A keen contest thanks to a quality wicket; skipper Kohli works the crowd

Hot and humid, scorching at times. Matching the pace of the fare in the middle. Eden Gardens was witness to an exciting contest.

In a throwback to the times when captains used to interact with the spectators, Virat Kohli didn’t miss an opportunity to turn back and signal the crowd to cheer louder at the Eden Gardens on Monday. — Photo: K.R. Deepak

The ball was doing a bit on a surface that was not uneven all the times. And certainly not dangerous. If that was the case, the umpires would have halted play.

The Test match developed into a fascinating duel between the bat and the ball on the fourth day. Only because the curator had put on display a pitch that tested the resilience and application of the batsmen.

This was quite an ideal five-day track, a perfect recipe to attract the spectators and a pitch that produced an intense competition that took the standards a notch above.

Tactics came into play when the New Zealanders dug in. It was a situation that confronted skipper Virat Kohliand asked questions of his ability to control the game.

For a captain what matters is his successful communication on the field. It comes from experience and also the mutual understanding between the captain and his team. It is a bonding that builds over time.

For Kohli the key is communication in the middle. Amidst the din from the stands he should be able to convey his message, get the best out of his bowlers, and also exercise a strict vigil on the opposition’s plans.

It can become extremely engaging when the teams are evenly matched. India and New Zealand excelled on Monday and the spectators could enjoy the stuff despite the unkind weather.

Complete involvement

The involvement of the spectators in the match was complete since they had a certain Kohli who was constantly locked in banter with them. Kohli likes to be expressive even though he has mellowed quite a bit from the time he has assumed captaincy and realised the enormity of his role in being responsible for acts on the field.

His energy on Monday was evidently effusive. Running up to the bowlers frequently, Kohli showed his involvement with the game. It also reflected his expectations from the team as he goaded the colleagues.

In a throwback to the times when captains used to interact with the spectators, he did not miss an opportunity to turn back and signal the crowd to cheer louder. The spontaneous response from the spectators only mirrored Kohli’s popularity at the Eden Gardens.

Sourav Ganguly was known to acknowledge the cheers from the stands. Mohammad Azharuddin’s casual wave to the galleries matched his personality. Kapil Dev too loved his interaction with the crowd while Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi would doff his hat in the direction of the cheering fans.

A contrast
Kohli is a contrast. He leads them into a cheering chorus. Test cricket can do with more of this amidst fears that spectators have become a fast-dwindling tribe to watch this format.

Kohli does it for a reason. “I think it makes a massive difference. It just creates an energy. Because we experience that when we go to Australia, when we go to England, South Africa..they get a couple of wicket, the crowd gets behind really loud and as a batsman you understand that it creates a lot of pressure, you feel nervous. So I just try to think as a batsman, how I would feel…walking in, the ball is reverse swinging and the crowd’s going mad behind a bowler who is warm, who is willing to take a wicket. It makes a huge difference.

“We were able to pick up two, three wickets. The crowd also loves it, you engage them for the betterment of the team. A bowler who is tired…Shami would have bowled three overs but he fed off the energy and bowled 12 more balls for the team, got another wicket. So we would not be waking up at 6:30 a.m. again tomorrow.”

The series win against New Zealand, achieved on the fourth day of the second Test here, and the No. 1 slot regained was a sweet reward for the captain and his boys. A grateful acknowledgement from Kohli made the day for the passionate fans of the game at the Eden.