Virat Kohli is India’s cricket captain, the world’s No.1 batsman, one of Forbes‘s most marketable athletes in the world, married to a Bollywood actress and a multimillionaire – but, most importantly, he’s the man Aussies love to hate.
Not me, though – I love watching him play. I love his competitiveness, his tenacity, his toughness, his resilience, his desire, his will to win, his passion, his pride, his flamboyance, his swagger and his aura. I could go on, but I wouldn’t want you to lose your lunch.Embed from Getty Images
Kohli’s on-field conduct usually makes headlines every time these two nations play each other. After a day’s play I’ll scroll through social media to find a large percentage of articles are about something Kohli said or did on the field, more so than reports on the actual match itself.
The guy is a walking headline. Media outlets will take a cheeky bit of banter or gamesmanship and spin it into clickbait material by generating discussion on whether he’s taken his on-field conduct too far or perhaps crossed a line.
You can’t blame the media, though, when you have a sporting athlete who generates so much attention and interest; you have to create a narrative and keep writing about it because cricket fans are so engaged that they’re compelled to read and comment.
I felt it was important for Kohli to speak out on the issues of sledging from recent matches between Australia and India and admit that he made the mistake of taking things too far in the past, and I encourage readers to watch the interview he did with Adam Gilchrist before the Test series began.
In the post-match press conference after the second Test he made it clear that his on-field chatter did not include personal attacks, and I think that in itself has shown he’s matured as a person and grown as a leader.
It was good to see Australian captain Tim Paine denying any personal attacks had taken place, expressing his enjoyment of his personal battle and competitive banter with his opposite number and suggesting that it’s “good to watch”, which it certainly is.
Australian players have often been criticised for their sledging and allegations of abuse and personal attacks over the past few decades, so I’ve never quite understood the hysteria around Kohli’s aggressive nature.
But since the infamous ball-tampering scandal we’ve seen a different approach taken by Australia in a bid to clean up the image of the national side and improve team culture.
Some believe the approach has made Australia too soft, but from I’ve seen and heard, most of the Australian players, including captain Tim Paine, have held their own against the banter thrown at them from Kohli.
The stump microphone, which allows TV viewers to listen to the on-field banter between players, has provided quality entertainment and a fresh perspective on players not only competing at the best of their abilities but also having fun and expressing their characters as well.
From an entertainment perspective I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the comedic banter and witty comebacks rather than the expletive-laden verbal stoushes between opposing players.Embed from Getty Images
Kohli has mastered the new approach to sledging, getting under an opposition player’s skin and trying to throw them off their game, but in a way that’s witty and arrogant rather than personally abusive.
We occasionally get those polarising figures – antagonistic players and larger-than-life enigmas who come to our shores – and we love to boo them out of the stadium. Kohli is all of those things rolled into one. He has the ability to draw emotional responses from opposition players, ex-players, journalists and fans alike.
We’ll quickly jump onto social media to express our displeasure with Kohli’s misperceived poor on-field behaviour, have a yarn with our mates at the pub about how much of a ‘flog’ he is or discourage our young cricketers from wanting to be like him.
Regardless of what you think of Kohli, he has our attention. Apart from the compelling cricket we usually get between these two competitive teams, he’s a big part of the reason we tune in – and it’s not only because we’re drawn in by his character; we’re glued to the screen when he’s batting because he’s such a great player.
Imagine the series without Kohli. The Australians would still be pushing the ‘sledge-free nice guy approach and there wouldn’t be any drama, intensity or aggression.
Kohli has brought that Indian spice to the Test series, which has brought the best out of the Australian team – and for that I’m grateful.
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