Chinnaswamy fed me fire.

Golden dust settled on the match, as the sun slipped into the Dauladhar for one final time in the season and Virat Kohli’s fingers clasped the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. This series was brilliant, but it will come back to haunt us with the ashes- the ashes of the pyre of toxicity, that we fuelled with careless thoughts. This series was amazing, but it will come back to haunt us with the smoke- the smoke that arose from the bonfire of disrespect and obnoxious disregard, that we stoked unconsciously, yet steadily. This series was all sorts of awesome, but it will come back to haunt us with burnt barbecue- burnt barbecue of solidarity, respect, regard and sportsmanship. This series was good, very good and very very good, but it will come back to haunt us with sparks- sparks of send-offs, uncalled chirps and marauding mockery. This was India against Australia in the whites after two whole years, and we deserved better than a fire of hatred that burnt and had us burnt with every flame at B’lore, Pune, Ranchi and Dharamshala. 

This was an inflicting fire. It hurt. 

But there was another one. That was fizzy, dizzy and fuzzy.

Chinnaswamy, at Bangalore, fed my starved soul with fire. I try to kindle and stoke it again, because this’ll be a bonfire of wrecked nerves that I’d want to remember, to kick me hard for every Monday.

*****

No ball is a joke. Not especially with Gary bowling and India tumbling. Nathan Lyon works hard- so hard, he’s been balding for a while now. Nathan Lyon is a demanding customer- so demanding, you have to work to get dismissed. Nathan Lyon toils- toils so hard his spinning fingers are crushed, bleeding and swelling. Nathan Lyon is an enigma- so mysteriously good, Poirot will probably never discover even a red herring as to why Nathan’s success success story is like a diamond in a dump. Nathan Lyon is a hero- we love the simplicity about his bowling, the pain that he soothes helplessly, the modesty that glistens in the blood of toil when it rolls down the holy twenty two yards. Nathan Lyon is a hero, and for a hero we love, we want him to help himself to a generous serving of success, we want him to taste it and take more of it, we want him to take more of it and and allow the flavour of it to float over and around his pain. And we want him to come right back down for the big fat ladle of success at the buffet, more often than ever. At Chinnaswamy,  when he ran down and into the holy strip, we waited for it. We waited for the spin, the roll, the crash, the yelp and the dance. Success is heavenly. Blissful. Nathan Lyon’s just tasted. It’s almost like an alcoholic addiction- the flavour. Right, he says. Let’s do this again. Religiously, he digs in.

For the dedicated Indian fans who were cradling their injuries from Pune, this is an act of terrorism. The shot that we weren’t expecting, the rifle we didn’t know, the trigger we were oblivious of, the bullet that hit us in the heart and tore the wound- over and over, eight whole times.

For the Aussies though, for the Aussies who have coddled their players, for the Aussies who are moved their hero, their Gary, their “Goat”, their one spinner whom they have groomed like a baby bird, this is an act of great homecoming. Pune was a celebration. This? This was a party, with the cake. Pune was a revelation. This? This was an understanding, with an exaltation. A party like that, an exaltation like that, deserved a hero who inspired, even when he was a star of the shadows. It desrved a hero who had been waiting to sign the treaty of success. Nathan Michael Lyon signed. With love, with joy. With pride, with the riddance of diamond-in-a-dump success. Eight times. Each time, it looked beautiful.

And of course the bystander who tried hard to not be bigoted… he cried at the wound and sighed at the treaty.

Chinnaswamy fed me fire. The fire of ridden enigma.

*****

Virat Kohli is angry. He’s mad. Virat Kohli is annoyed. He’s fired. Virat Kohli addresses his team like there’s no tomorrow. He speaks like this is the end of the world : this is the ultimate crossroad – you choose to live, with fire, or you choose to die, spinelessly. This is Virat Kohli. This is the hot-tempered, poster boy of Indian cricket. This is the man who wears his heart on the sleeve-in a brazen fashion. It’s Wrogn. He is a “brat”, and maybe that’s how he is. He growls. He grimaces. He screams. He swears. He is sarcastic and painfully subtle. But he loves the game. He loves to win. He loves to play, play hard, run, run hard, bowl, bowl hard, chase, chase hard, defend, defend hard. He loves to fight. Fight madly, with fire, against fire. He loves to punch you down. Punch you down ruthlessly, till there’s no way you can comeback. But he loves the comebacks himself. This is Virat Kohli. This is his Team India. They play a new brand of cricket. A brand of cricket, where they chirp, clap, steam in, fly, scream, mock and still win. With the brand in the market, Australia seemed mad about a copyright violation. They laughed it off, but somewhere they are angry about being asked to run up the toilet, about being mocked with a meme-worthy face, about being goaded on, about facing the heat. The heat of a crowd which they doesn’t necessarily appreciate their struggle. They beat the heat. Slowly. Carefully. Steadily. Awkwardly. They fiddle with the anger. Channel it back into retorts. Into shots. Into the sarcastic sly smile. India smile back. Cruelly.

Chinnaswamy fed me fire. The fire of a new Wrogn breakaway brand.

*****

Ugly. Determined. A stick in goo. Awkward. Punjara is the haters’ long time love. It’s a good old hobby. To jeer him, to see him trip, to see his time lapse, to forget him, to watch him fall and bleed away into the fandom’s oblivion. But this man? He’s tough. He’s here to stay. Here to bore you. Here to drive you nuts with a sparing stroke. Here to give you ideas about how you can rip him apart with a deadly sin- defense. And yeah, he gives a damn about what you say and write. Because this isn’t your toy to poke and play. This is Cheteshwar Pujara. You can choose to come up with crocodile love and support every time he pulls your darling team out from a mess. You can choose to go crazy and treat him nice everytime he comes up with the marathon double century. You can find inspiration and make him a superstar everytime he rips the sanity out the opposition with a deadly force- the bomb of a sound and safe technique. Or you can just forget him, like you always do. It’s a mere fly he’ll swat away, either way. We felt that anger, the sane anger, the slow pressure cooker burst, the patient painful incision. It was different. It pricked. But it felt good. Bloody good.

Chinnaswamy fed me fire. The fire of seething calm.

*****

Australia is desperate. They are looking everywhere. The ball’s landing everywhere where it shouldn’t. It’s sticking in, in that deviled pitch. The cherry loses its wounds, shrugs off its dried skin and wakes up afresh. It hits Rahane full on the pad. The wound of an old collapse and reopens. Rahane tries plastering it back up, but the umpire’s already gone up. It’s OUT. The wound opens up, and Mitchell Starc squeezes lime over it- maybe with a dash of chilli, next ball. The cherry hits the leg stump and sends it on a grand rollercoaster ride. Oops. Salt back on the scathe. Duck back on the trot. Mitchell Starc is a moody awfully-talented superstar. And you don’t want the fire on your bat. The fire of his anger, the determination, the annoyance. It can burn all the hard work you’ve ever put in. Into ashes that he blows off when he roars like a hungry lion. Into smoke that his teammates pulverize with all the big backing. Into a deep scar on the match that he’ll open over and over again, because he likes himself in the ripe plump attention. He likes to run in and shoot the cherry out in absolute desperation, beautifully, powerfully, skillfully and boldly. He likes to have you slash and burn. And then having his teammates snap it down the throat. He likes to have you knock your timber over. And then send them on big circus shows. He likes to have you know he’s there. And then kick you out. And then growl with a red, hot rage of perseverance.

Chinnaswamy fed me fire. The fire of gifted grit.

*****

Chinnaswamy was one hot mess. One Newshour debate of the yesteryears. It fed me, you and the whole wide fraternity the elusive glory of test cricket. It was the Phlegethon of the upper realm.

****

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