It will be no exaggeration to say that India’s destiny in the forthcoming World Cup depends to a great extent on Virat Kohli. He can will his predatory cricketing instincts to a level that inspires his teammates to produce a sustained, skilful display that takes them all the way to the final and more.No Indian cricketer before has been so central to India’s winning as Kohli, his extraordinary batting achievements propelling his team to one victory after another. He is a run machine that thrives under adversity, sustains itself in a bruising fight, and bares his all—raw emotions included—to pound the opposition.
He is like a heavyweight boxer, provoking, teasing, deriding, needling and even mocking his opponent, before delivering the knock-out punch. India has never seen a cricketer like this before whose heart, mind and body combine with his batting skills to produce a spellbinding show that is pure, undiluted theatre.
For a cricketer having barely crossed his thirties, his achievements in all forms of the game are simply staggering. Just to imagine that even a Sachin Tendulkar could be dwarfed, that too so soon, is in itself unbelievable. Kohli is close to achieving that feat.Yet, the man seems unsatiable, a smouldering lava, never satisfied, always on the move, wanting more and more, driving himself to a frenzy to surpass his own achievements. With each giant step he takes, his goal post keeps shifting. The more he feeds himself, the hungrier he gets. No wonder many around him have started believing he is not human, a superman, who can do impossible deeds.
For a superman like him, winning the World Cup, that too for a team which is one of the favourites along with England and Australia, should not be counted as a distant dream. It is well within their grasp and that is the reason why Kohli would be devastated if India fail in their quest. For a man driven by ambition, an all-out desire to win and in his own words “at any cost”, this tournament is going to stretch his every sinew, muscle and consume every ounce of his energy.
He has so far shown steely resolve, a mind that gets energised under pressure and the World Cup is the ultimate stage where his insurmountable will is going to get tested again. He was a chubby teenager when he led India to a World Cup win in 2008 in Malaysia. That was for an under-19 age group where he first showed glimpses of what he is capable of, his temper as well as his batting craft. His journey from there onwards was not smooth. He was a kid with multiple interests that consume youth, distractions that clash with the discipline needed to succeed in a physically demanding profession that sport is.
He stumbled and his lifestyle led many to predict his doom. By his own admission, he was an errant boy who got so dazzled by the riches of the glamour world that he forgot his main mission, to become perfect at his batting. Not many players who have deviated from the boundaries of “normal” patterns needed to succeed, have recovered their wits to come back on track. He realised at the right time that his cricketing dream and his bohemian lifestyle can’t go together and he had to make a choice. He made a dramatic change, choosing to stay with what he liked best and from here onwards he became a different man.
Kohli, who was called Cheeku, for his chubby looks, transformed himself, working hard on his fitness, changing his dietary preferences and his all consuming passion now was to do everything that would enhance his skills at cricket. Till then he had the potential but lacked the discipline to fulfil it. The desire now to focus on his sport became a mission and that helped him to bridge the gap between promise and achievement.
Kohli’s metamorphosis from an also-ran to leaving all competitors far behind is now complete. Captaincy has acted as a fuel to make him desire more and more success. His self-belief, even by the standards of outstanding achievers, is phenomenal. As a batsman he walks onto the crease believing he would score big, no matter what the match conditions are. The greater the challenge, the more difficult the wicket, the better he responds.
More importantly for India, as a captain of the team he walks into a match believing he can’t lose, no matter what the strength of the opponents may be. He is a rare mix of aggression and serenity. He can verbally explode on the field, even make you feel he has no control over his emotions. Contrast this with his batting, where he is so calm and focussed that a meditating monk could draw inspiration from him.
The competition is tough, the challengers no pushovers, a stage tailor-made for Kohli to showcase his formidable talent. India will be hoping that his hunger to succeed is still intact and he remains the superman he is, at least till the World Cup lasts. The rest will follow.