Nowadays, I see Virat Kohli being idolized in the way that Sachin, Rahul and MS Dhoni were not so long ago. The difference in the personalities between Virat and Rahul or Virat and MS, could not be more stark. It is also quite telling that Virat is liked by all the kids. He has a certain bravado about him, the way that he talks, his body language – he knows that he is being watched and he plays his part perfectly. The nod of his head, the swagger, the carefully cultivated beard – all of these are vintage Kohli and are a part of the package of the Indian Test Cricket Captain.
I was an ardent fan of Rahul Dravid. Or as I like to look at it, I was an ardent admirer of Rahul. There was something about the way that he seemed to struggle and work hard at his batsmanship that would strike a chord with me. He would take enormous pride in his catching ability and in his fitness – virtues that would fill me with a strange sense of fulfillment that said, “Yes! I can understand that. I am like that”. Rahul had this air of being a hard working, studious kind of fellow that I liked to emulate. He was shy of being in public – would speak candidly about cricket at any time and while being a good leader, also had his fallacies. So when he scored his 50s and 100s and made it all look so good in my eyes and forever filling me with pride, he would also struggle with closing out matches or go into an ultra defensive mode of batting that would antagonize me and millions of his other fans. Folks from my time will forever remember Bridgetown, Barbados in 1996 when the team folded for 81 in the 4th innings, chasing 120 against the West Indies. We will also remember the time that he struggled against a South African left arm spinner – blocking and blocking some more until he finally got out and hurtled India towards defeat. In all of this, he was like me and so many others. We were lucky that our failures were not in the public eye like his were. He carried himself through all of that and taught us, in his own way, that sport is like that. When history is written, it will be about a game of cricket – meant for enjoyment and we all go away from it to lead our lives which is not always as forgiving as sport is.
Then, we had (and still have) MS Dhoni. Again, frustrating as he is, he is also an amazingly candid person, grounded and very, very intelligent. Admiration for him was different. He did things that I could not aspire to do, ever. He hit sixes, held his nerve better than I ever could and lead the team to success unparalleled in the history of Indian cricket. He was and is, the best captain of the Indian team, ever. He would take decisions that I would disagree with but then, he would win! So obviously, he knew what he was doing. Of course he did. In all this, he would remain calm and never seemed to put on a show to please anyone. He was, and is, genuine. I did write about him in an earlier blog post as well. I admire that guy.
Virat – now that is a totally different breed. Machismo backed by runs and tons of them. He is at the peak of his powers and the amazing thing about him is his confidence. He simply wills his way to runs and challenges himself. I grudgingly like him. How can one not? He is living proof that performances speak for themselves. No amount of talk and drama can take away from the sheer weight of his performances. While his leadership credentials are still questionable for me, he is clearly a wonderful batsman. Is he someone that I can see myself in? Nope. No way. Which is what makes me see him as the GenNext of cricket. The current younger generation seems to adore him like we would Sachin or Rahul. Maybe they see a bit of themselves in him. Maybe they all want to be like him. Hopefully he knows the responsibility that he carries. He is, after all, the captain of a team that has had a following like none other. No other team in the world can possibly have millions of followers. The weight of responsibility is not light.