By Nipun Dixit
It’s easy to take positions from our respective couches and dub Kohli as a hot head, unfit to lead India. Most of the self-proclaimed experts on news channels suggest that he should learn to have a level head, both on and off the field, from Sachin Tendulkar. However, those who have played the game, and played it tough, know that the situation is not all that simple.
To set things straight, I don’t think Kohli should have called Ambati Rayudu back after being adjudged run out in unfortunate circumstances. The batsman should have been a bit more careful in grounding his bat away from the bowler’s toe. There is a fine line between intentional and unintentional tackle in such situations. The run out of Ambati was unquestionably unintentional on part of the bowler.
The resultant reaction of the home crowd is completely irrelevant and blown out of proportion. I think the only error of judgement on part of Kohli was in commenting on how the crowd should behave and making unfavourable comparison of the Mumbai crowd with that of Bangalore.
As time goes by and club culture gets stronger in India, such situations will happen on a more frequent basis. Yes, the crowd might forget that you play for India, because at that particular instant they want their club to win. Football players are booed during the premier league matches when they represent different clubs and are cheered when the World Cup comes around. I think that’s something that some players in India have accepted as a part of the game during the IPL while others are still to come to terms with it.
Kohli has done this country proud many times and he is very passionate about his game. True, he might have crossed the line of a gentleman cricketer a few times, but we cannot argue his commitment and his exceptional talent. Before judging him, we must not forget Kohli is a product of the times we live in. He belongs to our generation, my generation which stood by Sourav Ganguly swirling his shirt from the Lord’s balcony. That was not very gentlemanly behaviour, was it? But we all shared his emotion because of the way Andrew Flintoff and company behaved during the series.
Kohli hasn’t grown up in an oppressed India. This generation has grown up reaping the fruits of a liberalised India. An India no longer known as the land of the snake charmers, but a force to reckon with in almost every field. We have grown up knowing what freedom feels like. We don’t bow down when the opposition gets aggressive. We are not afraid to stand up and fight back. We work hard, work smart and party harder. We just don’t know how to lose. So why do people, the media and cricket experts whine when Kohli gets into a fight with Gautam Gambhir and praise him when he stands up to the overly aggressive Aussies. Have we forgotten how we surrendered umpteen times when the opposition came hard at us and wondered why we won’t stand up to them? Those were the times, the pre-Ganguly era, when the Indian team did not know how to be aggressive on the field. Times have changed. It’s because of players like Kohli, Gambhir, Harbahjan Singh and Yuvraj Singh that the opposition thinks twice before getting into anything remotely connected to sledging.
People also try and make ridiculous comparisons between Kohli and Tendulkar and say that he should learn from the great man how to conduct himself on and off the field. Well, if it would have been that simple then we would have seen others in the team also follow the same path. It doesn’t work that way. Tendulkar has been exceptional in the way he has conducted himself well over two decades. He has earned the respect of players and spectators alike all over the world. It’s hard to find a sportsman in his league in any sport who is so down to earth and simple. At the same time it’s a bit unfair to expect Kohli to behave in the same manner. He is just a different human being, who has a different persona, a different way to deal with things. The charm of a team sport like cricket is in the very fact that different individuals with varied personalities gel up to play the game as a team. We have an Indian team with ideal mix — where the captain is one of the coolest players in the world, who leads a string of young players like Kohli who know how to give it back to the opposition and at the same time show aggression with their bats as well. And then we still have the legend himself, Sachin Tendulkar, balancing things.
Think about it: this is as perfect a combination as we can hope for. I disagree with the wise school of thought that thinks Kohli should be made captain in near future and that he needs to change a lot in order to do that. Give him some more time to play his game, and the captaincy will come around. With experience, his temper will settle down. But what we don’t want is the aggression to mellow down. These are hard and challenging times for a cricketer who plays all three formats of the game and if we are planning for the future we need someone who can keep up to the challenge.
(Nipun Dixit is a Technology Analyst at Infosys, currently based in US. A Mechanical Engineer from Jaipur, Nipun is very passionate about cricket and music. He loves playing the acoustic guitar and writing songs. Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler are his favorites. He is a voracious reader across wide variety of subjects and writes occasionally on various subjects. Cricket, however, remains his first love)