Virat Kohli has not had the greatest of times lately. With India staring at an early exit from the World Cup, the skipper may have well lost a final opportunity to win the country an ICC trophy for the first time since 2013. However, Kohli’s most significant act as leader during the last week came off the field, when he stood up for teammate Mohammad Shami. The pacer was a victim of targeted abuse following the match against Pakistan. In a world increasingly divided on race, creed, colour and religion, the abusers latched on to his faith.
While other luminaries of the cricketing establishment said anybody could have an off day and Shami has won India many games, the Indian skipper was the only one who touched upon the sensitive topic: the pace bowler’s religion. Even as the media manager wanted journalists to move on from the area of questioning, the captain, in a rare political statement, hit out at the abuse. Just to recap what he said: “Attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing that a human being can do. Honestly, I don’t even want to waste one minute of my life to give any attention to those people and neither does Shami ... or anyone else in the team.”
In isolation, that’s just a leader supporting his teammate through thick and thin but this statement by Kohli went over and beyond that. Religion has always been a hot button issue in this country. Social media is replete with such bigotry and hatred. That is why what Kohli did touched a chord in everyone’s heart. In a country where silence is increasingly turning into a virtue, the captain stood by his friend, colleague and teammate. While others skirted the issue completely, Kohli, like he has always done, protected his teammate like an elder brother would. Virat may not be a perfect captain, but what he has done should be applauded. After all he has shown that bigotry is not part of the vocabulary of sports.