O Captain! My Captain!
They say it's lonely at the top and if it isn't, it will soon be, especially with the slight shortage of humility around.
Virat Kohli's brilliance as a batsman is globally recognised but he may need to work harder on the masterstroke - to be a more humble person worthy of being idolised by millions, not just in India but also in other cricket-loving countries, two of which he has now asked a fan to go live in.
His 'I don't think you should live in India' taunt to a fan who said he prefers watching Australian and English batsmen more than the Indian captain was immature at best and inflames an already tense nationalism discourse at worst. His questioning of the right to choice has opened the Pandora's box on social media, which is already a battlefield for anyone with an opinion these days.
For Kohli to display this kind of insecurity is unfathomable. It could be that he is buckling under the immense pressure of carrying the team on his shoulders. Or maybe it has nothing to do with his sport and is instead the cascading effect of all that heady fame that often makes our cricketers believe they exist in some parallel universe. He is, after all, the king. Harsha Bhogle has commented that 'Virat Kohli's statement is a reflection of the bubble that most famous people either slip into or are forced into'. The voices within it are frequently those, he says, that 'they wish to hear'.
Virat Kohli seems to have slipped into that bubble. You can't really say a man who speaks at countless press conferences doesn't know what he's saying. So, disappointingly, it seems he reacted to the sheer temerity of a man who was not fawning over his batting. This reeks of something a Gambhir or a Sehwag would do but not the captain of our team who, ironically, chose not to have his wedding in India and once named Herschelle Gibbs as his favourite cricketer. And that is absolutely fine.
As the most recognised sportsman in the country and the captain of the cricket team, Kohli has a far bigger responsibility. He hasn't the luxury of shooting off at will or becoming aggressive every time someone questions him, like after the loss to South Africa. As a sportsman, he has the ability to single-handedly promote much-needed harmony in the country. Instead, he has tread where he had no business going. Why else would twitterati question if it wasn't too early for him to join the ruling party! Or it could be Kohli's Trump moment, an extension of his post-fame personality that doesn't take kindly to any criticism? A captain who still doesn't know better than to cross that narrow line between sporting aggression and personal arrogance is likely to not learn at all.
Unless of course, it was a subtle message to the cricket board that by loving India he actually means Indian pitches and would prefer not to head to Australia after the England debacle!
Should one separate the player from the controversy? Tough, when that player is someone of the calibre of Virat Kohli. He has finally tweeted in response to the controversy but it's hardly the apology many hoped for.
I guess trolling isn't for me guys, I'll stick to getting trolled!- Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) November 8, 2018
I spoke about how "these Indians" was mentioned in the comment and that's all. I'm all for freedom of choice. Keep it light guys and enjoy the festive season. Love and peace to all.
This isn't the first time. After demonetisation in 2016 - which he called the greatest move in Indian politics - he reportedly joked that since he couldn't pay his hotel bills with the banned cash, he might well have signed the notes and given them to his fans. Many of those fans were incidentally standing for hours in long queues outside ATMs.
Recently, he posted a video of wife Anushka berating a man on a Mumbai road for littering. Great move, but most of us couldn't understand what was so 'brave' about public shaming. 'Brave' acts are done quietly, not on social media posts.
Virat Kohli should stick to doing what he does best, adding some more to his 10,000 ODI runs or spending some thought on the best team rather than a 'Kohli-Shastri' team. He should leave the fans to choose their idols. Choices, freedom - these are words that are casually mocked and Kohli, perhaps unknowingly, has become a part of that narrative.
Virat Kohli is young and he is at the pinnacle of his career, which is why he doesn't quite get that fame is transitory. Once upon a time, MS Dhoni was invincible. Today he is just a sorry figure with everyone speculating on his retirement and form. One Day Kohli will be overshadowed by someone younger, quicker and hopefully equally talented. As a fan remarked on twitter to Kohli, you may become a great player with your on-field performance but how you conduct yourself off it - that's what makes you a legend.
The captain still has a lot of hard work to do if he wants to be in the same club as Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.
As of now, Virat Kohli is just a great player.
(Jyotsna Mohan Bhargava worked with NDTV for more than a decade and now writes on a variety of topics for several news organisations.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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