What Kohli told de Villiers
ESPNcricinfo brings you a conversation that never happened between two of the finest batsmen of the day, team-mates in the IPL, rival captains of India and South Africa, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. Kohli's team cruised past South Africa at The Oval and into the semifinals. Both men sat an hour or so after the game, lost in their own worlds of triumph and disaster - who can ever treat them the same? - shoeless, sock-less, legs up on the railings, slumped back into their chairs.
Virat: Hard luck, AB. So much for staying calm….
AB: (Rolls his eyes)
Virat: So then, man, what happened?
AB: Well, for a start, you won the toss, which, ok, fine, you did lose the first two. But then Hash and Quinny decided they'd take it slow and sweet. Thirty-five after ten? More slow than sweet, eh? Mind you, you guys don't exactly bolt out of the gates, do you? Thirty-seven for Rohit out, and what was that shot?
Virat: We knew you guys haven't been rushing out, though. What is it? Second-worst run rate in the first Powerplay (3.8) this tournament, behind Bangladesh (3.23). I mean, come on, even Pakistan's openers are getting out faster. And Rohit… well, only he can play those kinds of shots. I was a little worried that you hadn't lost wickets in the first 15, though.
AB: Yeah. But imagine. Hash and Quinny, so settled, eyes, limbs, heads, everything in. And then Hash does what he did. Why?
Virat: Oh, yeah. Big wicket. Came easy. Great catch too, MS, because that was edged hard. Saved me too. Hash should've been long gone, if I hadn't fumbled the pick up in that third over. Note to self, eh? Stop diving all the time.
AB: You know, till Quinny was around, I was confident. I mean he is one heckuva talent, right? He has what, some ten hundreds against India?
Virat: Easy now. Just five, actually.
AB: And how many innings? That's right, just 10. A hundred every other innings, that is. And him and Faf looked so positive, so much intensity. And then…
Virat: Bam! Sir Jadeja.
AB: I reckon Quinny just got overconfident. Or something. Why sweep Jaddu, a guy who's at your pads and stumps like flies around a fruit bowl? Take your front leg out of the way, get the lbw out. You know, I knew he'd bowl there. He'd just survived that lbw shout and I just knew the next ball would be that little dart at the stumps.
Virat: And then you, pal. What happened there? That wasn't on.
AB: (A quiet, blank stare)
Virat: (Pats AB on the shoulder, sympathetically) It's okay. I understand…
AB: No, no. I really thought I could make it. Sure, it was a cheeky one, especially now with you guys fielding like you do and MS, yeah, he's going grey but boy those hands are getting younger. Whiplash hands. Crazy quick hands, those. Who'd think it, me and Faf. Best mates, two fastest guys on the field but an accident waiting to happen between the wickets? Six times now Virat, six. Can you believe that?
Virat: Never take MS on, that's what we say in Indian cricket.
AB: We were bad, but Faf and David? I don't even know what happened there. It was like they were Olympic swimmers in a race to hit the wall first. I mean, we're professionals. We're trained to know who makes those calls. It was behind square, it had to be David's call. But Faf panicked and, well… he panicked, they both panicked, we panicked.
Virat: (Holds back the automatic urge to blurt out the 'ch' word, and not the 'ch' word he didn't use against Australia.) Yes, we couldn't believe it either.
AB: You must have thought the match was yours then, right?
Virat: (With uncharacteristic understatement) I was confident. But you know our bowling's been mixed this tournament. Pakistan wasn't enough of a challenge, but Sri Lanka really shook us. I'll be honest: we thought we'd win that game, but that was a real wake-up call. Funny game. Sometimes, you think you have it under control, but then, like a saline drip, it trickles away and out of your grip. And you're just there, dazed.
AB: Tell me about it. We've just been here so many times, coming into these crunch games, full of enthusiasm, energy, hope. You should've seen us at training on Saturday. We went at it hard, with so much intensity. We said to each other we wouldn't get overexcited. We said we'd enjoy the match. We said we'd put in an honest fight. I just don't get what happens on days like this. I just…
Virat: I said this yesterday, mate, and l'll say it again. I empathise with you. I'm sorry. It's just a game.
AB: At least my captaincy's safe. At least I think it is.
Virat: Go well, mate. Maybe next time.
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo