True greatness is not being just the best

Kohli may not be the most loved or admired player in cricket today, but he is the most powerful.

Published: 14th April 2019 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th April 2019 07:55 AM   |  A+A-

Virat Kohli

Everyone has a bad day. But heroes are not allowed to have one. Virat Kohli is no exception.

A month ago, India lost both the T20 and ODI series to Oz. Then Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) lost six IPL matches in a row, though Kohli’s `17 crore price tag makes him the most expensive cricketer in IPL history. The match in Bengaluru on April 6 was a watershed in Kohli’s leadership. RCB had racked up 206 against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) which needed 67 runs from 26 balls. Then came Andre Russell, who smashed an unbeaten 48 from 13 balls, taking his team to victory with seven sixes, five wickets and five balls to spare. In the 2018 IPL, RCB had come sixth. With the World Cup around the corner, should punters worry?

Kohli may not be the most loved or admired player in cricket today, but he is the most powerful. Historian Ramachandra Guha wrote: “The BCCI’s officials worshipped him even more than the Indian Cabinet worships Narendra Modi. They deferred to him absolutely, even in matters that were not within the Indian captain’s ken.” Has success gone to Kohli’s head and become hubris? Is it affecting his game?

The public has a memory shorter than Sachin Tendulkar. Nothing is good enough until the day performance drops. The reason for such unbridled worship is the Walter Mitty syndrome, when the subconscious redeems the banal, turning the ordinary man into a superman. The barkeep who watched David Beckham bend it felt he is the one sharing Victoria’s bed. When Abhinandan shot down an F16, every patriot became a fighter pilot. But when a hero fails, dreams of acolytes die. Has Kohli failed or only stumbled?

All performers, whose talent takes them to the Everest of their career, feel being good is not good enough. They aspire to greatness. To reach that lofty pantheon, Kohli must crack the Tendulkar code. Kohli may be a better batsman, may have scored more victories and runs, and has a beautiful and glamorous wife, but the difference between both the players is that the Little Master is considered one of the all-time greats. Kohli is good, indeed, very good. The numbers show he is even better than Tendulkar. How to become great, or greater would be Kohli’s ultimate challenge.

In every aspect of life, there is a benchmark. In cricket, it is Don Bradman, irrespective of his Test record having been overtaken by now. However, it is Tendulkar’s Bradman moment that India rejoiced in. When Kohli crossed the mark, it was a great victory for the team, but was not seen by all as a national triumph. Because Tendulkar played cricket. Kohli plays only to win. Tendulkar was loved. Kohli is admired. Every Indian became Tendulkar when he played. India watched cricket only to watch him. Such a legacy Kohli needs to build for himself.

A war is won through many battles. The victors who go down in history as greats are those who conquered themselves. A Kohli vs Kohli would be a match to remember.

Ravi Shankar

ravi@newindianexpress.com

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