Sunday Express - - SPORT -

If you are young, gifted, fa­mous, rich, much ad­mired by fans across the world for your out­stand­ing sport­ing skills and a role model for mil­lions, every move of yours, each word you speak will be scanned with a laser beam. Vi­rat Kohli, In­dia’s pride and neigh­bour’s envy, is one such celebrity who is in the news all the time, and not al­ways for the right rea­sons. His Brad­manesque hunger for runs, Zen­like com­mit­ment to his craft are ex­em­plary and he ap­pears well on his way to break­ing every con­ceiv­able bat­ting record in cricket his­tory.

He is a mod­ern day gi­ant, who dwarfs ev­ery­one and ev­ery­thing around him. His god-like sta­tus in In­dian cricket places a great re­spon­si­bil­ity on him to act and be­have in a man­ner be­fit­ting his stature. Un­for­tu­nately, Kohli the crick­eter and Kohli the man are two sep­a­rate per­son­al­i­ties, ad­ver­sar­ial and not com­pli­men­tary to each other. He is a per­fec­tion­ist when it comes to his cricket, but boor­ish in his be­hav­iour.

Let us take his out­bursts on the field. There may be many ad­mir­ers of his ag­gres­sion, but does it be­hove the cap­tain of a team to be an abu­sive sledger, who is per­pet­u­ally on an edge and threat­en­ing to ex­plode any sec­ond?

Off-field he is all the time at war with those who may be in dis­agree­ment with his world view. Dur­ing the 2015 World Cup in Aus­tralia, he show­ered abuses on a jour­nal­ist and even after hav­ing been rep­ri­manded, showed no signs of re­morse. Any­one crit­i­cal of the team is dubbed as the “other”. You are ei­ther with them or against them. Any crit­i­cal eval­u­a­tion is branded as be­ing anti-In­dia, much like the virus that has seeped into In­dia’s po­lit­i­cal dis­course. This is a world of ex­tremes, where be­ing neu­tral and ob­jec­tive or hav­ing a dif­fer­ing point of view are con­sid­ered un­pa­tri­otic traits.

The board or whichever body is run­ning the cricket ad­min­is­tra­tion at the mo­ment, seems to be in awe of the man. His word is their com­mand. What else ex­plains the meek man­ner in which they suc­cumbed on the coach is­sue, let­ting him have his say when Anil Kum­ble was re­moved for rea­sons other than crick­et­ing merit. The ad­min­is­tra­tion, by lend­ing a help­ing hand, may have cre­ated a par­al­lel power cen­tre, which they may even­tu­ally find dif­fi­cult to con­trol.

When an In­dian cap­tain tells a cricket fan, in pub­lic view, that if he prefers a for­eign crick­eter over an In­dian he should not live in In­dia, it is time to draw a line. We in In­dia don’t need to recre­ate the Aus­tralian crick­et­ing model, where their play­ers were given the li­cense to “kill” as long as they were not caught on the wrong side of the “law”. The “Aus­tralian way” of play­ing has now be­come a cause for much em­bar­rass­ment to the coun­try. This sense of “pride” based on toxic foun­da­tions is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive in the long run and can cause ir­repara­ble dam­age to the ba­sic struc­ture of a team and the coun­try. In­dia, which has now emerged as a pow­er­ful crick­et­ing na­tion, can’t af­ford to go the Aus­tralian way.

Vi­rat Kohli

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