During an Indian Premier League match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab last year, Virat Kohli was particularly charged up. Almost every wicket that RCB took was followed by a vociferous Kohli celebration.
And as one would expect with Kohli, those celebrations didn’t come without a healthy dose of aggression directed towards the batsmen walking back. First Mayank Agarwal and then KL Rahul, both right-handers received a mouthful from their India captain after they were dismissed.
It was only after Kohli mocked Ravichandran Ashwin that there was finally a reaction, as the KXIP skipper slammed his gloves on the floor in disgust after reaching the dugout.
This wasn’t the first match of IPL 2019 which saw Kohli in his elements. In an earlier game against Kolkata Knight Riders, he had a go at fast bowler Prasidh Krishna. Having faced a sharp bouncer and a bit of a stare from the right-arm pacer, Kohli smashed a six soon after and offered his all-too-familiar abuses to the youngster. Not just that, he even made it a point to mock Prasidh for misjudging a catch at the boundary.
During the IPL 2020 match between RCB and Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, Kohli’s ultra-competitive side emerged yet again. Keen to get the important wicket of Suryakumar Yadav, he fielded the ball at cover and walked right up to the right-hander with a cold stare. This time there were no words exchanged but the tension in the air was palpable.
That Kohli is a passionate character, is well documented. It’s visible when he runs between wickets, when he dives in to complete a single, well after crossing a century, when he puts his body on the line while fielding, when he gives 100% in every training session, and when he can’t stop charging up his teammates animatedly even during the third session on the fifth day of a drawn Test match.
Kohli plays to win, he leaves it all out there on the field. But with this burning desire comes a win-at-all-cost mentality which, when one looks at the IPL, can be unsavoury.
In the Suryakumar stare-off, for instance, there wasn’t really anything wrong that Kohli did. RCB needed the wicket of the in-form right-hander and the skipper decided to use a legitimate tactic of riling up his opponent. He has tried to get into the heads of overseas players a number of times in the past and been hailed for his never-back-down attitude.
However, a case could be made that Kohli must rein in his aggression when it comes to Indian players. Seniors like Ashwin or Gautam Gambhir, with whom Kohli had an ugly on-field spat in the IPL several years ago, wouldn’t struggle to move past the incident and get on with their careers. But can the same be said about youngsters?
To his credit, Suryakumar was stoic even as Kohli came up to his face. Despite knowing that the India captain was part of the selection meeting that snubbed him for the Australia tour a couple of days earlier, he didn’t show any emotion and went on to finish the job for Mumbai Indians.
However, did Suryakumar have any other choice but to ignore Kohli? Can youngsters or those aspiring to get into the Indian team really give it back to Kohli? Could Prasidh, 23 years old during last year’s IPL, have gotten into Kohli’s face? You probably know the answer.
Of course, a case can be made that a youngster must work past every battle and emerge stronger. But isn’t it possible that a clash with the all-powerful captain of Indian cricket can be detrimental to a youngster’s confidence? Wouldn’t his state of mind be affected as he wonders what the skipper thinks of him? And if he does muster enough courage to give it back to Kohli, would he be taking a chance with his future?
When Kohli gives it his all for his team match after match, it is indeed inspiring to watch. But when he can’t check his emotions while having a go at Indian players, especially the youngsters, then one can’t help but wonder if he’s doing a disservice to Indian cricket.
Which side of the debate are you on? Should Kohli show more restraint during the IPL when it comes to Indian players? Or do you reckon he should be allowed to be who he is as long as he’s within the rules of the game? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or by writing to us on Twitter @thefield_in.