Virat Kohli is considered Indian captaincy material perhaps even as a successor to MS Dhoni. Such talk has come about following his being a successful captain of the Under-19 team and also his rising stature as a batsman. Also it is generally perceived by the younger generation that his aggressive demeanour is the kind that succeeds in today’s hard as nails international cricket.
Those who propagate this theory are missing the point that there is a thin line between aggression and boorish behaviour. As far as I am concerned, Kohli has crossed the line of acceptable behavioural standards long ago and recent incidents involving him at the IPL shows that there is no improvement.
Kohli has to work a lot to curb his temperamental outbursts and till he mellows he cannot be considered captaincy material, least of all a successor to Dhoni who has truly earned the sobriquet 'Captain Cool' in more ways than one.
Indeed I have frequently marveled at Dhoni’s composure, his ability to take the rough with the smooth and the manner in which he handles pressure on and off the field. The post of Indian cricket captain carries tremendous responsibility but whether he is handling his men on the field, solving a crisis or negotiating with an inquisitive or hostile media, Dhoni has won nothing but praise.
Perhaps Dhoni could have a talk with the young man widely perceived as his successor and give him some tips on how to stay cool and harness all his resources into his batting in which area he could become a great.
No less a personality than Vivian Richards said in a recent interview that Kohli reminds him of himself. Richards also spoke of how much he admired Kohli’s aggression and passion. But then there are limits to everything.
It’s great to talk about passion in the game. There is nothing wrong about passion per se. But then when one accepts passion as part of the game it could also lead to gestures that have no place on the cricketing field. Expressions can still be registered within the realms of decency.
The problem with Kohli is that he spins out of control at the slightest pretext. When a catch is dropped, he makes a needless gesture. When he is out legitimately, he is livid. At the slightest instance he gets into arguments with opponents.
He glares, he stares and without sufficient reason whatsoever he unleashes all sorts of invectives. He bares his emotions loudly in public and there are times when his behaviour has been outrageous.
Overall his behaviour is unacceptable to put it politely. And if he doesn’t calm down and keep to limits, he could well run into more trouble with match referees. Worse, he could see his hopes of becoming Indian captain go up in smoke.
His latest outburst against the Wankhede stadium crowd also exposed Kohli’s immaturity. Granted that Kohli might not have been in the wrong when it came to the decision involving the run out of Ambati Rayudu but he need not have reacted in the manner he did accusing them of "hatred towards the opposition."
Spectators being spectators, they will chant and shout and say anything but it doesn’t mean that a player – and especially one with Kohli’s star status – has to respond to it. He was seen in particularly poor light when remarking that "they forget that the players they are booing also play for their country."
And yet just a few days before, Kohli got into a needless scrap with Gautam Gambhir. Had he forgotten that both represent the country and in fact have been teammates for so long? For that matter both Gambhir and Kohli play for the same state, zone and club team.
In my view the crowd would not have reacted the same way had the captain been Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar or VVS Laxman. This has nothing to do with team loyalties. It is just that these players have endeared themselves to cricket followers while Kohli in fact has alienated them by his so called aggression which is a euphemism for improper behaviour.
It must not be forgotten that Dhoni is popular not only in Chennai but is cheered wherever he plays because the crowd loves both his entertaining batting and impeccable behavior.
Speaking of Chennai, Kohli has been seen abusing even the crowd there and as we all know the Chepauk spectators are among the most knowledgeable and sporting in the game.
Kohli has achieved pinup status and is a corporate favourite thanks to his classy batting and his image of an Indian youth icon. But all this could disappear if he keeps getting worked up for everything. He is only 24 so there is still time to atone and improve and keep his emotions in check.
If he is able to accomplish this, it could have a positive effect on his game and he could emerge an even greater batsman. He just has to follow the example set by Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman in this regard. A little bit of tact and diplomacy too on his part will help.