Two faces of a Virat Kohli

Two faces of a Virat Kohli

Behind the mask

Melbourne: If a stranger were to be watching the Perth Test for as long as it lasted and observed Virat Kohli keenly, there is every chance that he would have been left wondering if the Indian skipper suffers from split personality disorder.

Kohli has this amazing ability to shut himself from the rest of the world when he is batting. It’s as though there are only two people in the stadium – himself and the bowler he is facing. His determination to be the best in business borders on the obsession, a characteristic envied and appreciated in equal measure. But when he is out there fielding, he is the most animated cricketer around the world. His over-the-top celebrations at the fall of every opposition wicket give you an impression that his team has just won the World Cup.

He is always at an earshot from rival batsmen, chirping and bantering. He is not shy of egging on the Indian crowd to get behind his team and doesn’t hesitate to gesture and posture at supporters of rival teams. Perth, where he scored one his most controlled centuries and then lost control over his emotions, encapsulated Kohli’s persona. The TV pundits ran out of adjectives to describe his batting but the same set of people were sniggering at his behaviour when he came to field.

Not since Sachin Tendulkar came here as an impressionable teen and stole their hearts with a steely century on a WACA minefield, has an Indian batsman attracted as much Aussie attention as Kohli. Where Tendulkar received unalloyed love -- though that feeling eroded following the Monkey-gate during 2008-09 series -- Kohli has always been looked at as an anti-hero with tremendous batting talent. Though Kohli reveres Tendulkar, he doesn’t necessarily conform to his approach to cricket. Kohli is his own man.

With stump mics, spider and remote-controlled cameras being used to spice up television broadcast, technology has become increasingly intrusive. Many of the on-field incidents that could have gone unnoticed are there for everyone to see and form an opinion. Kohli, however, is not bothered about this invasion.

“As I said, as long as there is no swearing out there on the field and there is no personal attacks, the line doesn’t get crossed,” he says. “You can’t say that people aren’t going to try and get you out in any way possible at all. When the bowler is bowling you aren’t thinking whether the stump mic is on or the camera is on or not. And when you are facing that ball, literally there is no one in the stadium apart from you and that ball. So, these things are totally irrelevant, and you are actually not aware of them when you are on the field. It’s never bothered me, it’s never been something that’s of importance to me to be honest.”

There is no doubt Kohli is a polarising personality. He is the best batsman in the world, he is the captain of the most influential team, he is married to one of Bollywood’s top actors, he has the biggest fan following among cricketers, he is the most marketable face in India at the moment and he is such a big brand that even after failing to win a single title in his seven-year stint as Royal Challengers Bangalore’s captain, he remains the most influential man in this IPL franchise. While at a personal level things are really going well for him, as a Test team captain he has had to face some tough times. India have lost two Test series away from home this year and are struggling to reverse the trend against an average Australian side. His on-field tactics have been questioned, his selections have been panned and his conduct has been mocked at.

Depending upon which side of the fence you sit, you either adore his style of play or disapprove his ways but you just can’t ignore him. People don’t know what to make of him – a great bat or a spoilt brat? Some experts say his enthusiasm can be infectious and thus good for the game, but a few others feel he gets away with what he does only because he is Kohli -- the biggest superstar in cricket today.

DH News Service