Virat Kohli doesn’t need any introduction to the current generation of cricket followers across the world. His popularity on social media speaks a ton about his admirers. He is now followed by 10.1 million followers on twitter and almost 2.8 million follow him on Instagram.
Assuming, a typical active member on Instagram would find themselves on twitter too, it roughly translates to approx. 10 million distinct people get notified of anything that this guy shares on social media. They have him on their timelines. Not to forget, all those non-internet-non-social folks who only follow him bit less frequently through newspapers or sports broadcasting channels.
He is a genius and a legend in the making. Period.
But, that is not what I want to share about. Not about his skill as a player or why he is so important to the Indian cricket team’s evolution as a strong force in the modern day cricket. This is about the hero he admired and the hero he transformed himself into.
Even most of his ardent supporters today would have described him as aggressive, rude and uncontrollable on field player, until may be a couple of years ago. His altercations on field with opposition team members, displaying inappropriate gestures during a test match, getting face to face and giving earful with Australians- He did it all. Here was always there right in the middle of everything that could take impression of gentlemen out of cricket. Controlled aggression was never his forte. He would throw all of him at you. He would give everything of him on the field.
In an article that I read recently, it was reported him quoting:
“I always wanted to be Sachin. I wanted to bat like him, so I tried to copy the shots he played and hit sixes the way he used to. He was the one player that always made me think: I want to bat like him”
Well, every one who followed cricket in our generation did that and so did this young man from Delhi.
Ever since, he rose to fame when he led the young Under-19 team to cricket world cup in 2008, there were never questions about his talent as a player. But, there were more than reasonable questions raised about his temperament – which is in complete contrast to how his hero behaved on the field.
Yes, we all have our heroes in own right whom we admire, we support when they lose, we argue when one questions their abilities, we imitate them but can we become our heroes?
No, we cannot because we are totally different to what our heroes are. We are ourselves and not our heroes. We can never be our heroes. We are a different entity altogether.
So is Virat Kohli. He is not his hero. He can never be. But, he followed his hero to become one himself.
What we have seen of Virat Kohli in the recent years is complete contrast to what he was during his formative years. He is bit more composed now, his aggression stayed but it was more streamlined. The raging desire to score runs, to put that extra effort to sprint for extra run, to dive to stop those boundaries and to own and finish the game- that craving for win will always remains with him.
In this world cup, what he did was beyond magical. He almost pulled off the games single-handed for India. He put himself as a team member, he requested audience to cheer for India and not Virat, he blamed himself when he lost his wicket against New Zealand, he fell to his knees when India won against Australia and he shed the tears when India lost against West Indies in Semifinals.
He is more emotional now. He values himself a lot more and he knows his responsibilities as a team member and a captain himself. He knows what his strengths are and acknowledges what his limitations are.
But, he sends out a strong message to his admirers:
You want to be like your hero. Believe in him. Follow him but one day be a hero for yourself. That is the best tribute you can pay for your hero.
Virat Kohli, you are a hero. You now lead the generation that believes you as their hero, just like your hero Sachin Tendulkar did.