Virat Kohli © Getty Images
Virat Kohli © Getty Images

Virat Kohli’s latest comments on the criticism that he copped during the last couple of months are absolutely justified; the media and general public have to be a little more mature in handling matters. Devarchit Varma explains.

As much as the game is about cricketers playing as a unit, it is also a lot about the individuals who spice it up every now and then with their maverick characters. The swagger, the unseen chest-beating and the superciliousness that prevails in the minds of modern day cricketers — even though they may not display it — something that definitely is at display with the way many of them go about their jobs.

The disdain with which Mitchell Johnson and company extirpated England in the Ashes 2013-14 has been among the most appropriate examples of what goes on in the minds of the cricketers and how much they push to impose themselves on the opposition mercilessly.

It is all about the different manners and passions with which the cricketers perceive this beloved game.  But a lot of it — as in the general knowledge about the cricketers and their lives — on most of the occasions does not reach the general public because of the media — a force so highly impregnable that it still carries the power to make or break the life of a cricketer. Irrespective of the experience.

The media has an unseen sword, and cricketers, somewhere deep down inside, live by its fear. The cricketers remain paranoid, which is precisely why almost all of them stop reading newspapers and watching news channels; they are forced to cut down the negativity entering in their minds and to propel themselves to a zone wherein they are at ease with their overall existence.

When India landed in England in the middle of 2014, away from cricketing affairs, Indian media revelled in what Virat Kohli and his girlfriend Anushka Sharma were up to. Stories were presented with the deftness of a Bollywood scriptwriter — and the flag-bearers of the media industry were completely swayed that they did not realise when and where the line was crossed.

Kohli, one of the most supremely talented of batsmen in current lot, was unfortunately, exposed. He was not undone by mediocre, but by the supreme class of James Anderson at home — a force few have been able to dominate. It was heartbreak for the Indian cricket fans, and more so, for anyone who loves Kohli. The media went out of their way to establish that Anushka’s presence was the reason behind Kohli’s once-in-a-blue-moon-failure; they made it seem as if their love affair was bigger than a Test cricket series.

Before the Australian tour, to remain safe for the stinging and unceasing attacks from media, Kohli and Anushka made their relationship public. None asked had them to, but Kohli and Anushka probably felt it was a more matured way to handle things. They acted more maturely than Indian media. Their move shut the media up for most of India’s tour of Australia 2014-15 wherein Kohli rose to unprecedented heights, but occasionally the cameras did roll towards Anushka in stands and the print did write a thing or two.

Though Kohli was scoring hundreds almost every single match, none in the same vicious media felt the cricketer and the Bollywood actress — both not even in their late 20s — handled the matter much more maturely and for that they deserved heavy praise. There were neither deafening anchors on television channels nor reports in the print to even acknowledge it!

From the media, there were none who did justice to their job by praising a 26-year-old batsman who looked eye to eye to a menacing monster in form of Johnson; there was seldom a word for the precocious talent who hooked and pulled on the barrage of short balls hurled at him with pace in a land where the best have fallen. There was no one to be seen — as if all were ready on the boundary ropes to catch Kohli the moment he did any wrong.

This country, its media, forgot Kohli’s four centuries on Australian soil in a Test series astoundingly quickly. Everyone forgot how well Kohli did to clear the test of character. And everyone waited for him to fall — despite his exhilarating hundred in the much-awaited crunch match against Pakistan in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

Their moment finally came when Kohli failed for 13-ball one that dashed India’s hopes of a World Cup win, against Australia in the semi-final. Everyone, the unmerciful fans and the media were just waiting for this occasion.

It was not Anushka who went out to bat against Australia in Sydney in the semi-final. It was not Anushka who played the fatal stroke. It was not Anushka in Indian cricket kit at the crease. Yet, a country of billions believed it was her fault that India lost the World Cup. How immature!

Kohli has finally opened up after so many weeks of enduring emotional turmoil and accepting the defeat. Kohli did not walk out to play the bad shot. Kohli did not leave his mother alone at home for four months to play in a foreign land and fail. Kohli is not a loser. He does not play to lose.

The media and fans understand that in distant foreign land — but not in India.

Look at the South Africans. The team returning from World Cup got a heroes’ welcome at airport. The South African dream was broken too! But in India, almost all players slipped unnoticed from airports with the deftness of a thief, who does not want to come in public glare.

Yet, Kohli and Anushka walked out, holding hand in hand, showing no fear. It is the media who must be ashamed, not them as it is being portrayed.

Wins and losses are part of the game, the cricketers realise that, unfortunately, not the Indian media. Leave aside the imbecile fans, who flooded new age mobile applications such as WhatsApp with disgraceful messages. Some of them were far off from being decent, to say the least.

Kohli cannot be any more right today. He did what was expected of him. Kohli scored runs and won India the matches. Kohli gave it all and there was nothing else left that he could have done.

Had India won the semi-final, this unrelenting media may have not blamed Kohli and Anushka.

One may call Kohli immature and all sorts of words for being outspoken and his cry in public. But the fact remains that that is the way he is. He is brash, arrogant, and yet one of the most hard-working cricketer, and immensely talented too.

And he is mere 26. And yet the captain of Indian Test cricket team.

Rather than putting Kohli in same comparison with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the media can be a little more mature and acknowledge that this is a complete different man, starkingly different personality from his predecessors, that we are talking about.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)