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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Virat Kohli: Anatomy of a megastar keeping a dying format alive

Virat Kohli: Anatomy of a megastar keeping a dying format alive

Source: PTI
November 15, 2023 20:07 IST
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IMAGE: Virat Kohli takes a bow after scoring his historic 50th ODI ton. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

A few years ago Shah Rukh Khan was asked who has the potential to attain stardom like him.

The interviewer was Anupam Kher and SRK, in his inimitable style, replied: "Can I tell you something? I am the last of the superstars."

The context was Indian cinema but if we try drawing a cricketing parallel, Virat Kohli could possibly have made arrogance look sexy like King Khan, and declared, "I am the last Indian cricketing megastar. Watch me, enjoy my performances and savour it till it lasts. I am the champagne stuff."

But Kohli instead spoke about the "perfect picture" he had in his mind after he strode, sprinted, and worked his way to an unprecedented 50th ODI hundred during the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand in Mumbai on Wednesday.

In the process, he became an epitome of how a quintessential megastar looked like.

"It's the stuff of dreams. Sachin paaji was there in the stands. It's very difficult for me to express it. My life partner, my hero - he's sitting there. And all these fans at the Wankhede," Kohli said at the break.

 

On the day, he was both the protagonist as well as the hero, who possibly for the umpteenth time assured all stakeholders that one-day cricket isn't a dying brand.

IMAGE: Virat Kohli walks back after his historic ton. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

It seemed he was on a mission to save a format about to die, and he did that with aplomb.

On November 15, Kohli transcended the boundaries of statistical indulgences.

In front of his childhood idol, Kohli was able to show that he is the 'Last of the Mohicans' after his 113-ball 117 took him past Sachin Tendulkar, who was at the stands.

After the landmark was reached, there was an airborne leap and a customary fist punch but no overt celebrations.

As exalted wife Anushka Sharma couldn't stop smiling, Kohli took a couple of bows to acknowledge the standing ovation from the man he had carried on his shoulders 12 years back at this very venue.

That was an ode to someone who carried Indian cricket on his shoulders for 21 years and today, at the same colosseum, Kohli with his "art of batsmanship" seemed to be carrying the ODI cricket on his shoulders.

During both of his 49th and 50th ton, Shreyas Iyer was around and if anyone is fair, the younger superstar was in sublime form, and at times more attacking than Kohli.

But then, Kohli is not just the lead actor, he is also the dialogue and screenplay writer of this 70 mm motion picture.

IMAGE: Anushka Sharma celebrates Virat Kohli’s historic ton. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

"I played the role so that the guys around me can come and express themselves. As I said, for me the most important thing is to make my team win.

"I've been given a role this tournament and I'm trying to dig deep. That's the key to consistency - play according to the situation and play for the team," he tried to explain his role.

Before Kohli's measured batting in the middle overs, Rohit Sharma's flamboyance and Shubman Gill's flair had left the audience with a voracious appetite.

There are times in life when subtle brilliance lies in an understated effort where you know exactly how much you need to do.

There were 49 singles and 10 doubles and before one realized, he was in his 70s without hitting those monstrous 100 metre plus sixes, that Iyer hit.

His younger colleague Gill couldn't battle his cramps and retired hurt on 79, but when Kohli started feeling his hammy in the 90s, he didn't stop.

David Beckham, the global superstar who has been there, done that (and seen it all), walked down after the innings to congratulate the man of the evening.

IMAGE: Virat Kohli broke Sachin Tendulkar’s record to climb to the summit. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

For someone who has sent Old Trafford and Santiago Bernabeu into raptures with his curlers during his playing days, and now has sporting world's biggest bonafide superstar Lionel Messi in his payrolls for his club Inter-Miami, Beckham got a first-hand view of what an Indian sporting megastar looked like.

With 700 runs being scored by a batter for the first time in any World Cup edition, Kohli probably wanted to assure the stakeholders, "Don't fear, till Virat is here".

There was Sunil Gavaskar, then came Kapil Dev and after that Tendulkar, followed by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. These were the 'Fab Four' when it came to insane stardom during their eras and beyond. Kohli has long entered that list, and possibly, is the last one to make the cut.

With bilateral ODIs being reduced to three-match series across the world in order to cater to market demands, it will be very difficult to predict if anyone in the next 15 years can surpass Kohli and earn the status of a megastar. It looks unlikely at the moment.

But will ODI cricket's format undergo change or diminish? Till Kohli is around, you can say "Picture Abhi Baki Hai, Mere Dost."

There can be stars, there can be superstars, but there is only one Virat Kohli.

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