Had I been asked to write this column a year earlier, I’d have refused within a few seconds. Virat Kohli as skipper wasn’t just premature, it was unthinkable. Then came the Australia tour in December-January 2011-12 and things started changing. In what was one of the worst tours in India’s cricket history, there was one success story—Virat Kohli. The tour Down Under witnessed the making of Kohli the leader who was willing to take centerstage every time the chips were down, as his seniors fended and prodded and scythed in vain around him. From giving it back to the Australians verbally and on the field, Virat was a silver lining that all of India was holding onto amidst the misery of the back-to-back tour hidings. Most importantly, Australia witnessed his transformation from boy to man. From being a youngster, Virat was fast playing the role of a premier batsman. And this happened within a month, between the third Test at Perth and the Tri-series, which Virat made his own by playing one of the best one-day knocks of all time in Hobart against Sri Lanka.
Justly, he was rewarded with the vice-captaincy at the end of the tour. Virat’s ascent had only begun. In the months that followed, he did not put a foot wrong as batsman, and as statesman and leader he was fast making a mark. Speaking to the media with graceful panache, handling tough questions with dignity and giving legends their due, Virat was no longer the future of Indian cricket. As runs flow richly like silk from his bat, he has become the face of its present and is grooming himself into being the poster boy for the future. One instance will elucidate the point—Virat had played a spectacular hand in winning India the game against Pakistan in Dhaka at the Asia Cup and was visibly exhausted. But he still had the post-match press conference to do and had started walking across the field to the press conference room, when he heard a band of Indian supporters screaming “Virat, Virat”. The Virat Kohli of old would have given them a cursory glance and walked on. The new Virat Kohli made a detour, signed autographs and then made his way to the media room. After he was done, he even agreed to do some 10 television interviews to satisfy the 24/7 TV cycle. India saw its future leader woo the media in a way we haven’t seen in the recent past. I must introduce a caveat here—I am not advocating Test captaincy for Kohli yet. He isn’t ready, for he clearly needs to do more. Nor am I suggesting he be made captain of the 50-over format right away. He might well be the best ODI player in the world, but he still has some distance to go before we burden him with skipperhood. He can be made one-day captain a year down the line, and invested with the responsibility of defending the World Cup crown in Australia-New Zealand in 2015. However, he is most certainly ready for the job in T20 cricket.
Australia has invested in George Bailey and Pakistan in Mohammed Hafiz. And inspired choices they have turned out to be too. With Dhoni having done the job for six long years, India needs fresh thinking at the top. We need someone who can rally his teammates and the billion-plus Indian fans. After stupendous consistency over the past one year, especially in the shorter formats of the game, Virat has earned the respect of his mates and it is time to ask him to take up the mantle of leadership. I must recount a press conference in Australia to drive home the point—India needed a miracle at Hobart to remain in contention for a spot in the Tri-series final in February this year. The team looked jaded and few had given India a chance after the Sri Lankans had scored 320. Virat begged to differ. He led the Indian assault and scripted a win, which will always rank as one of the best in our ODI history. After that, he simply commented: “I love to do it for the team at times when it matters the most”. With Dhoni’s India not making the semi-finals of the T20 world cup yet again after being inaugural champions in 2007, fans’ patience is fast running out. It is imperative that Indian cricket is fast brought back on track. We have been starved of a major success for 18 long months and need a new champion with younger blood at the helm. Without doubt, it is time to give it to Virat. It is time to act on what shows clearly in the batting’s over-reliance on him, and on what Chris Gayle says: “Virat is the next big thing in Indian cricket”. The nation will welcome a change of guard. Time to welcome captain Virat.
(The author is a sports historian)
Kohli’s success illustrates how one can improve one’s standing through hard (and smart) work (Frontman Cometh, Oct 15). Compare this to the ‘welfare’ system Rohit Sharma’s continued inclusion in the team stands for. Those talking him up as a brand don’t give a flying toss about the game.
Jasjeet Shergill, on e-mail
Clearly, Kohli’s PR machine is doing a great job.
Rajesh Thakur, Mumbai
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
As a libertarian,I am pleased to see Virat Kohli do well & his success illustrates how through hard & smart work,you can succesfully change your position on society or for that matter,in Indian cricket's heirarchy.
Now compare this, to the 'welfare' that Rohit Sharma's existence in the indian team stands for.
Clearly, Kohli's PR machine is doing a great job.
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