Australia's coach Justin Langer recently revealed that he felt like a 'punching bag' owing to Indian skipper Virat Kohli's ultra-aggressive behaviour during India's tour of Australia in 2018-19, when India registered their maiden Test series triumph Down Under. In the Amazon documentary The Test, Langer said,
"I remember that afternoon (feeling) like a punching bag. We can't fight back because it felt like we had our hands behind our backs and we just had to take it."
While the Aussies are the last people to speak out against sledging for they were once the masters at it, Langer's reaction to Kohli's brazen behaviour has re-opened the debate over the Indian captain's continuous pattern of over-aggressive behaviour. Former Indian all-rounder Madan Lal had recently spoken out in favour of the under-fire Kohli. “I don’t understand why people in India are asking him to mellow down,” Lal had told The Times of India. He further added, calling out the flip-flop nature of fans...
"First, everyone wanted a very aggressive captain and now you want Kohli to stop his aggressive streak. I love the way he is on the field. Earlier, people used to say that Indians are not aggressive; now that we’ve become aggressive, people question that and ask why we are so aggressive. I enjoy Kohli’s aggression; we need a captain like him."
Agreed there is nothing wrong in having an aggressive approach. However, Kohli's behaviour on numerous occassions has been extremely abrasive, which is unacceptable particularly now that he is a senior player of the side. Kohli's double standards came to the fore during the tour of New Zealand. Before the tour began, he termed New Zealand as nice guys who played hard. He even sat by the boundary with Kane Williamson, and enjoyed a pleasant chat.
Once India started losing games though, Kohli's behaviour changed and the captain of old came to the fore. He took on the crowds during the Test matches and had some not-so-kind words to say. He even went to extent of giving good friend Williamson a furious send-off. Kohli got into an unsavoury argument with a journalist who questioned him over his on-field behaviour.
He needs to understand that though he has the right to be aggressive, he cannot go overboard. He has a responsibility towards world cricket in general as well as his millions of fans. He must understand that youngsters of impressionable age might end up imitating his behaviour, thinking this is how great cricketers behave.
The debate over Kohli's on-field antics has been raging ever since he took over as India's captain. Back in 2018, veteran Indian actor and cricket aficionado Naseeruddin Shah had lashed out at Kohli, calling him the 'worst behaved player' in a Facebook post .
"Virat K is not only the world's best batsman but also the world's worst-behaved player. His cricketing brilliance pales beside his arrogance and bad manners.. And I have no intention of leaving the country by the way."
He later told India Today in an exclusive interview, "I have always admired Virat's game, I am not a fool I know a bit about cricket. I have not admired his on-field demeanour and somebody should tell him it's pretty simple to lip read in super slow motion. He should really think of what kind of an example he is setting."
"Why I ask from him (is) because of the kind of dignity displayed by people like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, like Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble. The justification is the Aussies do it so we do it, it's very strange," Shah further said. His opinion resulted in widespread criticism of the actor by Kohli's fans, who failed to understand Shah's point, and behaved in the same manner as their role model would, thus reiterating the actor's point.
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The problem with Kohli's behaviour is that he often ends up looking churlish. His extreme reaction to every dismissal is as if it is taking India closer to a World Cup victory when that is far from the case. Things get particularly embarrassing when Indians are not doing well and yet Kohli doesn’t mend his ways. Take the example of the New Zealand tour. The Kiwis were in complete control during the Tests and there was no way India were going to win. Yet, the kind of send-off Kohli gave his gentle opposite number Williamson was completely uncalled for.
The same Kohli who at one point during the tour had said that India will not complain about the conditions was then caught on mike saying, 'Let them come to India, will show them." This misplaced aggression is something Kohli needs to seriously ponder upon. It is okay to be aggressive, not quite to be rash and abrasive.