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Virat Kohli, please let your bat do all the talking

A look at Virat Kohli's controversial behaviour with a journalist and why he was in the wrong on this occasion.

Virat Kohli would be wise to put the focus back on his cricket

All through the Australian summer, the Aussies tried getting under the skin of Virat Kohli. At one point, it became all too easy. Bring Mitchell Johnson on, get him to speak a few words and you knew that Kohli would go after him. There were repeated instances of banter from both sides, often borderline abusive, but one individual was common in all those incidents – Virat Kohli. How could one even think of leaving him out?

Ever since he burst on to the international scene, Kohli has positioned himself as an aggressive character. The in-your-face cricketer that India seldom produces. One who doesn’t shy away from returning the compliments to the bowler, one who isn’t afraid of welcoming batsmen to the crease.

Brash. Passionate. Caught mouthing things that are profane. You could put this West Delhi boy in any part of the world and expect him to score runs, but you can’t expect him to not behave in a manner that his city is so infamous for. 

Kohli’s behaviour completely uncalled for

The recent spat with a Hindustan Times journalist, Jasvinder Sidhu, has surely got to be a tipping point in Kohli’s career. Yes, he has flipped the bird in the past, and hurled expletives at his teammates and opposition, but none would have expected him to handle the media in such an uncouth manner.

It started with a case of mistaken identity. Kohli was miffed over an article written by Indian Express’ Sandeep Dwivedi during India’s tour to England in July last year, and he wrongly lashed out at Sidhu during India’s practice session in Perth a couple of days ago, mistaking him to be Dwivedi. What followed is now widely documented – a barrage of abuses and a lot of finger pointing.

The Indian media contingent covering the World Cup has unanimously branded Kohli as the bad boy in this episode, and rightly so. While airing dissent or protesting against things that you deem hurtful is completely legitimate, using abuse as a medium of protest is by no means acceptable. It’s a different story altogether that Dwivedi hadn’t written anything that could have been considered voyeuristic and improper. He reported on a genuine story of Kohli asking for permission from the BCCI to take his girlfriend along, and that was it.

In fact, it was for everyone to see that the lady in question, a popular Bollywood film star, was present in England – watching her boyfriend play. If in that case, if being the operative word, the story was falsely accusatory, fabricated or invasive, Kohli could’ve resorted to means that are available to any celebrity in the country. He could’ve directly contacted the person, initiated legal proceedings against the individual or the organisation or just let it be.

It is a fact that the Indian media isn’t an upholder of journalistic ethics, but does it still justify stooping to such low levels such as screaming expletives publicly at professionals doing their duty? Many across social forums are defending Kohli, by pointing out the media’s tainted image. While the media may or may not be wrong, their culpability does not take away anything from the fact that it is highly unbecoming of an Indian Test captain to behave in the manner that Kohli did. 

BCCI also at fault for mishandling the entire issue

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has also had a role in this episode snowballing to the epic proportions that it eventually has. After the events unfolded at Perth, the team management went into damage control in the worst way possible. They first denied the episode happening, terming it as a misunderstanding. Then they said that no abuses were hurled at the journalist, before rounding up with a statement that Kohli had apologized and the matter had ended.

It was only a couple of hours ago (at the time of writing this article) that the BCCI came out with a statement strongly condemning Kohli’s act. While this might assuage many in the Indian media, it is just laughable how a player who was supposedly not at fault till just a day ago is suddenly warned by the same organisation that tried defending him.

If the BCCI wants to convey the importance of India’s World Cup campaign to all and sundry, it first needs to end its hypocritical practices, drop the charade of denial and take stock of the matter at hand. While there isn’t any doubt about the importance of Kohli’s mental peace to India’s game plans, the outcome of this episode can solely be attributed to him and him alone. 

It’s high time Kohli realises that as a public figure, he will be subject to a lot of scrutiny. At times, the scrutiny might be uncalled for, but that’s how life is. It comes as a package with the multi-million-dollar sponsorship deals and the countless hours of air space that he occupies when he is not playing the game.

But most importantly, Kohli must show maturity in the way he handles this scrutiny, no matter who the individual facing Kohli’s off-field aggression may be. After all, that person, whoever it is, would certainly expect a little decency to be shown by the captain of the Indian Test team.

That’s what the other great who used an MRF bat was famous for; that’s the player we want Kohli to emulate. 

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