The television producer was waving his hands wildly at the Indian dressing room, hoping to catch someone’s attention. The trophies were ready, Shaun Pollock had the mike in his hand and the VIPs were vacantly staring at their cellphones. They were waiting for Virat Kohli and his boys. Celebrations of a hard-fought wins do take time. Wanderers had to wait.
South Africa won the series 2-1 but Kohli saw India’s 63-run win in the third and final Test Saturday, on the toughest pitch of the series, as a step in the right direction.
On a day when most Indian cricketers became “IPL crorepatis” several times over, they showed that they had it them to play cricket’s classiest and oldest format.
About 24 hours back, Kohli had walked into the long tube-like tunnel, which leads players from the field to the dressing room, seething in anger. The umpires’ call to end play early, hinting that the pitch was dangerous, hadn’t gone down well with the team that had got a sniff of a rare away win on a fast and bouncy track.
India’s dressing room celebrations did take time and Kohli, eventually, would emerge from the dingy tunnel smiling. He fiddled with his phone, shared a joke with coach Ravi Shastri and raised a thumb at the small group with the Tricolour on the grass bank. That image summed up the tour for India. Finally, there was sunshine at the end of the long, dark tunnel.
The game that nearly got abandoned because of the dodgy pitch, ended up as the Test that Kohli said his team would remember for a long time. “This could be a massive milestone for us. We had the belief but now we have the result. This day will be remembered for a long time as a team. The guys are looking forward to repeating this much more in conditions that are not ours,” he said.
Kohli went on to add that the mood in the change room was “amazing”. It was seconded by others who listed several reasons to keep the presentation party waiting for that wee bit longer.
After the on-pitch celebrations, the captain’s winning scream directed at abusive South African fans on the wooden stands, and the cordial handshakes with rivals, the team shut itself from the outside world.
Inside the dressing room, Kohli would start the celebrations with a wild roar. Others would join in a chorus. Though the bhangra would dominate the makeshift dance floor, other regional folk dances would also get representation in this multicultural dressing room.
This would be followed by a message. Captain Kohli would make a point. “He spoke about the significance of this win. We have moved from ‘we can do it’ to ‘we have done it’. That’s what the captain conveyed to the team. This team has crossed a very significant bridge,” said a team member.
Later, Kohli would speak about how the world didn’t believe in the team but that didn’t shake their conviction.
It had started with Kohli venting his anger at the Rand 60 stands that had the beer-drinking limerick-singing Proteas Barmy Army. In the first session, with Ishant Sharma going wicketless, they had sledged him whenever he fielded at the boundary rope. They would go: “He bowls to left, he bowls to right, Ishant Sharma you take the flight.” The last line at times would change to: “Ishant Sharma you are s**t.”
Kohli isn’t the kind to take sledges lightly, especially the ones aimed at his bowlers. He repeatedly spoke about how his bowlers had taken 60 wickets on this tour, a feat that has probably never been achieved by any Indian team.
Even at the press conference, the common thread in that his answers had been about how his team had proved everybody wrong. Every other answer would be a taunt at those he said didn’t believe in them.
* On the pre-tour “whitewash” headlines: “A lot of people didn’t have belief in us, but as a team we knew that we were very close in the first two Tests too, and we knew that if we played better in pressure situations than them, then we would win.”
* On what he was thinking when Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla seemed to be running away with the match: “We don’t think like people on the outside. When things don’t go well, we as a team don’t say ‘oh, we should have done this’ or ‘we should have done that’.”
Long after the game and press conference were over, the team was in the dressing room for another round of festivities. Then, they left the Wanderers for one long party at the team hotel.