Why Virat Kohli is the hero India needs, but not the one it deserves
The country needs a toned down Kohli without compromising his game, a tolerant Kohli without losing his sheen.
- Total Shares
The galea held tight in the left fist and the shiny sharp blade held high in the air would be the signature celebration moves of the armed Roman combatants in the early days of human civilisation.
On stone walls, paintings and banners, there heroics were celebrated in high and low art in precious and commonplace objects throughout the Roman world. Often born out of marginalised societies, uninspiring background, they offered spectators an example of Rome's martial ethics. In fighting or dying well, they could stir admiration and popular acclaim for a time long enough to be even remembered today.
The helmet held tight in his left fist and the bat held high in the air would be the signature celebration moves of one of India’s greatest batsmen of modern times. Added to the passion of the celebrations would be the thumping of the chest, swearing of the words and fury in the eyes.
Born out of adversities, running past all obstacles, this modern-day great is celebrated in high and low art through commonplace objects in India (and elsewhere) - in posters, banners, on TV screens, computer wallpapers, almost omnipresent. In triumphs and falls, he would inspire young and old, man and woman, optimist and pessimist alike for a time long enough.
From the Roman battlefield to the hallowed Lord's stadium, from great fighters to a leader in charge, we are talking about India’s captain Virat Kohli. Seeing through the eyes of his fans, or though the admirers of the game, Kohli comes across as an evolved man. A gradual evolution but in many fragments.
For someone of Virat Kohli’s stature, fighting like a gladiator is more fitting than quibbling with every Mitch, Mike and Ian.
From his game to his celebration style, from his social life to his style of addressing the media, there have been many shades of Kohli on display. Some to the fondness some awe-inspiring. Some spine-chilling to some cajoling. Talking about different shades of Kohli, one wonders if the current ones are any darker or brighter than the ones in the past.
Things have changed, albeit a bit, in recent times. There is, somewhere, a sense of bitterness, dissidence and dismay in the air, not a slight for his batting, not ample for his on-field captaincy, not considerable for his team’s performances. Something else. In recent days, as we found passion in women cricket, solace in a brand of cricket devoid of flimflam and respite from the coach controversies, suddenly, India seeks a different Kohli.
A difference which, is not meant to change Kohli intrinsically, should not have any bearing to his game, is not supposed to shatter his self-belief. An India would like to see a Virat Kohli that:
Liberalise that trapped Aussie mind
For his fighting spirit, he might be equivalent to the Roman Gladiators, but for his cricketing spirits, many have already equated his attitude with that of the Australians. An Australian mind which plays an aggressive brand of cricket, sledges rough and presses hard for win at any cost in an Indian body which plays its home matches in square turner Indian bastion, shares dressing room with rather polite playmates and evades Indian media and frenzied fans on occasions.
Kohli is an Australian trapped in an Indian body. There’s no problem in that amalgamation, so long, it brings superior results for Indian cricket. And it has brought so, for most part, to be fair. There’re, however, some problems if a captain holds on to grudges for too long beyond the field boundaries.
There’re some problems when a captain underperforms amid all the buzz and denigration relating to "cheat" and "brain fade" comments.
A section of India desires a different Kohli there. A Kohli, from an impetuous early-adulthood to a mature gentleman. India would not mind a Kohli with shades of a Steven Smith, an Aussie mind in an Aussie body, who apologises for "losing control over his emotions", or with bits of a David Warner, who, at his monkhood, withdraws from ostensible sledging.
Because for someone of Kohli’s stature, fighting like a gladiator is more fitting than quibbling with every Mitch, Mike and Ian.
Can accommodate others
In the coach-captain bitterness, India saw two Indian icons engaged in an embarrassing fiasco with the world grinning at us blatantly. India would have desired to see a young tiger in Kohli handling another tiger — albeit an aged, "overbearing" and "headmaster-like" — with little more care and adjustment. Especially, in an India, where the tiger population is in danger. So much so, a tiger in Kohli made another tiger (a Royal Bengal Tiger) in the CAC almost redundant.
In all practicality, Kohli’s not the only person to be blamed for the Kumble incident. May be, and in a near-ideal case, he should not be blamed at all. Probably, he’s taking all the brickbats because other players had "reservations" and not him. May be a protector in Kohli made him take them all to save the team from an imperious Kumble.
May be a Kohli has done all that’s needed. India should not have a problem with that Virat Kohli at all.
An India, however, sees a problem with the Kohli, who treats his good and bad fans alike. Keeps his sincere and obsessed admirers in equal opaqueness. Holds inquisitive media and exasperating media with same disdain. Belittles others’ jobs over his (where one earns by writing and one by playing). It is natural for a Kohli as an international cricketer to come under pressure and play down issues.
It’s, however, not good for the Indian cricket and its honest fans to wake up to shockwaves with an out-of-the-blue Kumble resignation from a "no problem whatsoever" or "just following a process" situation.
For a change, India won’t mind seeing a defiant Kohli turning accommodative and a rigid Kohli turning flexible.
Is not perceived as omnipotent
In India’s cricketing scheme of things, the BCCI is a wheel with spokes ranging from the CoA and the CAC to the head coach, the cricketers and the support staff. It’s a rotating wheel where all spokes are not same and cannot withstand equal force.
If a Virat Kohli turns too sharp and strong a spoke, he should be mindful, that an unfitting ridge may bring the whole moving wheel to destruction. Till that happens, the CAC would take the back-seat, the CoA would remain reticent and the Ravi Shastris would snap fingers to undermine the Kumbles (and selves). God forbid, but if that happens, a whole India would turn exacting.
Not to read too much from the recent affairs, a Kohli, however, should let certain things run independently. Not by turning a blind eye to biases (if there are any), but being respectful to others’ roles.
From the leading batsman to captain of the team, Virat Kohli has a tremendous journey as a cricketer. Along the way, he has had millions of fans but a very few detractors, a host of admirers but a handful of critics. A career which has charted not a linear growth trajectory but an exponential one, Kohli would not mind continuing navigating the same paths, with equal acceleration and matching control.
A Kohli is a brand ambassador of the game in a country of more than a billion. A Kohli has an enormous impact on a young India which wields a vast demographic dividend. Form his beard to his batting style, from his speeches to his screeches, a large swathe of India imitates him.
For his sheer influence on our nation of many Indians, a cautious India presages Kohli from an unforgiving India (not too worrying at present). An India needs a toned down Kohli without compromising his game, a tolerant Kohli without losing his sheen, a dignified Kohli emerging victorious. Without casting qualms on these features as oxymoron.
For a Kohli, who is a hero in true sense, putting forth such demands are not too unjust.