Virat Kohli doesn’t just want to be the best batsman in the world. Apparently, he also wants to be the most loved. His “10,000 and counting” runs in Tests and ODIs, that unending streak of international hundreds, have already put him on the path to greatness. But all the 27 million Twitter followers, 25 million Instagram fans, 37 million Facebook friends, can’t guarantee him unconditional universal love. He also needs to understand that he is India’s cricket captain not the custodian of the National Register of Citizens of India. Another gentle reminder: “Loving Virat Kohli” isn’t yet a pre-condition for those willing to hold on to their Indian domicile.
Since the time Kohli, while promoting his App, asked a cricket fan to leave the country for preferring English and Australian batsmen over Indian players, many have jumped at the opportunity to get involved in yet another debate on nationalism, the staple of all talking and tweeting heads. But check with anyone who has been a regular on the cricket circuit for the last few years, and they will tell you that this isn’t about the captain’s mis-interpretation of patriotism. In fact, this out-of-place utterance is one more manifestation of Kohli’s chronic problem with criticism. The “Us vs world” paranoia of the much loved captain and globally respected batsman remains cricket’s gravest mystery. He has gotten into slanging matches with reporters at press conferences and pulled strings to change commentators who have dared to point to his minor flaws.
Indian cricket has historically spoiled its stars but Kohli has got the longest rope. BCCI old hands had it in them to rein in out-of-line players. In contrast the new bosses — judges and bureaucrats — have indulged cricket stars. They have given the captain all he wanted, even replacing the coach who saw his role as “holding a mirror” to players with someone who extends him unconditional love. Too much love can also be a bad thing.