My fellow Indian cricket lovers, let's rejoice! For, we have a successor to Sachin Tendulkar. Ever since the Indian 'god' of cricket retired on 16 November 2013, India had been on the lookout for its next superhero. Well, the search has now ended. Indian cricket has found its new monarch.
Propelled by his heroics, a young man from a middle-class family in New Delhi is now firmly ensconced in the hearts of most Indians. The name of the lad is Kohli. Virat Kohli.
He isn't a 'god' like Sachin. In fact, Virat is a self-proclaimed disciple of the 'god' and literally bowed to him during the recent Indo-Pak WT20 game at Eden Gardens.
Tendulkar's godliness during his heydey brought in adequate reverence in Indian cricket. Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly were some of the closest allies of 'god' back then. Each of them, like their leader, was equally modest and forgiving. But things have changed and divinity isn't the need of the hour.
He's unapologetically cocky. Adequately flawed. Selectively immodest. Loves flash cars, and the odd Bollywood heroine too. And herein lies the cult of Virat Kohli.
Cricket, they say, is a 'gentlemen's game'. Played by mortals. Hence, each time 'god' and his allies played against the mortals, they had a tendency to ignore a sledge. Walk away from a verbal contest. Be humble and gracious. And we all know that's not how mortals play cricket these days. Especially those Aussies.
So the successor to 'god' had to be a human. An ambitious, arrogant, aggressive, sledging, tattooed human. And that's everything that Virat Kohli is, and a bit more.
He's unapologetically cocky. Adequately flawed. Selectively immodest. Abundantly talented. Relishes a contest and a sledge alike. Always hungry for a triumph. Loathes losing. Is ever so sure of his ability and skill. Wears his heart on his sleeve. Loves flash cars, and the odd Bollywood star too. He loves a stage and always delivers a performance.
And herein lies the cult of Virat Kohli. He embodies the dreams, the ambitions, and the sentiments of modern day India (especially its youth), and its ever-expanding middle class. He has the guts and the craft to stand tall in a contest and then ruthlessly tear apart the opposition. He loves the hunt, and then flaunts the trophy on his wall.
The meteoric rise of Virat Kohli is contiguous with the evolving ethos of India as a nation, more importantly its youth.
Indian cricket, traditionally, had never been associated with such flair and aggression. It has historically been a docile exercise. More reliant on the skills of its players with the bat and ball. Body language, sledging, aggression and ruthlessness have not been the mainstay of Indian cricket.
Hence, one can't help think that the meteoric rise and popularity of Virat Kohli is contiguous with the evolving ethos of India as a nation, more importantly its youth. India is trying to break out on the global stage. India and Indians are pushing global boundaries, trying to assert themselves as a self-reliant, progressive and confident nation. The modern Indian youth is increasingly educated, driven, honest and fiercely independent. Traditional Indian values are revered but not blindly trusted or followed. Modern Indian youngsters exercise logic and reason and believe in making informed choices.
Contemporary India is a potent mix of values and pragmatism. And so is Virat Kohli...
This is where Kohli resonates with the Indian youth. Along with his masterful lofted drive over extra cover, or his artistic flick off the pads on the on-side, or that well-timed dive at mid-off to save a boundary, he offers an unabashed display of passion and emotions. He nudges the boundaries of political correctness. Makes no bones about winning, at any cost. And yes, wears his tattoos with pride, and is every bit as flawed as the very next person.
Virat Kohli is the face of modern India. A true ambassador of India's ascendency in cricket, and as a nation. Contemporary India is a potent mix of values and pragmatism. And so is Virat Kohli--a true icon of this new India on the cricketing field (and off it). And often, when India hurts from a communal scar here and there, his cricketing heroics have the power to heal an entire nation.
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