India's cricket captain is the very model of a modern, newly-assertive and economically successful powerby Philip Collins / June 12, 2019 / Leave a comment
In May, the dominant and divisive Prime Minister Narendra Modi was convincingly re-elected to the second biggest job in the world’s largest democracy. The biggest job is, of course, the captain of the cricket team, a post held by Virat Kohli, whose team is currently competing in the World Cup in England, and has a good chance of triumphing on 14th July at Lord’s.
Though Modi might hold the political power, the 30-year-old Kohli gets all the glory. And, if anything, he exudes even more authority. Ramachandra Guha, the finest historian of the Indian republic and the author of a history of the game in his native country, wrote recently that Kohli has a mesmeric effect on the power-brokers who run the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI): “They worshipped him even more than the Indian cabinet worships Narendra Modi.”
Kohli is the very model of a modern, newly-assertive and economically successful India. His wife is the Bollywood star Anushka Sharma; before their marriage in 2017, he was linked to several different actresses. His image is everywhere. Yet for a man so ubiquitous—even at election time, his many product endorsements meant he stared down from far more billboards than Modi—it is hard to penetrate his carapace. Not many have got past the swagger, typified by one of his leisure pursuits: driving around Mumbai at night: “I love speed. I love cars. That is why I choose to drive when the roads are absolutely empty and then I can relax.”
Rather like Modi, Kohli appears to inspire loyalty and animosity in equal measure in India. Though even his keenest detractors would concede that his brilliance has earned him the right to a certain arrogance, he has yet to become the uniformly venerated figure cut by his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Kohli’s prowess as a player is beyond doubt. The all-time great West Indian batsman Viv Richards recognises in him “a serious passion I used to have.” New Zealand’s Martin Crowe called him “the next chosen one,” adding that he combined the qualities of India’s recent stars: “He exudes the intensity of Rahul [Dravid], the audacity of Virender [Sehwag], and the extraordinary range of Sachin [Tendulkar]. ”
But Kohli is unique because the…