When the Empress of Blandings refused a potato, you could say that the light had gone out of the life of Lord Emsworth. Hell’s foundations quivered until Lady Constance Keeble, his sister, brought things back to an even keel with her aristocratic hauteur and sharp tongue. National worries are a different context altogether ~ given that we live in exciting times ~ and, alongside soaring inflation, the rupee’s goalkeeper-like dives and, of course, the coronavirus’ capricious ebbing and burgeoning, India has been worrying about what it can do to end Virat Kohli’s run drought. Everyone is vexed, defining all the synonyms of disturbed cogitation in Roget’s Thesaurus. The big boy is absent from the tour of the West Indies but ubiquitous in terms of headline presence, with Sunil Gavaskar’s gracious offer of a 20-minute tutorial session seized duly on by the papers and made a lot of in an illustration of the seriousness of the situation.
Anyone in this land will give their right hand for that length of time with Indian cricket’s original Little Master but, somewhat perplexingly, it was not an open sesame way out. “It might work,” Gavaskar was quoted as saying, leaving you wondering if the uncertainty was the reason why the stalwart of yesteryear had not said something like this while Kohli’s problems worsened, making him the butt of stand-up comedians’ jokes. Was this an end-of-the-world scenario? Dim as Mr Average Man’s intelligence is deemed, Kohli must be a very, very important person or they would never have let him carry on for nearly three years when his form slump went on and on and on, a nettlesome thing that simply could not be got out of the way. It would have made you wonder if Kohli would rally back with a triple-digit knock that would have sundry jaws hitting the floor, but it never came.
On the contrary, there were those golden ducks in the Indian Premier League. In England this time around, he displayed the art of survival. If those take-it-from-me voices which have for years loquaciously justified summary exclusions and plain, simple motivated bypassing of unfortunates after a kindly or situationally convenient call-up fell silent when Kohli’s serial failures stretched, was there any special logic that underpinned their response, or the lack of it? Have Indians been fools in believing that professional sport is bound by a result-reward dynamic that brooks no leniency for such a length of time? And if we have, in official thought and action, in the past as well heroworshipped cricketers long past their drool-by date, was that a bit of all right? Will there ever be a Lady Constance Keeble in Indian cricket?