How does one praise Virat Kohli? As Lata Mangeshkar said in a tweet, "woh khud hi tareef hain." So, how does one eulogise his innings at Mohali on Sunday night?
Words like great, spectacular, stunning, awesome and brilliant sound woefully inadequate. Miracle and magic could have been close to what he achieved. But then, this India da puttar wields a bat, not a wand like a fictional Potter.
Find a new lexicon, please.
You can laugh, just as Alice did in Lewis Carroll's wonderland. "There's no use trying," she says. "One can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," the Queen replies to Alice. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
And so it must have been at breakfast on Sunday. Kohli must have imagined an impossible situation against Australia. Then he must have worked out seven, not just six, strokes of brilliance to tell us, ha ha, impossible is nothing.
When the 18th over of the second innings began, India needed 39 runs to win, chasing 161 to advance to the semi-finals of the World T20.
Anybody who has played even book cricket will tell you that scoring 13 per over, in a pressure game, against Australia, on home ground, in a World Cup knock-out game, while chasing is the next big after difficult, verging on the impossible. When the crowd screams, pressure begins to build and nerves begin to jangle like bells, even the best batsmen begin to tremble or make mistakes.
Not our Batman. Virat almost got rid of the target in the next two overs, leaving the final over for the mandatory Dhoni hit over long on to seal a win. During the next 12 balls, starting from the 18th over, Kohli hit seven boundaries — 4,4,6,4,4,4,4. All proper, text-book shots. No slogs, no switch hits, no Glen Maxwell-type reverse sweeps or scoops. Just cover drives, cuts and shots off the hip behind the square, all placed between fielders as if he was measuring angles between balls like a mathemagician.
And when he was not sending the ball across the boundary, he was placing it to perfection between fielders and then, with Bolt Dhoni for company, running like Ben Johnson on Stanazolol steroid at the 1988 Olympics, converting ones into twos, making the Aussies feel outrun like Carl Lewis.
The defining moment of Kohli's mathemagic came in the 18th over, just around the time a kind of hush had descended on Mohali because of the steep required run rate. First, to a ball pitched almost on the popping crease, a shade outside the off stump, Kohli opened the face of the bat and glided it past the diving point fielder just when the bowler James Faulkner thought he had conjured up a dot ball.
Then, on the next ball, Kohli danced down the crease, seemed to have misread the trajectory and the slower one, yet managed to make a quick adjustment and loft the ball over the mid-off boundary. As the ball sailed high, giving Faulkner false visions of a catch, Kohli pumped his fists, triggering a raucous 'Kohli, Kohli' chant in the stands that would echo for ages.
It is difficult to know what Australia felt after those strikes. But, to believers of Indian mythology, it seemed the god of Indian cricket had revealed his mythological Virat roop to the rivals, making the Kangaroos cower and surrender, like the Kauravas did at Hastinapur.
Australia just imploded after the 18th over, surrendering to Kohli and his divine batting. When the ball disappeared four times to the boundary in the 19th over, each time off Kohli's bat, it seemed Australia had bowed down to the genius of Kohli, paying obeisance, watching in awe, instead of fighting.
"That was a pretty serious innings there, under pressure. He hit it right out of the middle and he's done it for a long time. Virat played an unbelievable knock. I think 160 was around par, it just took an unbelievable innings to get India over the line," Australian captain Steven Smith was to say later.
He might have as well said what every Indian was chanting: Virat Kohli ki Jai.
The greatest stories of triumph are those where one person changes the course of history by sheer dint of his courage and ability. Remove him from the scene and the great sounds commonplace, past victories look like a miracle and a defeat in the future appears inevitable.
Kohli is the superhero scripting the T20 World Cup this year. Without him, India have no business being in the semi-finals.
All around him, Indian batsmen are failing regularly. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are batting as if they exist only to give Kohli enough time to plan his seven impossible things at breakfast, pad up and then walk out to bat as soon as he is ready. Suresh Raina is finding innovative ways to get out — he dragged a ball short and wide outside leg stump into the keeper's gloves on Sunday — so that Kohli is left with enough runs to entertain the crowds. Yuvraj is struggling and Dhoni is happy playing Robin to Batman.
Amidst these ruined reputations, Kohli is turning this World Cup into his own, as if it were a spectacle organised to showcase his indescribable heroics, just as Lance Klusener did in 1999. Kohli seems to be winning it for India all alone, as if all the stars, constellations and zodiacs have come together to turn it into a fait-accompli, his destiny.
And all the lexicons in the world are failing.