greater sense of purpose on this tour.
But how would they know – after eight years in exile, a makeshift keeper became a makeshift opener and knocked the stuffing out of them. In front of the stumps with 42, 67 not out and 71, and behind the stumps with his little mouth talking much too big for them.
England are sore, and England have lost. Now what does that make them?
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