Having slept barely three hours after the KKR night game, the Daredevils boarded an early morning flight to Kochi knowing this was a must-win game. But despite the rough ride this season, the mood in the team was upbeat.
As Kochi was under some bandh, tired players decided to hit the bed
in the hotel instead of nets. Late evening, they gathered for the customary team meeting.
The next day, two shocks awaited the team. First, James Hopes was ruled out by a dodgy stomach and then, on reaching the Nehru Stadium, the Kochi wicket sent shockwaves through everyone. In previous games, the Kochi track had assisted the seamers but this one was dry and without grass.
Once play started, the worst fears about the wicket came true, as Naman Ojha was leg-before to a ball that crashed into his boot! Viru, though horrified to find a wicket with zero bounce, was untroubled by the bowling. Remarkably, on a track not suited to his batting style, he started by defending stoutly.
On a treacherous wicket where quality players would be happy with a scratchy 18, he produced a masterly 80. In this innings, nothing went past his bat; every ball magically hit the middle of his blade.
Unlike other contemporary batsmen, Viru is brutally aggressive, yet there is a pleasing elegance about his stroke-play.
Sachin's trademark shot is the straight drive past the bowler; Sehwag's speciality is the way he carves the ball through point. Kapil Dev says bowlers fear Viru because he is fearless.
His team-mates realise they are in the company of a modern-day cricket giant, a top gun who shoots, and does not miss.