As Kohli’s era in the Indian team is at the cusp of collapsing, it’s time the country should start assessing his impact on the cricketing horizon. Since Kohli is touted as the successor to Sachin Tendulkar, it will be interesting to note how both of them fare when it comes to their individual legacy in the minds of people.
Sachin represented India’s growing stature on an international level
Sachin started his career in 1989, the year when India was entering into deep economic slumber. Our country was facing the excesses of socialism and a very small section of the population could bring out leisure time to cheer for their cricket team. Though the game was most popular, its popularity owed mainly to Kapil Dev’s team winning the 1983 world cup. In spite of 6 years of success on the international stage, India was still considered a weak team when it came to facing the ferocious fast bowlers of the era on bouncy wickets.
As the country opened up its economy, Sachin’s career started to pick up. His first test century in swinging conditions was just a sign of apocalypse he was about to launch on bowlers all around the world. When the world was fearful of good-length balls of lanky pacers like Ambrose and Walsh, Sachin was the one who stepped out of the crease to send their bouncers back over their head. In his 20-years career, Sachin earned praise en route to either demolishing or diminishing the legacy of bowlers like Shane Warne, Glen Mcgrath, Mutthaih Murlidharan, Henry Olonga, Andrew Caddick, Dale Steyn, and many others.
Sachin is loved not just for his graceful shots and behaviour on the field but also for the way he carried himself off the field. In spite of being one of the most famous brand ambassadors of India’s post liberalised economy, Indians rarely saw his name in controversies. When Sachin failed at captaincy, he didn’t flinch in making way for Saurav Ganguly to lead the team. Even on the field, whenever he was hit by a beamer, he just shied away from the bowler to focus on his batting, hence giving no chance of a verbal confrontation. Even when asked about his successes, hard work used to be his only answer. In his retirement speech, he credited everyone who had been with him from his childhood to his retirement day.
Renowned English commentator Michael Atherton had praised Sachin in the following words, “The archives recall not one single incriminating incident, not one drunken escapade, not one reported affair, not one spat with a team-mate or reporter … , is he human?”
Kohli’s legacy takes a different turn than Sachin
The legacy of Virat Kohli is different. When he entered into the international arena, the Indian team was a well-established team that had just beaten dreaded Australia in their backyard. Moreover, the newly launched IPL provided a launchpad for the then under-19 captain as teams had to pick at least two junior players in their team. BCCI was on the verge of becoming one of the richest sporting bodies in the world. Basically, the cradle was set for the swashbuckling captain to launch into the cricketing arena.
Virat slowly started to rise in his stature. Until 2012, Virat was considered a normal upcoming player. However, his career peaked in 2013 and he was the cricketing rockstar till the end of 2019. Although Kohli is one of the best batsmen of the era, it is also true that his record against quality bowlers like Mitchell Jhonson, James Anderson, and Dale Steyn have been below average according to the standard set by him. His fans point towards his 2014 innings against Jhonson to establish his legacy, however that inning came after 2 dropped catches on Jhonson’s thunderbolts. Similarly, his success against Anderson in the 2018 series is owed mainly to a dropped catch on his bowling. Moreover, Kohli has been repeating his mistakes against the greats of the game, which shed a poor light on his cricketing legacy.
Kohli loves controversy
Off the field, Kohli has been one of the most media-savvy and controversial figures in the country. From the moment liberal media caught hold of the champ’s ad campaign, Kohli has been witnessing a downfall in his career. His over activism on Hindu festivals and other issues have let him down. In spite of being India’s captain, his words are not taken as divine by Indians and he is trolled endlessly for catering to the liberal media. Moreover, his dwindling form, along with his politically correct and pseudo-moralistic stances on social issues put a huge black dent on his public persona. In fact, once Rahul Dravid and Adam Gilchrist had termed Kohli as a bad role model for budding cricketers in the country.
When a player plays for the country, he/she is not only a cricketer, he/she is representative of a culture, a tradition and it’s their responsibility to carry it forward. However, in order to maintain his flashy lifestyle, Virat Kohli seems to have deviated from originality. Kohli is the same player who was considered an amalgamation of Ganguly‘s aggression and Sachin’s skills. At the end of 2021, the much-loved hero of the nation has pushed a large section of the audience away from the TV.