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A note to Virat Kohli’s critics: A Lion need not concern himself with the opinions of sheep

Even Scroll might join the bandwagon in criticizing him now but unfortunately for them, history will only remember Kohli and his spectacular achievements on the field. And they will applaud the passionate cricketer who gave it his all for the country he represented.

Virat Kohli has come under some criticism recently for his antics on the field. Apart from Naseeruddin Shah’s tirade against him, the discussion following the second test match of the series at Perth has revolved around Kohli’s on-field behaviour.

It’s unfortunate because Virat Kohli played one of the best test match innings ever played during that match and certainly the best in his test match career so far. Instead of appreciation for his brilliant batting on an extremely difficult pitch, he has received far more criticism for his celebrations during the match in return.

Former fast bowler in the Australian team, Mitchell Johnson, said Kohli looked “silly” and “disrespectful”. “At the end of the match, you should be able to look each other in the eyes, shake hands and say ‘great contest’,” he wrote in a column for Fox Sports. “Virat Kohli could not do that with Tim Paine, shaking the Australian captain’s hand but barely making eye contact with him. To me, that is disrespectful.” He added, “Kohli gets away with more than most cricketers simply because he is Virat Kohli and he gets placed on a pedestal but this Test left the Indian captain looking silly.”

Former cricketing greats have come to his defence. Most have justly pointed out that aggression is an intrinsic part of competitive sports and Kohli hasn’t really crossed any boundaries. Former Pakistani bowler and a legend of the game, Shoaib Akhtar, told people to “cut him some slack” on social media.

Darren Lehmann, former Australian Cricketer and coach, said it was “good banter” as well. “Neither Kohli nor Tim Paine crossed the line. It was good banter, and it came across as a bit of fun on the stump mics,” he said. “You have to show passion when you are playing for your country and I don’t have any issue with what happened. There shouldn’t be any drama about what happened in Perth.

Akash Chopra, who has been an opener for India in the past, went after the Australian media for vilifying Kohli. “The Australian media is rallying behind their cricket team and, in fact, making India and Virat Kohli as the villains of world cricket. I am very, very surprised. It’s the classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Perhaps, it’s time for them to look inwards and just ask themselves the question, regards to how they have behaved in the past,” he said.

Sourav Ganguly, one of the greatest captains India has ever had, had a word of caution for the Australian media as well.

The treatment that Kohli has received over the years is in stark contrast to that which foreign players have received. Ricky Ponting and members of the Australian cricket team who cheated to win a test match against India in Sydney have hardly received the criticism for their despicable on-field behaviour that Kohli has. Yes, they were criticized but it never became the defining aspect of their personality. Contrast that with how Kohli has been treated, he just played one of the greatest test match innings and all people can talk about is his aggression.

It is even more despicable for Indians such as Shah to attack Kohli. Bollywood stars hating on Kohli is especially amusing considering the industry glorifies crickets who have indulged in match-fixing. Let’s face it, Kohli is indisputably the greatest batsman of his generation. And what has he really done to receive such criticism? He is aggressive, he is passionate, he has an unquenchable thirst to win, he celebrates unabashedly on the cricket field. These are supposed to be crimes? Steve Smith and David Warner who conspired to cheat, now that is illegal and a disgrace to cricket.

Another controversy Kohli was mired in recently were his remarks on an Indian who called him “overrated” and that he enjoyed watching English and Australian cricketers more than Kohli. Kohli replied, “I don’t think you should live in India, go and live somewhere else.” What’s so wrong with what he said? He was obviously angry and displeased and gave the person a piece of his mind. It should have been the end of the story. You cannot expect a cricketer who has worked so hard to become the greatest of his generation to be kind to someone who just called him overrated. But, considering the political climate of our country right now, it was blown all out of proportion.

Scroll even published an article with the headline, “Dear Virat Kohli, hyper-nationalism and sport don’t go well together”. I do not know what the author ate for breakfast that day but surely, it wasn’t something that helps with thinking rationally. Hyper-nationalism is the bread and butter for sports. It is what makes sports so great. It is why India-Pakistan cricket matches are always a hyped affair, it is what motivates players to greatness. That glory, that hunger for success, that thirst to have an entire nation cheering your name, that is what sports are all about.

It is most natural for Kohli to have deluded detractors. He is the greatest batsman of this era. His records are astonishing, the talent that he possesses is mind-boggling. Greatness attracts criticism from the mediocre. The mediocre hate greatness even while they are feeding off it. Australian cricketers hate him because he is better than them and is the greatest threat in the batting line-up. The Australian media hates him because he does not shy away from a battle. They are enraged because someone’s treating them in the same manner their team has treated others for years. And good for Kohli, he is unlikely to change himself one bit. And why should he? He has reached the pinnacle of success by marching forward on this path. And more importantly, as Tywin Lannister said, “A Lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of a sheep.”

Years down the line, when all of this is over and his hair has turned grey, hardly anyone will remember Kohli’s critics. But they will remember his centuries, his sixes and fours, his cover drives. Even Scroll might join the bandwagon in criticizing him now but unfortunately for them, history will only remember Kohli and his spectacular achievements on the field. And they will applaud the passionate cricketer who gave it his all for the country he represented.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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