If you are young, gifted, famous, rich, much admired by fans across the world for your outstanding sporting skills and a role model for millions, every move of yours, each word you speak will be scanned with a laser beam. Virat Kohli, India’s pride and neighbour’s envy, is one such celebrity who is in the news all the time, and not always for the right reasons.
His Bradmanesque hunger for runs, Zen-like commitment to his craft are exemplary and he appears well on his way to breaking every conceivable batting record in cricket history.
He is a modern day giant, who dwarfs everyone and everything around him. His god-like status in Indian cricket places a great responsibility on him to act and behave in a manner befitting his stature. Unfortunately, Kohli the cricketer and Kohli the man are two separate personalities, adversarial and not complimentary to each other. He is a perfectionist when it comes to his cricket, but boorish in his behaviour.
Let us take his outbursts on the field. There may be many admirers of his aggression, but does it behove the captain of a team to be an abusive sledger, who is perpetually on an edge and threatening to explode any second?
Off-field he is all the time at war with those who may be in disagreement with his world view. During the 2015 World Cup in Australia, he showered abuses on a journalist and even after having been reprimanded, showed no signs of remorse. Anyone critical of the team is dubbed as the “other”. You are either with them or against them. Any critical evaluation is branded as being anti-India, much like the virus that has seeped into India’s political discourse. This is a world of extremes, where being neutral and objective or having a differing point of view are considered unpatriotic traits.
The board or whichever body is running the cricket administration at the moment, seems to be in awe of the man. His word is their command. What else explains the meek manner in which they succumbed on the coach issue, letting him have his say when Anil Kumble was removed for reasons other than cricketing merit. The administration, by lending a helping hand, may have created a parallel power centre, which they may eventually find difficult to control.
When an Indian captain tells a cricket fan, in public view, that if he prefers a foreign cricketer over an Indian he should not live in India, it is time to draw a line. We in India don’t need to recreate the Australian cricketing model, where their players were given the license to “kill” as long as they were not caught on the wrong side of the “law”. The “Australian way” of playing has now become a cause for much embarrassment to the country. This sense of “pride” based on toxic foundations is counterproductive in the long run and can cause irreparable damage to the basic structure of a team and the country. India, which has now emerged as a powerful cricketing nation, can’t afford to go the Australian way.