We’re late on this one, but please bear with us because there’s one particular element (a face, if you’re wondering) which should not be overlooked.
Yesterday morning, King Cricket reader Ritesh drew attention to a wonky caption to a Getty photo he’d spotted. “Kohli celebrates after hitting the winning runs,” it read. And there was Virat Kohli celebrating in all his batting gear immediately after the winning runs against Pakistan were hit.
Except Kohli didn’t hit them, did he?
It’s one of those moments that sort of feels true, because Kohli played the decisive innings in that match and he was not out at the end. So in that respect it’s a small thing – true enough, you might even argue, in that it’s true to the narrative of that match.
But then a cricket match – and to a greater extent a world cup – is a rich, interwoven web of all sorts of narrative strands and if you start splattering Kohli-coloured dye all over the place, you will unavoidably discolour some of the other stories.
Because while Kohli is cool in a run chase, it takes a particular type of person to come into bat with two needed off the final delivery and retain the self control to actually leave the ball.
R Ashwin is not like other people. If you’ve heard him talk about his bowling, you know that. If you’ve seen him mankad Jos Butttler, you know that. If you’ve seen him read and appreciate an information board about East Devon’s Jurassic Coast, you know that. He once spoke about how he’d been doing “a bit of archaelogy” in his time off.
R Ashwin is a singular cricketer and a singular man and he honestly deserves better than to have his ice-blooded leave and chipped winning runs overshadowed by what was, admittedly, a pretty damn special Virat Kohli innings.
But despite winning more Test matches for India than anyone else in the last decade and repeatedly delivering magic moments like this, R Ashwin is by now quite used to being overshadowed by Kohli. Given that this overshadowing was for a long period fuelled by Kohli not picking him for Test matches outside India, you wonder whether somewhere deep inside that inquisitive, calculating mind, there might just be the merest soupcon of resentment.
So Slog of the Day…
Ashwin was bowling to South Africa’s Aiden Markram, who jumped down the pitch and slogged so hard he actually became momentarily airborne.
There are a lot of slogs in modern cricket and there is kind of an art to disguising them. As long as you keep some sort of form, you can pass most off as ‘controlled power hitting targetting a particular part of the ground’.
If you become airborne, your shot is not controlled. Also, if you hit it straight at a fielder, it is probably not that targetted (although Markram would of course argue that he was aiming over Virat Kohli).
Next came the fun bit.
Virat Kohli got himself into a really good position to take the catch.
And then completely failed to take the catch.
Virat Kohli then had a second go at taking the catch, this time from a highly awful position.
And again completely failed to take the catch.
You know, chances go down. That’s a thing that happens. We’re quite forgiving about it because cricketers actually drop a lot more than people think they do. But that doesn’t meant it isn’t still a striking and dramatic thing whenever it happens.
In the immediate aftermath, it’s very tempting to read things into people’s body language that probably aren’t really there.
You know the kind of thing that we mean. The chance has gone down, the ball is already on its way back and yet the bowler still looks like this…
And then this…
Probably that’s just plain old astonishment laced with disappointment. But it’s hard not to think about how unusually protracted the look is and whether there were any deeper emotions fuelling its extended lifespan. And who did he turn towards as well? What was that look all about?
Then again, if we’re looking for enmity, envy or jealousy, this is a man so focused on the fine detail of cricket matches that he didn’t notice 90,000 fans roaring when he came into bat for the decisive ball of the biggest match of all. It’s very hard to imagine R Ashwin giving a flying full toss about anything so mundane as ‘what other people think’.
T20 is a bit too complicated for us these days, so we’re instead celebrating one of cricket’s oldest and simplest pleasures via our Slog of the Day feature.