“I don’t get the guy. Maybe he does it because it gets him going, but that comes across as very immature for me. He is a phenomenal player but he can’t take the abuse… And becoming angry like that – is that what gets him to play well? Do you know what I am saying? I can’t psyche myself to be angry.” When South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who himself has a history of being banned by the ICC for his provocative wicket celebrations, calls you out for being immature, there must be something wrong with you. Even though Rabada made the above comments on India captain Virat Kohli in the wake of an IPL 2019 clash, the latter has for long continued with his aggressive on-field antics often bordering on the ridiculous while consistently evading questions which call for fixing his accountability as the leader of the team. On Monday, the latest installment of another one of Kohli’s flare-ups made the headlines when he had a fiery exchange with a journalist after India’s 7-wicket defeat against New Zealand in the 2nd Test in Christchurch. The question was about Kohli’s expletive-laden send-off directed towards opposition skipper Kane Williamson after the latter got out on the 2nd day of the 2nd Test. This is what transpired: Journalist: Virat, what’s your reaction to your behaviour on the field, swearing at Williamson when he got out, swearing at the crowd. As an Indian captain, don’t you think you should set a better example on the field? Virat Kohli: What do you think? Journalist: I asked you the question? Virat Kohli: I am asking you the answer. Journalist: You need to set better examples Virat Kohli: You need to find out exactly what happened and come up with better questions. You can’t come here with half questions or half details of what happened. And also, if you want to create controversy, this is not the right place. I had spoken to the match referee. He had no issues with what happened. Thank You. Any other captain, and I’m not even thinking about Kohli’s predecessor here, would have brushed aside the above question by calling his celebrations as unnecessary or heat of the moment stuff. But not Kohli. Because he thinks the world (read: media) is conspiring against him and is out for his blood when in fact the real problem lies with the Indian captain himself. Take his presser after the 5th Test defeat on the England tour of 2018 for example. When he was asked if he feels that his team was the best from the country in the last 15 years despite a 4-1 series loss, Kohli with a deadpan face, retorted, “We have to believe we are the best side. Why not?” To which the journalist said, “I am not sure.” “You’re not sure? That is your opinion. Thank you,” responded Kohli before turning to another reporter.
If that is not convincing enough, take Kohli’s “stat-fight” with a journalist after India surrendered a Test series in South Africa earlier in 2018. When he was asked if the continuous chopping of the playing XI was a factor behind India’s defeat, Kohli started asking the reporter: How many Test matches have we (India) won out of 30?. The reporter’s response was to point out India’s majority of wins coming at home to which Kohli replied: “It doesn’t matter. Wherever we play, we try to do our best. I’m here to answer your questions man, not to fight with you.” After a gap, Kohli pointed to the same journalist asking: “How many times South Africa came close to winning games in India, can you count?” Time and again Kohli seems to be forgetting the fact that journalists and media are there to ask tough questions from the powers that be. By virtue of being the Indian captain, Kohli is one of the most powerful people in the Indian sports fraternity at the moment and thus is bound to be questioned by the media. Furthermore, these examples show that Kohli is not averse to the media per se but only to the people who try to hold him accountable for the team’s poor performance. You don’t ususally see Kohli getting angry at pressers when India is going through a good phase. That is because when India are winning, the press is generally inclined towards focussing on the positives with the negatives being far less in number to be talked about frequently.
But when the team is going through a rough phase, just like any other person representing the country on an international stage, Kohli is bound to field queries regarding the problems being faced by the team or the causes for the team doing poorly. These are exactly the kind of questions which Kohli doesn’t like. Talk to him about India’s great bowling attack, intent, preparation for the game or his plans against the oppostion and you are sure to evoke a good response from Kohli. But if you start pointing fingers at him or the team after a loss or a poor performance and your interaction with Kohli is guaranteed to become meme-material for times to come. Obviously, Kohli is not the first captain or player to get into regular fight with the media. Numerous active and ex-players have held tunnel views w.r.t. to the media. But such a piecemeal attitude towards the media can only be categorised as authoritarian and Kohli no doubt is now an authoritarian figure in Indian cricket. With the game being a virtual religion in India, Kohli needs to realise that he is answerable to his larger fan following and the only way to do that is by accepting his mistakes. Living in your own bubble is fine only till your decisions and opinions don’t affect others. Frankly, Kohli doesn’t have that luxury. Remember the raucous celebrations from Australians led by then vice-captain David Warner in Durban 2018, when he let Aiden Markram know the crime he had just committed in running out AB de Villiers. Within a few weeks of this incident, the unchecked aggression of Warner almost led to the end of his Test career. Warner has since seemed to learn his lesson after serving a year-long-ban but his example should be a real lesson for the India captain and the BCCI in general. The Board led by Sourav Ganguly, a celebrated ex-captain himself, needs to get rid Kohli and his team of this holier-than-thou attitude that they seem to be associating themselves with the media currently. Sadly, his last interaction with the press proved that neither he nor the board has learnt it.