‘Finding Tendulkar and Kohli’ at Melbourne’s. Even as the tennis season grips Melbourne, the spirit of cricket lives on.

January in Melbourne is all about The Australian Open. Billboards and hoardings were everywhere; the city was busier than any other time of the year. Restaurants are running full; getting a reservation at a Farmer’s Daughter and Supernormal is as tedious as securing last-minute tickets for the Grand Slam. Directives to reach the Melbourne Park are laid out at every corner of the streets and the locals are braving the heat to find the perfect spot at the Fed Square to watch Coco Gauff face Marta Kostyuk on the big screen.

But even as the tennis season grips Melbourne, the spirit of cricket lives on. The sports bulletin of the prime-time hour was led by Josh Brown’s joint second-fastest century in BBL history that took Brisbane Heat into the final, while Glenn Maxwell’s hospitalization following a reported ‘incident’ in Adelaide and Pat Cummins’ red-hot take on the same has taken Melbourne, the sporting capital of the world, by storm.

“Oh, Maxwell. He’s in trouble. Such a shame” are the first words this writer hears as he enters the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground for a tour of the MCG. “Such a gifted player, such a beautiful striker of the ball, and then such things come out in the news. You never know. Maybe that’s what makes him what he is, you know? He may just get up, decide to have a couple of pints, and go bonkers like he did against Afghanistan.

'Finding Tendulkar and Kohli' at Melbourne's.
‘Finding Tendulkar and Kohli’ at Melbourne’s.

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MCG’s Stalwart: Myles Walker’s Legacy

The baritone voice is that of Myles Walker, a member of the MCG Club Services and Heritage. He has been leading tours at the ‘G for 17 years and says he derives the same thrill out of talking about this iconic ground as he did in 2006. He starts by talking about the drop-in pitches and how the MCG levels up after the cricketing season such as readying itself up for the football and then the Taylor Swift concert on February 17. “The stage will be on that side,” Myles points towards the Shane Warne Stadium, “… and if there are some damages incurred, they (the organizers) will pay the price.”

Myles, 83, is as old school as a cricket buff can get. Not one to get carried away by emotions, his ever-so-enthusiastic delivery hits a sudden pause at the immortal portrait of Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar, one of the only five to ever exist. “Golly! What a player,” Myles says with a sigh. He is one of the very few individuals who has seen both Bradman and Tendulkar bat in front of his eyes – in fact, he has Tendulkar’s Test runs and average committed to memory as if they were at the back of his hand. The global recognition of Bradman acknowledging Tendulkar as the player who most resembled him has become legendary, and Myles insists it can’t get any truer.

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Virat Kohli: Australia’s Unlikely Hero

Like Tendulkar, the legend of Virat Kohli too has grown exponentially in Australia. He has come a long way since 2012, when a brash and arrogant younger self of Kohli flipped off the crowd at the SCG. The 2014/15 Border-Gavaskar was the true arrival of Kohli – Almost 700 runs, four centuries, the Adelaide twin, the on-pitch scuffles with Mitchell Johnson, the fiery press conferences Blockbuster stuff. Over the years, even though the Adelaide Oval became Kohli’s favourite hunting ground in Australia – 509 runs from four Tests – his heroics at Bradman’s den aren’t exactly afterthoughts either.

Think of the bullish 169 during which Kohli became the youngest to score 1000 Test runs against Australia, or how in 2018, Kohli’s India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by romping to victory by 137 runs – it has a special mention at MCG’s tickets counter. Or quite simply how he owned the MCG during the magnitude of his epic 82 not out against Pakistan at the 2022 World Cup. But beyond the numbers and the pure genius of Kohli, the real reason, Myles reckons, why the Australians love Kohli is because they see a lot of themselves in him. Who would have thought that an Indian player would give it back to the Australians while playing on their soil? The Aussies love a bit of fight, and more so if it’s of their caliber.

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