Dear Virat Kohli, Leave or Love India does not depend on your hyper-nationalism

Indian cricket team’s captain Virat Kohli is considered to be the most valuable celebrity brand in our country. He rakes in crores through his endorsements of a multitude of products. Just switch on your TV set, and his all-pervasive presence in numerous ads lights up your drawing room. In these endorsements, he comes across as a perfect example of poise and gravitas, something the viewers find extremely reassuring and soothing. He is a man for all seasons. After all, the illusory world of ads is far removed from the quotidian world. In these ads, Kohli is everything we expect an ideal human being to be: sober, intelligent, compassionate, aggressive, and by no stretch of imagination, arrogant. He can’t put a foot wrong — such is the halo of his infallibility.

Let’s be honest, Kohli has dropped the ball

Now, the all important question: why is it that Kohli’s confidence bleeds over into arrogance and bossiness when the captain in him resurfaces with a vengeance? Why is that that the man, known for his coruscating centuries against any team in the world, suddenly morphs into a Mount Vesuvius ready to erupt? For a while, Kohli the batsman and skipper is subsumed by a more preachy, self-righteous and know-all sportsman who has a word of advice for those who feel that he is after all not the best batsman in the world despite his record-breaking feat every year. If god has given Kohli one face, then he has to make himself another because he can, if need be, rebuff anybody who has the cheek to tell him that he enjoys watching the battings of Australian and English players more than that of Kohli or any other Indian batsmen for that matter. Kohli had a piece of advice for this fan of his: If he can’t enjoy the batting of Indian team then he has better live in a foreign country. After all, Kohli can’t digest the fact that even Indian fans can take a shine to batsmen from countries other than India. He simply needed a pretext, a casus belli that could be packaged to the public as a justification for such vitriol. That he had dropped a clanger by overreaching himself became evident when cricket fans, sick as a parrot, came down on him like a ton of bricks. According to them, it ill behoves a cricketer of his stature to suggest such options to a cricket fan who had the gall to speak his mind. Kohli, his critics feel, should have taken such innocuous remarks in his stride rather than letting his tongue run away with him.

Does success matter more than sobriety?

Kohli’s career trajectory in the last ten years has mostly been driven by hunger for runs than anything else.  He has led himself to believe that more than behaviour what makes him a blue-eyed boy of his fans are his brilliant stroke plays and boundaries. His every achievement on the field becomes a cause for frenetic celebrations for the country. It is as if scoring centuries and breaking records are the only criterion for people of Kohli’s ilk to achieve greatness and immortality.

Tendulkar and Dravid were equally great and talented batsmen. Their humbleness and sobriety were like snatches from another world. They always made sure that they struck a balance between professional landmarks and personal distinctions. Their very name evoked respect and adoration. They displayed aggression in their batting and not in anything that had to do with flaunting personal machismo or bravado.

Kohli simply needed a pretext, a casus belli that could be packaged to the public as a justification for such vitriol. That he had dropped a clanger by overreaching himself became evident when cricket fans, sick as a parrot, came down on him like a ton of brick

Sadly, those days are over now. We now have a captain who wants the team management to dance to his tune; he doesn’t like the team coach to breathe down his neck and dictate terms on matters concerning selection of players. In the disastrous England tour this September, Prithvi Shaw didn’t get a chance to play in the Indian team despite being brought in as an urgent replacement for Murli Vijay. Any sensible cricket aficionado would be tempted to ask why this young man was not given the Indian cap and rather made to cool his heels at the pavilion? Did Kohli ask him to understand the nuances of the game before being given the opportunity to play as an opener? And look what this young promising opener did against the West Indies in the first test. He made a brilliant hundred which had all the elements of craftsmanship, patience, maturity and intelligence. We have every right to ask why this young man was given a raw deal in England. Sorry. Neither team coach Shastri nor any member from the management have any answer to this. They would rather prefer to guard their tongues.

Kohli’s next challenge is in Australia

The test and one-day series against Australia starting this month will once again put Kohli’s captaincy abilities to test. His not-so-convincing record overseas in test series as a captain is there for all to see. An impression has gained ground that Kohli mostly fails to marshal his resources on the field and at times his error of judgment proves costly for the team in crucial stages of the game.

By the time, Kohli walks in to bat on the Australian pitch; he will have exorcised his recent memories and focus on his game. We are sure some more records might tumble with Kohli adding one more feather to his illustrious career.

What we all cricket fans are praying is that the skipper remains grounded all through the series and gives the team a rare overseas win. This would be his priceless year end gift to us.



Aditya Mukherjee

The writer is an independent journalist based in Delhi

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