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Virat Kohli

On Kohli’s birthday, a fan talks about everything king Kohli stands for

In all of his imperfections and faults, Virat flew because he could never be shackled

Agnideb Bandyopadhyay | Published 05.11.22, 07:15 AM

To be Virat is the trickiest thing I can ever think of, as a fan. An aggressive, expletive-spitting, brash lad on the pitch slogging it around the park breaking records for leisure, and certainly, the then skipper of the national team, on whose shoulders fell the collective burden of the opinions of the pundits, the analysts, the board and most importantly, a sea of middle-aged Indian men, warming the seats in front of countless television sets. The wildest critics darted with the expected issue of his behaviour on the pitch and so did the sensible ones. There is nothing inherently likeable about brashness. “Virat doesn’t embody the gentleman’s game”, flew in from one wing and rumblings from the other end had “How can the captain of the national team behave this way?” pouring in relentlessly. Years down the line, as the anti-hero aged, stuttered and floundered, the rumblings continued to be heard. The faintest ones had “Where did his aggression go?” and the loudest ones jarred with “We would pay to watch Kohli be his brash self again”. And interestingly, Virat always had answers.

Trying to put people we often seek to idolise, in boxes defined and shaped by our own sets of morality and the feeble understanding of what is proper and what is not, is an exercise which will continue for Indians till the end of time. It was baffling for many to find the best batter of the last decade not knowing what to say or do, the ever-flamboyant maverick keeping to himself, thinking twice before speaking. Virat Kohli, the man who captured the imagination of a generation with his bellicosity, coloured dreams of numerous kids, pumped his fists, blew kisses, broke into random jigs on the pitch, was suddenly a composed force, one who would rather take the backseat and be overly cautious with his next decision. Virat’s decision to step down as India’s T20I captain, was justifiably personal where he wanted to go beyond the responsibility and glitz of the position and focus on his game and address the issues.


In December, 2021, Virat was no longer the skipper of the national side across all formats. And the rough patch continued. Despite having more than 10,000 runs in ODI and 70 centuries to his name, Virat knew he wasn’t beyond criticism, expectations and honestly, rage, in a country like ours where the bar keeps getting lifted by hoisted hands from the crowd bustling and jostling to satiate their urge to play a part in this process. And what amazed me was his strange sincerity to bounce back, despite not having a lot left to prove. He still continues to try as hard as a teenager trying to get noticed at selection camps. It’s in his evolution one can see his interaction with nuances that define his game. He leaves none of it to chance. The six off the Haris Rauf delivery could never be a chance and a blind reach for temporal glory and neither was his 71st century. It really wasn’t a metaphor or a definitive statement that censors him of his cracks and crevices. In it lies an insatiable desire to keep bettering himself, to stick to his core and keep delivering.

When his teammate was attacked on religious grounds, Virat Kohli spoke, and quite loudly, when no one did. When his teammates failed to deliver, he continued to believe and push. He has never cowered away from learning from his contemporaries — embracing a Babar Azam or a Rizwan, while the crowd continued barking. He stood by his family when they needed him the most. In all of this, Virat Kohli stayed true to his evolution as a person who is seldom deterred and a player, who rarely gives up. The passion which he brings to the game has shown morphing colours, but with unquestionable dedication.

In an interview with a sports channel, Virat unequivocally opened up about his bout with issues of mental health. Beyond an ex-captain and a player, a person, a husband and a father spoke to the world about not being able to come to terms with his flickering intensity, of not picking up the bat in a month, his conscience torn between his body and his mind, and finding himself at unprecedented crossroads. Somebody like Virat Kohli at his most delicate point was again surprising for fans who could never imagine the cocksure Delhi kid laying it bare and raw in front of the world. And yet, Virat did. Not as a statement, but a gradual process in coming to terms with his ideas, his self and his beliefs, with respect and humility — tested and teased, but never torn.

Shattering every glass ceiling, pushing the envelope with every passing year, and breaking open from the boxes that tried so hard to shape him a certain way, Virat flew. This isn’t a space where amateurism or even emotional sway should find a place. And that’s what defines Virat. There is nothing godlike about him. It is just honest and pure, standing for what he is. He continues to exemplify professionalism down to its most important and truest tenders. The celebrated redemption is not just hope and abstractions. It is the greatest India batter of the last decade, the most successful Indian Test captain, with statistics speaking, toiling and drilling to get the mojo working, still proving himself.

Trying to get closer to being the X factor again and rising above banality, winning when nobody expects you to. To take up the reins after Dhoni and coursing through the decade, leading the pack, delivering and faltering — being Virat Kohli was never easy. And it’s the same Virat who walks a similar path every match he plays. In all of his imperfections and faults, Virat flew because he could never be shackled. As much as the records, stats and the inimitable style define the man, so does the person, an ever-evolving cocktail of perceptions, actions and reactions. Someone who would never take it for granted. Someone who would never stop trying.

Pictures: Getty Images

Last updated on 05.11.22, 07:15 AM

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