Mumbai Indians v Royal Challengers Bangalore, CLT20 2010, Durban September 19, 2010

Kumble's scowl and Kohli's agony

You could forget the game before the weekend but tonight, at least, you might take away two expressions from it - a scowl and a distraught face

Sometimes you compress a game into a solitary expression of human emotion. Shaun Pollock's tears in a World Cup, Rameez Raja's sajda in another World cup, Andrew Flintoff's handshake with Brett Lee or Lance Klusener's icy-cool look back at the devastation behind him after that famous run-out.

You might probably forget this game before the weekend but tonight, at least, you might take away two expressions from it - a scowl and a distraught face. They came at different turning points and captured the moment and the pulse of the game.

Kumble's scowl is one of the most recognisable vignettes of Indian cricket. Today it was seen at various moments when his team-mates fumbled but the severest of them was reserved for himself. When directed against the others, the scowl is filled with anger. When it's his mistake, you can see his face muscles tighten, his pupils dilate, and he grits his teeth and yanks his head away. It doesn't feel like solely a disappointment. It feels more personal than that. That shake of the head is almost as if he wants to throw that feeling out of his body and get on with the game. The intensity is almost scary. Mumbai were tottering at 86 for 5 in the 15th over when it happened. Kumble got one to dip quickly on Dwayne Bravo who hit it back to his right but he couldn't hold on. Kumble lunged with both hands but spilled it.

He said later it was one of those things. That he was expecting the catch but missed it completely. That he didn't put up his hand today and his team lost because of his bowling and that dropped catch. He then said something which captures him perfectly: "It can be cruel even after 25 years."

Now to that distraught face of Virat Kohli. He began his career fairly recently and has perhaps seen more joy than sorrow. Tonight offered a moment of a kind of gloom that only comes after a high. If he had not played a blinder to take his team within a shot of victory and experienced a bit of a high, he wouldn't have been so sad later.

We associate a batsman with a signature shot. Kohli's is that swat-flick that he used so profitably today. Herschelle Gibbs plays a similar shot but much squarer behind the wicket. Moin Khan's version of the shot was more audacious. Back to Kohli. When 40 were needed off 18, Kohli swat-flicked Abu Nechim over midwicket. Flick. Blink. The ball soared over midwicket boundary. When 26 were needed off 10, he played that shot twice to make Malinga wince in pain. When 11 were needed off 4, he swat-flicked Zaheer Khan and repeated that shot again two balls later. Both came off full tosses, the kind of tripe that Zaheer had delivered in an earlier game against South Australia Redbacks.

It came down to the final delivery. It was another full toss, and that too on the legs. Kohli went for his signature shot. Blink. Flick. Four? Nope. Blink. Flick. Out. The ball ballooned up and another youngster Ambati Rayudu settled under it. Kohli was distraught and he sank to his knees. Rahul Dravid consoled him but Kohli didn't move for a while. Kumble later said Kohli was still feeling the pain of that moment. "The previous ball he played the same shot and got a four. On a different day it might have gone over the keeper and we could have got two runs and got a Super Over.. but it was a brilliant knock." Indeed. "Batting at No. 6 in Twenty20 cricket is not easy," Kumble said. "Virat is a young cricketer looking to make a mark in international cricket. I am sure he is a little disappointed that he is playing at No. 6 in our team but the team dynamics are such that we need him to play there. Today was his opportunity; having come close he is very disappointed."

These are the moments you might take away from tonight's game. A scowl of a 40-year old man who feels the pain of a dropped catch, a misfield or a game lost despite playing for 20 years at the highest level and a distraught face of a youngster who perhaps wants to play a match-winning knock that he can remember after 20 years. It was not to be. Tonight wasn't their day.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo