Virat Kohli made his Test debut on June 20, 2011 in the West Indies. In five innings, his highest score was 30. He followed that with two 50s against the Windies in Mumbai, making it to the flight Down Under. He made 11 and 0 at the Boxing Day Test. By December 29, 2011, India was beaten by 122 runs within four days.
Even six years back, Twitter was an unforgiving space for cricketers who did not pass muster on the scorecard. By the look of it, Virat had been put under scrutiny and told off repeatedly, worse still by tweeters tagging him so he was privileged to read their abuse. (In those early days, it’s doubtful that Virat had e-sleuths handling his social media account).
On January 1, 2012, Virat requested: "Those who are here only to criticise can unfollow. we are humans not machines."
Those who are here only to criticise can unfollow :) we are humans not machines— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) January 1, 2012
Within a fortnight however, the Virat run-machine was ready to go: scoring his first Test 50 at Perth, followed by his first Test century at Adelaide. Since then, Virat has added 20 more Test centuries.
At the time of the tweet, Virat had already played 74 ODIs, scoring eight centuries, averaging over 46. He had already been part of India’s World Cup winning team beckoning his mates to carry Sachin Tendulkar on their shoulders.
Since then, Virat has scored 26 more ODI centuries, his batting average has shot up to in excess of 57.
During the third ODI at Cape Town, Rohit Sharma, not exactly Twitter’s darling, faced an over from hell from Kagiso Rabada. Rohit survived five balls, but was done for on the sixth. It was time for Rohit jokes again. They even outlasted South Africa’s innings. Rohit may not be too off the mark if he shares Virat’s above tweet.
While Rohit’s overseas innings provide us with much mirth, to tag him on Twitter is just not on. It is nothing short of abuse. Wonder how these people who abuse Rohit (by tagging him) would behave if they came face to face with him?
Now is a good time to admit that I enjoy Rohit Sharma jokes too. The good ones (especially when they don’t tag him) are part of Twitter folklore. But to lash out at him, abuse him, hold him responsible for his dismissals – as if he’s dying to be dismissed is refusing to read the game. There may be merit in criticising the selection policy, but even then abusing coach Ravi Shastri by tagging him on Twitter is below the belt.
By now, Rohit’s social-media team may well be on an overdrive muting and blocking Twitter users. It’s a sad reflection of our times where we cannot comment on a subject without annoying or offending someone - and that too without making sure they feel downright rotten about themselves.
In the third ODI, Virat had some close shaves that could have gone either way. Without his unbeaten 160, the rest of the team could well have been up for some generous abuse too.
Hardik Pandya is already finding life after the home season an altogether different world. His new-found limitations with the bat have received much scrutiny, be it on live television or Twitter.
In hindsight, it was Virat’s fifth Test, almost seven years back in Melbourne, that earned him much abuse. That after a 52 and 63 in his previous Test match. Somewhat ironically, Pandya’s fifth Test too, swung open the floodgates of abuse. That after a top score of 93 in the previous Test in Cape Town.
It was too early to tell back then what Virat would become today. Perhaps it’s a trifle premature to write off Pandya too. And even if the experts in us, can’t help but mock him and write him off as an IPL bully, a little thought is always welcome.
Why tag him? Before long, we’ll be eating our own tweets. And making others eat theirs. For, like in Virat then, in Pandya, however unfinished and unformed he might be today, is a once-in-a-generation cricketer.
Virat Kohli, at the time of the 2012 tweet, had only just turned 23. As for Hardik Pandya, he turned 24 a few months back. It might throw a lot of things into perspective if we were to look back and recall how we were at that age. How harsh will you be with your younger self now?
Perhaps, it’s time to move on. To take a leaf out of Tom Robbins’ book, “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood”. Or the other option out of Virat Kohli’s book, “unfollow ”.
Hat tip: to someone on my timeline who shared Virat’s tweet yesterday.