There’s basically nothing left as an England fan other than to become a connoisseur of missed catches. Keaton Jennings failing to make meaningful use of his own hands when Virat Kohli edged the ball to him on 93 was one of the greatest misses we’ve ever seen.
There are three main reasons why. We’ll expand on these in a second.
The context is key. Jimmy Anderson has been bowling brilliantly this summer and while he’s been rewarded with plenty of wickets, he’s also been repeatedly slapped in the metaphorical face by countless drops. (He’s been hit in the literal face by his own golf ball too, but that’s wholly unrelated.)
Jimmy has been particularly keen to dismiss Virat Kohli and has beaten or found the edge of the India captain’s bat – ooh, it’s hard to say exactly, but it must be somewhere around 6,000 times.
Precisely none of these deliveries have resulted in a dismissal.
This is why when he again found the edge and the ball again went straight at a fielder and it again didn’t result in a dismissal, Jimmy did this.
While he was still doing this – still bent over, head in hands – he suddenly went all tense and his whole body shook as he unleashed a bestial roar.
This is a 100 per cent correct reaction and Jimmy has our every sympathy.
On first viewing we reckoned that Keaton Jennings would have needed to move his hands by about three inches to have successfully taken the catch. We were wrong.
Look at this.
And then look at this.
There are no deflections there. Virat Kohli edged the ball directly at Keaton Jennings’ cupped hands. Had Joe Root been armed with a blowpipe and shot a paralysis dart into his opener’s neck to instantly freeze him, there is a reasonable chance the catch would have been taken.
However, this is not what happened. What happened in reality is far more entertaining. What happened was that Keaton Jennings ducked his hands down a few inches to actively evade the ball.
(Look, this all happened in a billionth of a second and we know that the poor guy’s got to instantly pick up trajectory, speed and angle and honestly, in many ways it’s a miracle any catch is taken, but there is still something fundamentally hilarious about a bad-catching side failing to take a catch because one of the fielders moved his hands out of the way of the ball.)
The ball made contact with absolutely nothing. Look at those images above and try and envisage a scenario where ball doesn’t strike hand, arm, knee or testicle.
It’s almost impossible, isn’t it? But this is what happened next.
It was as if Jennings were some kind of formless sprite, unable to interact with solid objects within this earthly realm.
The ball approached and then it just continued on its way at exactly the same speed having passed directly through him.
We saw a thing the other day where they said that in terms of accuracy, bowling a couple of feet fuller or shorter is like the difference between a darts player hitting the top or bottom of the bullseye.
Darts players release their projectile from in front of their eyes having adopted a firm, stationary position. Jimmy Anderson releases the ball from some way above his head, having sprinted in and done a weird twisting jump; he does it with fingertip precision so that the ball swings; and he does it time and time and time again, even when he’s absolutely knackered.
Most of the time nothing whatsoever comes of this effort – but sometimes it does. Sometimes the ball catches the edge of the bat, travels in the air and in the direction of a fielder.
At this point, Jimmy Anderson has done all he can. The outcome of this delivery is now wholly down to someone else’s involvement and he just has to hope that they catch it.
Imagine that the above happens. Imagine that the umpire signals four runs.
Take another look at Jimmy Anderson screaming into his palms.
There were three phases to Virat Kohli’s hundred. There was the bit where he kept being beaten by the bowlers; there was the bit where the ball wasn’t doing quite so much but he was still shaken up; and there was the bit where everything went back to normal and he played like he was going to make a hundred all along.
Far and away the most interesting of the three was the bit where he was shaken up. This is because it didn’t particularly seem to exist.
Like a scary near miss. Someone pulling out on you or moving into your lane on the motorway without looking. Maybe some absolute knobsack in a 4×4 towing a trailer went to overtake you while you were flying downhill on your bike but then instead of actually passing, he just sat there alongside you, trapping you within an 18 inch wide strip of tarmac as you both approached a bend at speed.
Something like that happens and you know about it. Your body carries a memory of it and if anything remotely similar occurs within a certain span of time, your vital systems take a shortcut directly to full-on panic.
This is quite often what happens to batsmen. It’s not so much the one ball with their name on it that gets them as the accumulation of all the balls with very similar names on them. Misses, edges, wrong shots – even just failing to score – eventually batsmen get nervy and then they do something stupid. Maybe not even stupid. Maybe just something less than excellent because that can quite often be enough to get you out in a Test match.
Doing something wrong (or not quite so well) because of a bunch of stuff that happened previously is one of three main ways in which batsmen get out. (The two that bookend it are unplayable deliveries and getting too cocky.)
Kohli seems to have all but negated the effects of near-misses though; the reverberations just don’t seem to touch him. This is pretty weird because getting freaked out by things that almost result in your (cricket) death is a very natural human response. The elite level of obliviousness being displayed by Kohli is therefore almost literally inhuman.
People talk about shrugging off those moments when you almost lose your wicket, but while many batsmen appear to do so, few move from a close call to complete conviction that it’s going to be their day quite like Kohli.
Such a move requires a great fat tree trunk of confidence; the kind that’s fed by thousands of little tendrilly roots, so that if you cut a few off, it barely even matters. It perhaps also demands [looks shiftily from left to right, lowers voice to a whisper] a certain amount of delusion.
Delusion is very much a strength in sport. If things fall your way, it can be rebranded as confidence after the fact, whereas lack of confidence will pretty much always see you fall before luck can even become a factor. Certainty is good, no matter where you get it from.
This seems to us to be the area where Kohli has an advantage over most people. He’s not invincible. He has weaknesses and periods where he’s vulnerable. It’s just that immediately after he’s threatened, he denies that it ever happened with such absolute certainty that he even convinces himself.
We don’t know if the following is fair or not. You could probably prove it one way or the other using ‘statistics’ or ‘facts’. It certainly feels true though and if modern politics tells us anything, it’s that what feels true is of far greater significance that what actually is true.
What we feel is this: that Virat Kohli has always been very much a ’10/10 for effort’ kind of fielder.
Just like all the great fielders, Kohli dives around a lot; but unlike all the great fielders, he also seems to quite often throw the ball nowhere near the stumps.
What Kohli does do extremely well is he follows up all of his fielding efforts – both good and bad – with a very intense facial expression. This is designed to convey his unparalleled determination and commitment and gives people a way to say ‘ooh, good effort’ because everyone loves a trier.
(We suffered the grave misfortune of watching one of England’s football world cup games in a pub, surrounded by the kinds of people who watch England world cup games in pubs. Let us tell you now that no-one in the world admires triers more than those guys. They will barely bat an eyelid at beautifully-weighted pass, but give them a full-blooded tackle and a scruffy hoof-out-for-a-corner and they’ll roar their approval at deafening volume.)
Halfway through the first day of the first Test between England and India, Virat Kohli ran out Joe Root with a really good turn and throw. We’ve no idea how much we should recalibrate our Kohli fielding expectations based on this development.
By way of celebration, Kohli mimed a ‘mic drop’, in reference to Root’s embarrassing move at the end of the one-day series, and then said “fuck off”.
This move was, in our opinion, perfectly justified. You don’t dismissively drop your bat/mic after hitting a hundred and winning a series to underline your superiority over the opposition without those people feeling some sort of need to tell you to fuck off a little further down the line.
After the mic drop/fuck off move, Kohli then went for the finger-to-lips ‘shush’ move and, in our opinion, this was not justified – if only because the ‘shush’ move is never justified. The ‘shush’ move falls into the same category as wagging your finger at someone to indicate that they are in some way incorrect.
When we wrote about what it’s like to be Virat Kohli, we didn’t for one minute think that there would be any overlap with what it’s like to be Mike Gatting.
Turns out there is. Virat Kohli and Mike Gatting both do a thing where they make an astonished face after being bowled by a leg-spinner.
Here’s Kohli’s ‘I’ve just been bowled by Adil Rashid’ face.
Captain of his country, the best batsman in the world, tens of millions of social media followers and filthy rich – what is it like to be Virat Kohli?
Well barring some sort of Freaky Friday body swap development, we’re just going to have to try and imagine. But we can do that. We can do that easily. We can look at the facts and get a feel for things and then just fill in the gaps using best guesses. Rich or poor, famous or unknown, the nuts and bolts of people’s day-to-day lives are broadly the same. There are no great mysteries here.
These are the main things we need to think about when we’re imagining what it’s like to be Virat Kohli:
If we go through each of those categories, that should give us a pretty good idea what it’s like to be Virat Kohli.
International cricketers are generally in one of two places: (1) a cricket ground, or (2) a hotel.
I think we can all imagine being in a cricket ground because we’ve all been in one. All you have to do is imagine that you’re in the dressing room or in the middle rather than in the stands, which is pretty easy. The middle is regularly broadcast to us in high definition, so we know what that’s like, while dressing rooms are just rooms with loads of cricket gear lying around. If you’re Virat Kohli, the cricket gear will all be fairly new and there won’t be any of those 1970s batting gloves with rubbery tines on the fingers that make them look like Stickle Bricks.
It’s pretty easy to imagine being in a hotel too and far more fun.
We are a huge hotel breakfast enthusiast. We stayed in a hotel in Bengaluru once where the buffet breakfast featured Indian breakfast food for those who preferred Indian breakfast, Western breakfast food for those who preferred Western breakfast and also – for reasons not entirely clear to us – steak in pepper sauce.
We are not a person who is breakfast loyal, so we absolutely ate all of those things for breakfast every single day. It was greatly enjoyable.
Spending half your life in hotels has considerable benefits where breakfast is concerned. Already we’re wondering whether we should maybe have investigated the Freaky Friday body swap idea a little more thoroughly.
One of the greatest changes in India in the last decade or so has been in the field of fashion. It used to be that an Indian version of a cool person was someone wearing a leather jacket and a pair of sunglasses on a motorbike.
Nowadays India’s ahead of the game. It’s all facial hair, tight T-shirts and ripped jeans and everyone looks impossibly well-groomed.
Virat Kohli is very much part of this. In 2014 he launched a fashion brand called Wrogn. (The early marketing slogans were all about whether or not you were doing things Wrogn – it was incredibly painful and bad.)
A large part of running Wrogn seems to involve making faces.
Here is some evidence.
Here is some more evidence.
And here is some more. (This one is absolutely our favourite.)
So that’s clothes covered. As far as hair and facial hair is concerned, that’s both easy and delightful to imagine.
Virat Kohli is lucky enough to live in India where getting a shave and a haircut is a highly wonderful experience and one that anyone with sufficient money would absolutely choose to have daily.
Getting a shave and haircut from a professional in the United Kingdom
The process involves telling the barber a number for the sides and back of your head, after which you say “and just a trim on top” or similar.
The barber then confirms the number (a ‘one’ for us because we have thick lustrous hair that is not entirely unlike carpet) and then he starts asking you what football team you support or where you’re going on holiday.
It’s an excruciating experience. They may rustle your hair a little to get the loose bits out afterwards, but that is as good as things get and you are no way adding a shave to the mix unless you’re fully mental. You pay the man and you leave.
Getting a shave and haircut in India
The actual cutting of the hair probably isn’t going to be all that dramatically different because the cutting of hair is a fairly functional thing. The fella might oil your hair afterwards though, which is very nice in hot weather because it makes you feel like you’ve got permanently cool wet hair.
The shave is on another level (and we say that based on shaves we’ve had in shacks where the electricity cuts out every five seconds – Virat Kohli will not be going to those places.)
The barber starts by gently applying about nine different oils and unguents, methodically working them all in. Then he does the soapy lather thing. Then it gets a bit scary because he’s probably using a cut-throat razor. But then it gets okay again because turns out he doesn’t want to kill you, he just wants to pull your skin around so that he can very carefully and accurately smoothen you.
Then he asks if you want a head massage and even if you say no, he basically gives you a face massage anyway. But you don’t say no, you say yes, and it’s extraordinary because of course you never normally have any kind of massage because you’re a man.
Summary: When it comes to fashion, being Virat Kohli involves (a) wearing T-shirts, (b) making three distinct facial expressions while modelling said T-shirts, and (c) sneaking in a daily massage by pretending it’s a shave.
Virat changed his diet in 2012. He told The Telegraph: “I went home, came out of the shower one day and looked at myself in the mirror and said ‘you can’t look like this if you want to be a professional cricketer.’
“I was 11 or 12kgs heavier than I am now, I was really chubby. I changed everything from the next morning from what I eat to how I train. I was in the gym for an hour-and-a-half every day. Working really hard, off gluten, off wheat, no cold drinks, no desserts, nothing. It was tough.”
It sounds tough. If we do any training whatsoever, we immediately refuel with great slabs of wheat and gluten and gallons of cold drinks. Sometimes we consume these things even while the training is in process.
As you’d imagine, the new diet had an impact on Virat.
“For the first two months I felt I wanted to eat the bed sheet when I went to sleep because I was so hungry. I was craving taste. I was craving delicious food.”
It’s worth mentioning here that Virat is clearly not a man who knows his food. If we were craving taste and craving delicious food, what we would not want to eat is the bed sheet. We do not have to actually eat a bed sheet to know that bed sheets are not delicious.
Apparently the diet works though.
“I felt quick around the field. I would wake up in morning and feel like I had energy.”
We literally cannot imagine waking up in the morning feeling like we have energy. That is officially an imaginatory leap too far.
“Around 30 minutes before the bus leaves for a match, he does what he calls a ‘priming session’ in the gym,” Chris Woakes told the Guardian’s Ali Martin recently. “It’s like a short burst of Olympic weightlifting.”
Just like Mark Wahlberg in Pain and Gain, Virat Kohli believes in fitness. He believes in it so much that he’s invested in a chain of gyms and fitness centres across India.
“From 2015 I changed my training again. I started lifting, snatching, cleaning and dead lifting. It was unbelievable. I saw the result. I remember running after a ball in a Test series in Sri Lanka and I felt more power in my legs. It was, like, ‘wow’. This training is addictive. The last year-and-a-half it has taken my game to another level.”
Here’s a shot of Virat Kohli lifting something heavy above his head, taken from this YouTube video. We have no clue why he’s wearing a hat.
We are very bad at this kind of lift for two reasons:
(1) We are very inflexible. Thanks to many years working at a computer, our arms don’t really go straight above our head any more. To get them in roughly the right position, we have to do a kind of arched back thing. This is a very sad thing, but it is also the truth. The remedy is to do loads of stretching. Stretching is exactly the kind of thing we always resolve to do more of and exactly the kind of thing we never do more of.
(2) We are very weak. (Our top half is anyway.)
Here’s a blurry shot from the same video, where Virat’s filming himself on a static bike.
If you are able to film yourself while cycling, you basically aren’t cycling. Cycling is supposed to end in a coughing fit and maybe some light vomiting.
We have no idea why he shot this footage and we’re actually kind of pissed off about it.
Virat Kohli strikes us as being quite an emotional man. We aren’t – unless ‘hungry’ is an emotion (and we’ve already dealt with that one anyway).
Kohli seems to get angry about everything when he plays cricket. We can only conclude that he deliberately maintains a near-constant state of peevishness throughout every match, simply so that the final step to full-on rage isn’t too great.
This is alien to us. When we see him snarling with his eyes bulging out of his head at the moment he celebrates a hundred, we always think that it is (a) an entirely inappropriate emotional reaction and (b) a colossal waste of energy.
Being emotional seems thoroughly exhausting, but we suppose all that pent-up energy resulting from his new diet has to come out somehow.
If the Freaky Friday thing happened, the first thing we would do in Virat Kohli’s body is make an energy trade-off. We’d get right back on the wheat, right back on the gluten – maybe even right back on the cold drinks. Apparently we’d lose energy through doing this, but it’s okay, it’s ABSOLUTELY FINE, because we’d also make savings.
We’d cut back on screaming and cut back on snarling and we’re pretty sure that would allow us to break even.
Virat Kohli is married to Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma.
We read that when it was Sharma’s birthday recently, they went to watch Avengers: Infinity War and then there was a photo of them from later that night where you can see a cake in the background.
This all seems very normal, so to imagine what Virat Kohli’s relationship is like, just imagine a completely normal relationship except that everyone stares at you 100 per cent of the time whenever you’re out in public.
While this one is most likely the greatest point of difference between yourself and Virat Kohli, it’s also the easiest gap to close. Because who among us hasn’t already spent enormous chunks of our life daydreaming about being brilliant at batting?
Back when we were ten, we’d hit a sponge or tennis ball and imagine it had gone for six to bring up our hundred. Now that we’re 40, we have got this down so well that we can do the exact same thing without even needing the ball. We just do the whole thing in our head. We’re doing it now! Six!
Being brilliant at batting is exactly the same as being rubbish at batting only with far fewer mishits. You don’t even need to use your imagination much at all really. It’s actually easier to imagine being good at batting than to imagine being mediocre at batting because you don’t also need to imagine those occasional poor shots.
Do it. Just sit there, in your chair, on your fat arse, and imagine yourself middling a cover drive. Now imagine it again. And again.
Congratulations, you are Virat Kohli.
The short version is that between now and England picking their first Test squad to face India in August, Jason Roy will have at most one first-class match in which to make his case for inclusion.
That is one more than most of us have, but significantly fewer than Roy realistically needs. So it isn’t going to happen. And maybe England don’t want it to happen anyway because they’d rather keep him confident and focused on limited overs cricket.
That set of circumstances pretty much sums up our point.
By the end of 2011, Virat Kohli had eight one-day international hundreds to his name and zero Test hundreds. However, the Test path wasn’t coned off. He wasn’t asked to follow diversion signs taking him back down a more familiar road.
In the ongoing second Test against South Africa, Kohli made 153 out of 307 in India’s first innings in a match where runs have had an appropriate value.
However things pan out, we don’t feel like you’ll think we’re from a parallel dimension if we suggest that he is now a decidedly handy Test batsman.
No, we’re just comparing circumstances: the situation faced by Roy and other England white ball cricketers now against a snapshot in time where Virat Kohli was only two-dimensional.
We would quite like for every player to have the time and opportunity to make their case to play all formats of international cricket. You never know what you might be missing out on.
Pakistan often lunge enthusiastically towards the ridiculous in the firm knowledge that this is their best hope of rebounding to sublime cricket – but even for them this moment was something else.
There is a strong argument that Virat Kohli is the finest one-day batsman there’s ever been. He is not a man you can afford to drop in the final of the Champions Trophy.
Oh no, turns out you can.
Virat Kohli must be the dictionary definition of hard-to-please, for no-one on earth is an enraged by their own success as he is.
When Kohli makes a hundred, he’s angry. When his team wins a series over Australia – even though he’s not actually playing – he’s positively enraged.
We’ve done detailed analysis of a grainy video posted to Twitter to prove that second point.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Kohli’s initial reaction to series victory is something that could, at a push, be construed as pleasure.
It isn’t long however before that emotion starts to make way for something else.
The eyebrows are starting to harden. The jaw is tighter. The fists are starting to clench.
By this point it’s unmistakeable. Virat Kohli is decidedly pissed off about winning a Test series against Australia.
This is where he ends up.
Absolutely sick to the back teeth, the front teeth and tonsils of experiencing sporting success against his rivals.
Someone is going to pay for this positive outcome.
“There’s a line that you don’t cross on the cricket field,” said Virat Kohli, shortly after suggesting that the Australians had been looking to their dressing room for help when deciding whether to review decisions or not.
You realise what this is, don’t you? It’s an allegation of line-crossing.
This is serious stuff, because as you’re no doubt aware, the Australian cricket captain is the one who dictates the location of ‘the line’.
Any activity carried out by Australian players falls into the category of “playing hard but fair” while all other activities are by definition either “soft cricket” or “crossing the line”.
No-one fulfilled the role better than Michael Clarke, a man who fully understood the mobility and flexibility of the line. Clarke would no doubt agree with Steve Smith that seeking out the opinion of a third party when mulling whether or not to call upon the decision review system merely constitutes “a bit of a brain fade.”
It is, quite frankly, an outrage that Virat Kohli should slander the Australians in this way. It is surely obvious to us all that the Australians, with their poor faded brains, would never breach the line. The line is sacred.
Virat has crossed the line on this line-crossing thing.