When Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer stunned the world with an unreal display of tennis back in the 2008 Wimbledon Final, many wondered if the sport had ever reached or would ever reach these heights again over five pulsating hours. They pulled out all the stops, used all their magic and grit, and exhausted all their genius in one single match that will forever stand the test of time. It was, quite simply, the greatest tennis match ever played. The angles were off the chart, the shot-making was beyond what a human brain could grasp, and the pressure and stage elevated it to that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Two players, in their own little bubble, doing what nobody had ever done before.
On Saturday afternoon, not on the grandest stage, and definitely not at the very highest level, two cricketers stretched the limits of modern-day batting to its optimum elasticity. Cricket fans at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore have already seen quite a few batting records over the years – including Rohit Sharma’s first ODI double century (209) against Australia.
Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers have been on the same T20 team – Royal Challengers Bangalore – for three years now. And over those years, they have, often, together, made a mockery of many rival teams. They’re known to be the two best batsmen in the universe currently, and when they bat together, nobody can figure out which one of them is doing a Messi and which one is doing a Ronaldo. One soars, the other strides, and in tandem, they destroy bowlers in a most beautiful and frightening way. Against a hapless Gujarat Lions team, one of the table-toppers, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli broke their own records, again and again.
The numbers, by the end, read like all of M. Night Shyamalan’s twist endings put together. Basically, they were just not believable, and yet left you absolutely breathless – more so, because of the possibilities that they seem to have unlocked for the future. We often complain about how batting has lost its craft and charm and how T20 has destroyed Test skill levels, but if it led to a partnership like this, there’s little the purists can debate about. A thing of such brutal elegance is rare – we’ve seen Chris Gayle’s 175, but it’s a little more charming when two world-renowned batsmen work together, feeding off one another, upping one another, synchronize their highs and lows, and come out this way. There’s no point being cynical about contemporary cricket or these leagues, if they can give us just one hour of this every year.
Once I gathered my jaw from the floor, I took a look at some of the statistics. It was not only extraordinary, it defied everything most of us ever thought we knew about batting these days.
Here’s a quick look:
229 – the partnership between AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, the highest ever in T20 cricket, breaking their own 215 against Mumbai Indians last year.
2 – The number of times two batsmen have scored a century in the same T20 innings. This is the first time in this league.
14 – Number of sixes hit by them in the last 30 balls of the innings, 112 runs in total.
18 – Number of times Suresh Raina must have thanked his lucky stars; the captain of the Lions was away in Netherlands for the birth of his first child – the first time he has ever missed a league game. Lucky him.
248 – the RCB total, the second highest ever, after their own 263 against Pune Warriors when Gayle scored 175.
13 – Number of century stands Kohli has shared with Gayle (7) and de Villiers (6). Four of them with de Villiers have come this season.
3 – Number of centuries by Kohli this season. He had never scored a T20 century before this season.
0 – Number of bowlers who wished they could do the “Champayan dance” at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Saturday. Dwayne Bravo gave away 30 runs in his third over, followed by Shiv Kaushik giving away 30 more in the next.
20 – Sixes hit by RCB in the innings, a joint record.
144 – The winning margin for RCB, an outright record.
20 – Number of runs scored by Chris Gayle in his 5 innings so far.