Virat Kohli, trier, doer, achiever and one of the greats of this era, undoubtedly, among the finest India’s ever produced in the game.
Virat Kohli, not the most successful captain, the ‘could’ve been better,’ temperamental, ‘struggler with workload’ dude.
Which side are you on? Who is your Virat Kohli?
Here’s a confession. Right upfront. Take it or leave it. Regards are with you.
Remember, how you end up perceiving and deconstructing one of the wildest creatures with the bat and among the most polarizing figures of Cricket will tend to define you, in the end.
That’s not to say that when you throw a finger at someone, there are three, we mustn’t forget, that point at the self backwards, but simply that your understanding of Virat Kohli will- whether you like it or not- carry shades of your own personality and traits.
Honestly, not too hard to understand.
For instance, when you judge somebody as being sad simply when you see someone being quiet, it could be that in reality, the other is anything but sad, and is merely soaking in the bliss called silence.
Does it then not mean then that you’re seeing the other the way you feel inside?
If you overlook the fact- and are okay doing so- that a top rate international cricketer had once shown the finger to the crowd regardless of how unruly or vitriolic the audience is, are you again not being biased?
Kohli, who we know has lost it badly in the past given his bouts of temper and easy irritability, is the same lad that’s gone on to score huge bulk of runs, with absolute authority, unmatchable excellence, something which helped him don the captaincy of Indian cricket team across formats.
In the frame of one physical body, you come to realize, there’ve existed multiple persons.
The one who wasn’t perhaps the most sedate on the 22 yards and in the outfield and yet, one whose cricketing achievements drew praise from everyone- and still do- regardless of whether a Sachin, Ponting, Akram, Gavaskar or Lara.
And yet, where we choose to focus eventually having seen the good, bad and one’s not sure there’ve been many ugly things besides waging the finger to the crowd (which could’ve been avoided) or the fiery exchange of words with his own compatriot, Gautam Gambhir in an IPL (which was totally unnecessary), rests the actual Virat Kohli.
He’s the one who wears his heart on his sleeve, then whether as captain, or, as a bowler-destructor. He’s the run machine; the constant force behind beautiful and electrifying hundreds.
If 23,103 international runs were say, merely 10,000 after playing cricket for over a decade as he has, would anyone even be interested in passing his or her verdict on Virat Kohli?
But there’s a Virat Kohli who lives in every single run among this tall order of runs.
The one whom did a bouncer fell. Got hit. Misjudged the ball. Got beaten. Got cleaned up. Faced a massive first innings deficit. Mastered a run chase. Weathered the storm. Hit hundreds in exceptionally fast time and rather uncannily.
And it is only after 23,000 plus international runs that the bearded colossus of Indian cricket, one in whose hands the bat appears like a trident has given us time to pass verdict on a career without even leaving the pitch.
What he’s done, essentially, is changed gears whilst not changing gears and only changing his jersey.
One that belonged to the captain of the Indian cricket team, one that now will remain with the member of the Indian cricket team!
And in the process, there’ll arrive, as is often the case, verdicts, harsh judgments, vindictive responses, massive quotes drenched in appreciation, and all that fodder to stomach a massive diet much like a Sunday breakfast brunch.
Where everyone has a say in everything about what’s been laid out.
But before we do arrive at our verdicts and begin to toss around even thinly veiled insults- Kohli was just hot-headed, too emotional, just plain aggressive, didn’t have Dhoni’s cool or Rohit’s calm- here’s what you got to remember.
The right-handed batsman who forged partnerships, won games, brought India over the line left, right and centre also succeeded with the following:
Beating world champions of T20Is, West Indies, twice in the same year, 2019. This was once each in the Caribbean and later, in his India.
In 2021 beginning, he led the team to a triumphant white-ball outing against England before Root’s men were thudded in Tests.
Earlier, in 2018, much before more white hair began forming part of the famous beard, he encountered a Carlos Brathwaite-led Windies, readying himself to get a taste of captaincy. Those who worship the one-sided narrative that Rohit’s never been the captain and should (and hey, why not) ought to remember that it was Mumbai’s massive Indian who was at the helm of leadership, not Virat Kohli, speaking of T20Is.
Why? Kohli wasn’t even in the side.
But when he was, and as captain, then there came upon the Windies bowlers a Tsunami of runs:
33* off 29, 107 off 119, 157 off 129, and 140 off 107!
It’s only worth remembering that twin man-of-the-match performances led by hundreds in opening two ODIs earned Kohli admiration even from the most merciless critics.
Critics who fail to realize that Dhoni and Kohli, for argument’s sake, are two personalities wired differently. That fire and ice, unique that they may be, have both a common purpose- to be used to a cause. One, to contain pressure, the other, to cause pressure.
One, as seen at the end of an illustrious career, earned respect. The other still causes fear in the minds of bowlers by the sheer presence on the crease.
Then you do also think that perhaps it’s all in the way we Indians approach the attitude to leadership that Kohli’s resignation, though not after nearly half a decade of leading the team across formats, stings.
And it’s that the guy who makes the most runs has nothing to do with being touted as the natural choice to be the leader.
Was Steven Waugh alone making runs for Australia to have become a captain or were his personality traits such that warranted leadership of a bastion of excellence called Australia?
Was Dhoni himself the top scorer in a team with Rohit, Shikhar, Kohli himself to earn captaincy or were his naturally calm and ability to outthink the opposition central in his success in being India’s leader?
Intelligence and gorgeous cover drives are as different as being the opener of a team and coming in at #7.
What’s similar though, is the responsibility it entrusts the candidate.
Kohli was, will never be the greatest captain India had. That’s not even the discussion pointer. But he presides over a legacy that saw him contribute handsomely with the very skill that got him into the game even as he became the captain.
It’s not leg-spin, it’s not the ability to deliver toe-crushing yorkers. It’s to mark the batsman’s game with the signature of prime batsmanship.
And it’s a quality that not even agile wicketkeeping can or will match, nor will split-second stumpings.