Virat Kohli is India’s cricket captain, arguably the world’s best batsman, one of Forbes‘s most marketable athletes in the world, married to a Bollywood actress and a multimillionaire – but, he is also the man Aussies love to hate.
Not this Aussie 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 and on, but I wouldn’t want you to lose your lunch.
On past tours to Australia, Kohli’s on-field conduct usually makes headlines every time these two nations play each other. After a day’s play I would 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 anything he says or does on the field and spin it into clickbait material.
I 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 and they are compelled to read and comment.
Although Kohli continues to play his cricket with plenty of aggression, he has toned down on the sledging in recent years after he admitted in an interview with Adam Gilchrist on the eve of the last tour of Australia in 2018, that he made the mistake of taking things too far in the past.Embed from Getty Images
His verbal battles with Australian test captain Tim Paine added much spice to the previous tour, which India won 2-1. At times it looked as if things were getting quite heated, which forced the umpires to intervene, but both captains denied any personal attacks and expressed enjoyment of their personal battle.
Kohli’s running battles with opposition players certainly makes for gripping sporting theatre. He 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 is witty and arrogant rather than personally abusive.
Australian players have often been criticised for their sledging and allegations of abuse and personal attacks for several decades, but since the infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, we have seen a different approach taken by Australia in a bid to clean up the image of the national side and improve team culture. So, it will be interesting to see how the Australians react to Kohli this time round, especially the young blokes in the limited overs sides.
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, the media and fans alike.
It will be a great shame when Kohli has to depart after the first test in Adelaide for the birth of his first child. We even had Aussie fans imploring Kohli to bring his wife to Australia and have the baby here so he wouldn’t miss any of the test series.
But that would mean Kohli’s child would be eligible for the baggy green. Could you imagine?
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 are drawn in by his character; we are glued to the screen when he’s batting because he is such a great player.
Although he will miss the last three of the four test matches, we will get to privilege to see him play in three One Day Internationals and three T20 Internationals starting on November 27. Hopefully, he brings that Indian spice to the summer of cricket and brings the best out of the Aussies.
Feature Image: Courtesy of BMN Network