Humility – the inextricable cricketing quality, and its decline

Virat Kohli attracts trolls like a flame does moths. His latest: the interview wherein he shares his disappointment with ‘fans’ who trolled his “love” Anushka Sharma. Valid point on the unfairness of targeting her; the larger issue is what makes him troll-worthy and the even larger one of humility in cricket.

In defending his lover, Kohli invoked the fact (in his opinion) that “I don’t think anyone has helped India win as many matches or performed as consistently as I have in the last five years”. He then goes on to align himself with the reductionist ‘either you are with us or against us’ attitude that is so en vogue these days in all spheres: “After that, to see such reactions after just one poor innings, was very disappointing. What it does is it makes you lose faith in a lot of people. It’s a good thing in a way – you get to know who’s with you and who’s not.”. Finally he ends with a rant that does not make any linguistic or logical sense: “So in my case if I don’t do well in two games it is a dip in form whereas for some of the other players they perform two games out of ten they come back in form. I don’t understand that and I don’t really pay attention to it.” – yes, it doesn’t look like you are really paying attention to it.

Cricketing greats of yore:

When the Gavaskar and Dev era ended, Indians got a chance to align their pride and hopes on Tendulkar. He was joined by genuine greats like Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman and Kumble. Tendulkar, for all his post-retirement bravado, could never have been faulted for arrogance despite his many achievements, a quality that has endeared him to millions. Then there’s Dravid, a person who always let his consistency and technique speak for him. Be it the troll lamenting his inappropriateness for limited overs cricket or an Alan Donald seething at him on field, mouthing expletives about his mother – nothing could ruffle the man. Laxman – well he was never heard save for the crack of willow on leather. Ganguly too saved all his brazenness and aggression for the field. In all their years, none of these legends of the game needed to self-indulge.

For cricket lovers who are put off by the Australian bullies, one of the worst offenders Ricky Ponting too saved his energies for thrashing the opposition on the field and post-match bar brawls rather than telling the world what a great player he is (which he was).

A team sport like cricket has no room for individual brilliance on a sustained basis. Even the Tendulkar era was marked by at least 3-4 other players who could be considered at par with the legend. More recently, then Indian coach Greg Chappel publicly stated that Dhoni is a future Indian captain. This when Dhoni was barely a year or so into the side, had a terrible sense of fashion, could speak barely a couple of sentences of clear English and had no helicopter shot. Since then, despite controversies over conflicts of interest, his inability to establish himself as a Test Captain and accusations of favoritism, Dhoni has not had to reassert his value as a player and captain – his win record speaks for itself.

Trolls are a part of life Virat, accept them or don’t do your bit to nurture them. Much like flies, they get attracted to anything that smells bad. They have been around in various forms – the techniques have changed. Chants of ‘Ravi Shastri Hai Hai’ in Wankhede was trolling. Unimaginably, Tendulkar himself was boo’ed in Bombay once! A match at Eden Gardens is a spectacular gathering of a stadium full of trolls – who can forget Gavaskar’s hate:hate relationship with the venue? The internet and social media have just amplified the voice.

Aggression and talent can get you as far as you have come Virat. Hard work and humility will get you further, with some help from lady luck. Meanwhile, growing up is a good thing despite what many people say.

Should the undersigned now look forward to being targeted at cricket venues for choicest abuse from Virat Kohli? Nah, doing so wouldn’t be humble 🤷🏻‍♂️.

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