Virat Kohli deconstructs the brash stereotype
It wasn't a long time back that Virat Kohli came across as a brash kid in love with himself. It seemed like he had started to swagger even as he learned to walk. Critics wondered whether he had the special natural talent to justify that arrogance; others felt his attitude did not matter as long as he scored runs on the field.
In the 20th century, India liked its sporting stars to be humble. On the other hand, the current generation likes its stars to be in tune with the zeitgeist - extremely confident, outspoken and devoid of self doubt. Kohli, one felt, would present an interesting case study to see how a modern Indian celebrity behaves.
The brash stereotype, however, is already being deconstructed and that too, by Kohli himself. He scored yet another assured ton today, didn't celebrate much after reaching the landmark ("We were cruising that time"), walked into the press conference and, fascinatingly, sought to present a new version of himself.
Asked about the perception of his troublesome attitude, he first politely noted that everybody was entitled to their opinions and that he could not go around trying to censor people. However, when someone brought it up a second time, Kohli suddenly opened up.
"What people were talking about my attitude during first IPL was right to a certain extent. I have accepted the criticism and tried to take it in the right spirit. There are two ways to deal with it; either you ignore it and keep continuing in the same way doing the same mistakes or you can accept the criticism and rectify it. And I took the second approach."
Silence in the press room. Many people didn't expect such a revelation. You thought Kohli would have just brushed aside the criticisms and moved on as it would have fit with the stereotype. It's not as if he had said something dramatic; it's just that even this small step of acknowledging that he might have been wrong in the past was not expected.
Some would say that it is too early to make any conclusions on whether Kohli has decided to change himself or is the change even warranted. However, it is an interesting move, even if it is a conscious and pre-determined one, to say something that makes him "look good" in public eye.
Kohli said that it was his family and his coach [Raj Kumar Sharma] who helped him make the turnaround. "They sensed that something might be going wrong with me and stood behind me and supported me."
The youngster asserted that playing alongside seasoned pros like Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, in the IPL, helped in the process. "They made me understand the sacrifices that you have to make to do well in international cricket. I have been lucky that way with the people; they have all tried to help me become better."
Kohli singled out the Emerging Players Tournament as the turning point in his fledgling career. "That boosted my confidence tremendously. I just became so much more mentally stronger. I have now learned to bat in pressure conditions. From that time, I have just been concentrating on my game and not thinking about other things. I am very focused now."
Kohli realizes that he might lose his ODI spot when Sachin Tendulkar returns to the team but he is not too fazed. "It's understandable that when he comes back, I have to sit out. That's life. It's a great honour to be sharing the dressing room with him."
On a day when Kohli did most things right on the field, he made all the right moves off it as well.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo