For at least two generations, we have seen our team collapse in chasing even modest targets. Our strength has been bowling & almost all Pakistani captains have tried to capitalise on it. Bat 1st, put up a half decent score and let the bowlers work their magic. Apart from a brief period where Inzimam reigned, this has been true. Pakistani batsmen have let down the team time and again. How dearly we desired, for a batman who can keep his cool under pressure especially in white ball cricket. There were odd moments of joy but consistency was lacking. Following verse by Josh Mali Abadi's though said in a very different context, captures our search for a batsman:
اب بوئے گل نہ باد صبا مانگتے ہیں لوگ
وہ حبس ہے کہ لُو کی دعا مانگتے ہیں لوگ
Then we see a young brash teenager appear in the IPL, with Royal Challengers Bangalore. Of course, he plays for our arch rivals. They always had decent batsmen, but this one looked that bit more special. Wonder boy if you will. For decades, we had something India couldn't compete with. Supremely fast bowlers with mesmerising mastery. Now India had someone we could only aspire to have. We looked in awe as this young man, started breaking records one after another. Undoubtedly, there were many expletives and incidents in this journey. The barrage of Galis, the middle finger to the crowd, public show of affection towards his girl friend, all things a sanskari Indian boy isn’t supposed to do. Pakistanis viewed Kohli in awe but with a little of dismay as well. He was a loud mouth, but he'd pay his dues with the bat. As Harvey Spector of Suits will say, it’s not bragging if it’s true.
What if he the best batsman in the world, he is a jerk was our argument. And then things started to change. His on-field behaviour changed. Off the field, he made decisions which showed responsibility and courage. Like rejecting a whole lot of money for promoting Pepsi. The argument is simple, I don’t consume it, why should I encourage others to do so? Then there is the Pakistan connection. That video for Aleem Dar’s son, the signed bat for Shahid Afridi, his slight bromance with Mohammad Amir, and most recently, how glowingly he spoke about Shoiab Akthar and Mohammad Irfan. While, hate has reigned either side of the border (especially in Modi’s time), and the likes of Gautam Gambhir peddling deep into this divide, Kohli is swimming against the tide.
He is probably the best batsman in the world, but isn’t too uptight about it. His interviews are fun, insightful, and his adverts have a message. How can you despise this guy? Pakistanis have gone from loathing him to loving him. No mean feat. All credit to Mr Kohli.