Lessons in elitism: Virat Kohli’s ‘leave India’ comment shows some stars thrive arrogance, take fans for granted

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New Delhi | Published: November 11, 2018 3:30:33 AM

Some sporting superstars thrive on arrogance, taking fans for granted. But they should remember that fans are the biggest stakeholders in the sporting world.

Virat Kohli, cricket, bcciVirat Kohli (Reuters)

Thank you Justin Langer for explaining the concept of ‘elite honesty’. This is the new catchphrase that now embellishes the walls of the Australian cricket team’s dressing room. First of all, we didn’t know honesty could be classified. If ‘elite honesty’ is the top rung, then what lies beneath, ‘common honesty, or middle-class honesty’?

While explaining the concept of ‘elite honesty’, the Australian cricket team head coach said: “You can lie to everyone else, but you can’t lie to yourself. So that’s elite honesty to yourself. And also, the Aussie way, I know it, is to look a bloke in the eye, look your sister or your mum in the eyes, and tell them the truth and be happy to get some truth back, so that’s elite honesty.”

Shane Warne was quick to react. “Forget all the words, forget the verbal diarrhoea and all that sort of stuff. That’s just rubbish, that sort of stuff. Seriously, it makes you want to vomit.”
Just a few days later, we got a lesson in ‘elite patriotism’—this is paraphrasing Langer—from Virat Kohli. The Indian cricket team captain told an Indian fan to leave the country if he wants to support overseas cricketers. In a video that went viral, Kohli was seen reading out a fan’s post: “Overrated batsman. I have seen nothing special in his batting. I enjoy watching English and Australian batsmen more than this Indian.”

And it was how he responded: “Okay. I don’t think that you should live in India then. You should go live somewhere else then. Why are you living in our country and loving other countries? I don’t mind you not liking me, but I don’t think you should live in our country and (be) liking other things. Get your priorities right.”

It suddenly dawned on this correspondent after covering cricket for close to 20 years that one always had his priorities wrong. As a cricket correspondent and a lover of the game, I always thought Sir Donald Bradman and Sir Garfield Sobers are the two best things ever to happen to the game. The Don set an unachievable benchmark for batting greatness. Sobers was the ultimate cricketer who could do almost everything on the field, as legends like Sunil Gavaskar would attest. Bradman played for Australia. Sobers represented West Indies. Making an obeisance to their greatness could now be tantamount to transgression with regard to ‘elite patriotism’.

Following a Twitter backlash, Kohli issued a clarification, speaking about the freedom of choice. “I guess trolling isn’t for me guys, I’ll stick to getting trolled! I spoke about how ‘these Indians’ was mentioned in the comment and that’s all. I’m all for freedom of choice. Keep it light guys and enjoy the festive season. Love and peace to all,” he tweeted, attaching a couple of emojis to the post.

The fact of the matter is that the majority of modern-day superstars don’t take kindly to criticism. Despite losing six overseas Tests this year and winning just two, the Indian team head coach Ravi Shastri had spoken about the current crop of players being better travellers compared to their predecessors over the past 15-20 years. And following a 4-1 Test series loss in England, when a reporter had asked Kohli about his opinion on this, things became a little chatty.

“What do you think?” the captain retorted. The reply was: “I am not sure.” And Kohli ended the terse chat with “That’s your opinion. Thank you.” The skipper was seemingly oblivious to the fact that it absolutely didn’t matter what the press thought. Kohli’s opinion mattered and the fans wanted to hear that. The bottomline is that it was a very pertinent question, which apparently ruffled Kohli.

On his way out of the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), historian Ramachandra Guha slammed Indian cricket’s superstar culture. “Current Indian players enjoy a veto power on who can be the members of the commentary team.

If it is to be coaches next, then perhaps the selectors and even office-be arers will follow?” Guha wrote in his resignation letter to CoA chairman Vinod Rai.

The damning 145-page report by Simon Longstaff and his team showed that the problem is not restricted to India only. In fact, this is not only cricket’s problem. The ‘superstar culture’ is prevalent in all popular sport. Football arguably tops the list.

Superstars, not all of them, thrive on a touch of arrogance. At times they take fans for granted, forgetting the fact that supporters are the sport’s biggest stakeholders. They make the superstars and keep them relevant.

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