They say fairytales don't happen in real life. Try telling Virat Kohli that, who celebrated his birthday with the whole world by equaling his idol's record at the grandest stage of them all at a packed Eden Gardens on Sunday, November 05.
It eluded him in Dharamsala, it again eluded him in Mumbai, but the legendary cricketer ensured that he didn't miss out on his 35th birthday as he carved out his 49th century to go equal with his idol, Sachin Tendulkar.
There was nothing funky or loud about his celebration, he just removed his helmet, soaked in all the applause, and looked up to thank the almighty.
As his gratitude-filled eyes looked up to the heavens, a flood of emotions and flashbacks would have certainly engulfed Kohli's mind.
Flashbacks of a young Virat sitting for hours in front of the television to watch his idol go about his business; flashbacks of a young Kohli cheering every time Tendulkar got a century, feeling down when India used to fall short in a run-chase; flashbacks of a young Delhi boy visualizing what he would have done in the same situation; flashbacks of that magical night in April 2011 when he said that it's time we carry him (Sachin) on our shoulders: flashbacks of November 2009 when he scored his first international ton at this very venue.
And, of course, flashbacks from his darkest phase when he used to look up with despair and helplessness in his eyes every time he got out.
To be honest, Virat has been living his childhood dream from the start of his career. The dream was not to leapfrog his idol's record, but to shoulder the responsibility of the team like Sachin did and take Indian cricket to even bigger heights.
And, he has done that across all formats and in all conditions and situations over the last 12 years since that night at the Wankhede.
'It is all too much for me to take in now''- Emotional Kohli pours his heart out after matching his idol
So, it wasn't a surprise that the historic moment came on his 35th birthday and in front of his home fans during a World Cup. They ask who writes his scripts. Who is gonna tell them that the "script" is just a culmination of hard work that he had put in search of sustained excellence?
And speaking of a flood of emotions, they must have ranged from immense satisfaction, and a sense of speechlessness after one finally achieves his goal to a sense of emptiness that he can't share this moment with his father.
Kohli overwhelmed by Tendulkar's praise
"Tendulkar's tweet is quite special," said Kohli. "It's all too much to take in for now. It's a huge honour to equal my hero's record. He's perfection with the bat. It's an emotional moment. I know the days I come from, I know the days I have watched him on TV. To receive appreciation from him means a lot to me."
When Virat talks about Sachin, it's like he is echoing the emotions of a billion cricket fans who grew up watching the champion batsman, and the fact that it's Virat who does that despite being, well, "VIRAT", just puts in context that he never forgets where he has come from.
Imperfect Kohli displays perfection in temperament to carve out another classic
As always, opinions are divided on Virat's knock in Kolkata, but for us at The Bharat Army, this inning was a perfect embodiment of his temperament and game awareness.
On a pitch where there was an upwards of 4-degree turn from the beginning of the 10th over, Virat quickly worked out that this wasn't a 350 pitch, and that he would have to dig deep into his fast reservoirs of patience.
The greatest hallmark of a champion sportsperson isn't the magnanimity of their skills when they are at the top of their game, but how they can swallow their ego and be prepared to work ugly when the conditions aren't in their favor.
On a dry, two-paced pitch, he found it extremely hard to time the ball or execute the shots he normally nails during the latter part of his innings, but not for once did it lull him into throwing his wicket away. The shot execution was off mark, but the 35-year-old tuned his temperament to beast mode, ensuring he remained as an insurance cover for his team.
With Virat, it's always about what's best for the team. As he nudged, sprinted, and dived for every single run, the batsmen around him- Shreyas, and, later Surya and Jadeja, got the perfect freedom to express themselves, and by the time, he raised his bat for the historic ton, India's position of dominance had already been sealed, as was later reflective in South Africa's capitulation.
14 years after he wrote the 1st chapter of his ODI dominance at Eden Gardens, the reigning King of world cricket established his kingdom at the same venue despite not being in his typical magnanimous Avtar. And, yet he proved to be more than good enough than the rest. If this doesn't define his greatness, what will?
Featured Image Credit: BCCI