Opinion: Implications of Kohli's 'Leave India' comment
Indian Captain Virat Kohli’s recent comments about asking a fan to “'leave India' has apparently not gone too well with the public. The 30-year-old got himself into fresh controversy after a video of him went viral on social media. It shows Kohli saying that “those who prefer English and Australian batsmen should not live in India.”
Kohli’s 'leave India' comment has unearthed the following debates and implications:
# Sport, like other entertainments like good music and movies, is universal in nature and is beyond language and geographical barriers.
# What Kohli failed to understand is the fact that there could be any number of reasons for a fan to follow a particular player irrespective of his nationality, apart from his talent in the given discipline.
# It has been brought to notice in the past that one of Kohli’s die-hard fan is from Pakistan. That fan follows Kohli for his cricket talent.
# Virat Kohli’s most favourite cricketer of this generation is his teammate in the RCB team, the great AB de Villiers. AB is one cricketer Virat respects the most for his extraordinary talent on the cricket field. Of course, AB is not an Indian.
# As an ardent cricket fan across generations, one must learn to enjoy the grace of a Zaheer Abbas, the left-handed elegance of a David Gower, power of a Vivian Richards, effectiveness of an Allan Border, fighting spirits of a Javed Miandad, class of a Martin Crowe and the flair of a Mahela Jayawardene. Similarly one loves an Anil Kumble as much as a Muralidharan and a Shane Warne. In all these cases, the nationality of the cricketer doesn’t matter.
# One of the greatest moments in cricket happened in the India- Pakistan Test match in Chennai in 1999 where the crowd gave a standing ovation to the Pakistan team after they defeated India narrowly in India. Even the Pakistan players were surprised by the reaction of the Chennai crowd.
The Indian team never felt bad about the standing ovation accorded to Pakistan team. In fact, one of the Indian players expressed his happiness that the crowd acted with such grace. Here the highly knowledgeable Chennai crowd couldn’t be termed as unpatriotic. That day they have proved to the World that Cricket was beyond boundaries.
# The IPL is a typical case of a foreign talent being exhibited, appreciated and followed. We have witnessed in the IPL the Kolkata crowd supporting Shoaib Akhtar bowling against Sachin Tendulkar.
The same crowd which supports Kohli vehemently whenever he plays for India goes against him when he is up against Dhoni’s CSK. The same crowd expects Kohli to fail against an otherwise unpopular Shane Watson. There the loyalty shifts to another player and another team which cannot be faulted.
# If you take the case of the other sports like Football or Tennis, there are very few Indian stars to follow in which case the Indian fans get attracted and are left with no other option except to follow a Ronaldo, a Messi or a Neymar or a Roger Fedder or a Nadal or a Novak Djokovic. Such fans cannot be branded anti-national.
# With women’s cricket gaining popularity In India in recent times, some of the Indian fans adore a Mithali Raj as much as a Virat Kohli or a Harmanpreet Kaur as much as a Rohit Sharma or a Smriti Mandhana as much as a Kuldeep Yadav. Here the gender has nothing to do with the loyalty of the fans.
# The background of a cricketer also plays a crucial role in his gaining popularity. The typical case is MS Dhoni. Coming from an Indian middle-class family, he served as a railway employee from 2001 to 2003. Against this background, Dhoni became the only captain to have won all the ICC trophies, that is to say, Test mace, ODI World Cup, World T20, and Champions Trophy. A truly inspirational story to follow for any Indian, leave alone an Indian cricket fan.
# On the same lines of Dhoni’s sentiments, the most popular cricket teams in recent times is none other than Afghanistan. They have shown tremendous fighting spirit on the field while their country is in turmoil. A typical fan gets attracted to such heroics and starts following a team like Afghanistan irrespective of his nationality.
# An ardent cricket fan wouldn’t wish to watch matches involving India alone. Though the Indian team might be his favourite team, he would still love to connect himself to matches played elsewhere in the world involving a South Africa vs Australia, England vs Sri Lanka or a Pakistan vs New Zealand. The fan is at absolute liberty to follow his favorite cricketer from any of these countries.
To conclude, Kohli got more irked by the comment of the fan who called Kohli an “overrated batsman” which led to his adverse “leave the country” remark. But in this age of social media, the fan, the big boss, has every right to express his feeling about a player as much as one expresses his views about a movie or a musical number.
The all-important fan is at liberty to choose his own favourite player irrespective of the country he belongs to. Any adverse comment made by a celebrity against such actions would only cause more damage to the reputation of the celebrity.
For once, Kohli got it wrong and played a false stroke.