Virat Kohli is The Face of New India: Ashutosh
Virat Kohli has scored 35 centuries in 208 ODIs.
(This story has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark the occasion of Virat Kohli’s 30th birthday on 5 November.)
Sometimes it is really difficult to believe that Virat Kohli is a mere mortal. His super human acts on the cricket field compel you to compare him with a superhero who doesn’t belong to this planet. Whatever he may be, he is definitely not ordinary. He is wonderful, amazing, and most significantly, he is much better than the god of cricket – Sachin Tendulkar.
Earlier I used to hesitate in saying this, but now I say it confidently. Whether anyone else had thought of it or not, I definitely hadn’t expected that we would ever defeat the South African team in South Africa that too by a margin of 5-1. But Virat’s team has managed this feat.
This has to be the Indian team’s most impressive win ever on foreign soil. I am not one of those who would say - Ajit Wadekar’s team’s win in West Indies in 1971 was the best ever; or the when the English team was defeated in England. Yes, it can be said that the 1983 World Cup win was the biggest.
In most cases the win didn’t come that easily, the Indian team had to fight for it. This time in South Africa, Virat’s team totally bulldozed the host, forget giving a close fight, the South African team struggled to even stay in the game.
We shouldn’t forget that India had lost to South Africa in the Test series by 2-1, for which they had to face heavy criticism.
South Africa’s bowling was being praised; their pace attack was hailed as the best in the world. They have Rabada, who is not only the fastest bowler in the world, but also currently holds the number one spot in the rankings. Then there were Vernon Philander and Morné Morkel. Philander with his swing and Morkel with the height and bounce defeated many. In addition the fresh sensation Lungi Ngidi further strengthened their bowling.
However, after the ODI series, the same experts who had hailed South Africa’s bowling line-up are not mincing their words to criticise them.
Very often a team is low on confidence and morale after losing a series, that too overseas, and very easily gets into a defensive frame of mind. But Virat got the team together; he encouraged the senior players, and led the attack with the bat from the front. Three centuries and over five hundred runs in six matches. Now a world record.
Former English skipper Michael Vaughan has already called Virat the biggest ODI batsman in history; even bigger than Sachin, bigger than Vivian Richards and Dean Jones.
Richards himself has said that he sees himself in Virat. And the biggest compliment came from India’s best opening batsman Gavaskar. He said he was fortunate enough to witness Virat bat. “He is a genius,” said the Little Master.
Gavaskar is very careful with his words. He comes from an era when people were taught to think before they spoke. He was an amazing batsman, watching him play against a fast bowler was a treat. But offence wasn’t his style.
Tendulkar brought the offensive style to Indian batting. Gavaskar was a product of socialist India, Sachin lived in capitalist India. Sachin’s entire career has been part of the era when the Indian economy opened up and capitalism took its hold. The time when India's identity was being established on the world map. The specialty of capitalism is that it teaches competitiveness. Those who are unable to fight, fail to be successful. Gavaskar’s time was the time of ‘personal brilliance’. But by the time Sachin came around things had changed. The philosophy of ‘those who can’t fight will be finished’ had given the team the mettle to fight.
Sourav Ganguly, for the first time ever, told the team that traditions are meant to be broken and victory cares for none. It was this spirit that had him waving his t-shirt at Lord’s. Sourav taking off his t-shirt was an initial indication of a change in international cricket’s power structure and India’s entry into the power corridor. Sachin still had some restraint. Sourav’s new Team India comprising Harbajan Singh, Virendra Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh were not at all intimated by the opposition. Then the IPL happened and the complete shift of the power finally happened.
Virat is of the generation after Sourav. He is a product of new values in the true sense. He might have been born in 1988, but when he was growing up, India wasn’t a poor emaciated land.
When he started playing cricket, India, after China, was the fastest growing economy in the world. Every house had a television set. Air conditioners and cars had gone from luxuries to necessities for most homes. There were gyms around the corner in every area. Chow mein, pizza and momos had changed people’s tastes. In place of Sunday markets, going to large malls had become a status symbol. Getting a chicken burger at McDonalds had become fashionable. Multiplexes had opened everywhere. The country was moving forward with long and fast strides. The world had started to see the value of Indian doctors, engineers and managers.
Virat is the captain at a time when Satya Nadella is the CEO of Microsoft and Sundar Pichai is the CEO of Google. Today, it is impossible for anyone in the world to ignore india. This is today’s reality. This reality is inventing its own new values.
New traditions are being created. A fresh new confidence is being born. Virat’s batting has the depth of this new confidence and maturity of character. He is aggressive, but knows when to pick a fight.
Sourav was the first to teach the Indian team how to win and how to take the fight to the opposition but Dhoni turned this into a habit. Sourav had flamboyance but Dhoni brought in consistency and stability. He was India’s first ‘Captain Cool’. New India’s ‘new’ captain in the true sense, who was afraid of nothing. Dhoni won the ODI World Cup and won the T20 World Cup as well. He also managed to win the Champions’ Trophy. Dhoni’s aggression was visible only when he had the willow in hand but Virat had taken this aggression forward. He intimidated the opposition. He didn’t care about how he behaved as a captain or what people will say.
Kohli is a free spirit, bursting with energy. He wants to dominate, totally crush the opponent. It almost feels as if he is trying to exact revenge for all of India’s previous defeats. And till now he is doing a pretty good job. He is truly Indian cricket’s biggest showman, may be bigger that Sachin, Gavaskar or Dhoni.
I remember when Dhoni got married, not much was said about it. Apart from a few friends he didn’t even invite anyone else. Everything was done quietly, without any pomp and drama.
Virat had a grand wedding with a splash and bang. It was a spectacle for the entire world to watch. Dhoni chose to have a quiet wedding in the valleys of Uttarakhand. Virat went to Borgo Finocchieto; world’s most expensive holiday destination; where former US President Barack Obama goes to holiday with his family, where a week’s expense is about Rs 1 crore.
When Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi married Sharmila Tagore in the 70s, it had caused a sensation. Pataudi was very handsome, Sharmila was one of the top actors of her time. Pataudi was also the captain at the time. But there was one difference. Pataudi belonged to royal family and his father Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi was also a Test player. Virat comes from a middle class family, he did not have everything growing up.
There was no need for Pataudi to tell, but Virat needs it. India has changed a lot since Pataudi’s time. After the 5-1 win Virat made sure his wife Anushka gets a share of the credit.
Virat’s high-jump celebration at the Johannesburg Test has been recorded in history and he is well on the way to become the most successful captain in Indian cricket history. India has won nearly 80 percent of matches under him. Sky's the limit for Virat, But I like the Virat who came to play just after his father’s death, scored 90 runs, then went to the cremation ground. Virat says that everything changed that day, my father was my rock. I understand the pain of losing your father at a young age. With that jump in Johannesburg he seemed to be telling his father, so what if you are not here, your son will fulfill all your dreams.
Today, he is the Indian team’s captain. The ambition to take India to further heights fills him with new energy and inspires him to play even better. He is India’s son. He’s no alien. He is made of flesh and bones. That is why he has emotions and the enthusiasm to express those emotions. His entire being reverberates. He is the face of new India.
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