Cricket is not just a game in India, it has been established on the pedestal of a religion. Cricketers are epitomized as Gods, brimming the lives of their fans with victories and accolades. While Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni have been the yesteryear superhumans, Virat Kohli is the modern day deity, courtesy his non-human feats in the recent past.
Being a cricketer in India is not an easy task; it forms a fiduciary relationship with 125 crore citizens, an unwritten contract to defy all odds on the path of glory. People (including me) are obsessed with the sport, leaving all their chores aside to see 11 men discharging their duties. While the players are celebrated like a legend in the triumphs, they have to take severe chiding during their rough patches. Unfortunately, a couple of bad outings in a multilateral tournament is all it takes for a player to descend from idol to effigy.
Such was the case back in 2007, when Team India had been unceremoniously ousted from the World Cup by Bangladesh. The reins were passed on to MS Dhoni, who pitched India once again on the world map of cricket. Despite the many heroics of the Indian side, a fiery spirit was found wanting, as they were seen losing the plot against extravagant oppositions,clearly evident in the Monkey Gate incident. At this juncture, a flamboyant youth paved his way into the national side, who was destined for unprecedented glories. That man was Virat Kohli.
Virat rose through the ranks with great pace, and presented himself as the potential successor to the rich legacy of Sachin Tendulkar. The man who desired to take India to new heights had an un-Indian characteristic though; the ability to take the attack back to the opposition with the bat as well as the words. Aggression did not seem to falter him, but instead seemed to be a motivator to his ever-rising hunger of runs. India had finally found its crusader.
However, it was here, that the farce begun. Indian fans, who until now wanted a man who could be vocal with the opposition, now started criticising this instinct. It was in the tours of 2014 and 2016, that he became the centre of criticism, for continuously engaging in verbal duels with the opponents. What was termed as the macho aggression when the Aussies did it, became blunt arrogance when Virat resorted to it.
As I earlier said, playing the sport of cricket in India is not an easy job, as your personal life is equally under the scanner as the professional. This practice also hit Kohli, when the fans took jibes at his affair with Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, stooping down to calling the latter ill-fated for Virat's rare failures.
We desire our players to be the best in the world, but are the first to take a dig at them. Virat made drastic changes to his game plan, redefining the benchmarks for consistency and fitness, and establishing himself in a league of his own. Yet, we Indian fans probed for opportunities to turn him down. While his batting was put under the scanner in the 2015 World Cup semi final, his decision to bat first took the chiding in the 2017 Champions Trophy Final, with some even deeming it as a biased decision to chase down the score with a century.
The social media was swarmed with congratulatory messages when Kohli became the fastest to 10,000 ODI runs. The fraternity of fanatics hailed his achievements once again on his birthday. Albeit a few days post that, we are ready with a fresh controversy, with another chance to jeer at him, on his response to an ungrateful individual.
In the said video, the man has tweeted "...I enjoy watching Australian and England batsman more than these Indians." Any prudent individual would agree to the fact that he received this rebuke from the skipper, since it is extremely ill-mannered to address one's country mates in such a derogatory manner. Perhaps, what Virat forgot to add was "Why are you living in our country and loving other countries more than our own country." It was the comment against the nation that angered Kohli, something which he himself acknowledged.
However, for the critics, it was an opportunity of exuberant joy, to kick start the trolls, some even questioning his association with Puma and the sharing of dressing room with the likes of AB de Villiers and other foreigners.
The man who played for his team the day after his father died. The man who steered his team to victory in Trent Bridge with a sore back. The man who single-handedly continued battling against South Africa with cramped legs just because the team needed him. The man who was taking doubles from the non-striker's end despite being on 99* in the last over of his World Cup debut. Despite his immense struggle and slogging, despicably, we fans have not managed to reciprocate in the same manner, to say the least.
We Indians seem to be on the forefront to support Steve Smith and David Warner, swarming their Instagram accounts with consolatory messages, but when Virat Kohli objects the pursuit of help from the dressing room for DRS and raises concerns after the series, we label him as immature and arrogant.
A player whose exuberance is unparalleled. A player whose passion is second to none. Someone whose inert strength, determination and steely nerves that Kohli taken Indian cricket to new heights. It is high time that we Indian fans mature enough and give our share of love and support back to the talisman.Published 09 Nov 2018, 20:58 IST