Left unchecked, India vice-captain Virat Kohli's international career is a train smash waiting to happen, writes Michael Jeh
Brisbane: I can't speak for India but for all the wrong reasons, an incident like this would barely raise an eyebrow if it involved an Australian sports star.
Also Read: ICC World Cup: Virat Kohli loses it again... first abuses journalist, then apologises
Virat Kohli during a training session ahead of the World Cup match against Ireland in Hamilton on Tuesday. Pic/AFP
Or anyone involved in professional sport; coach, manager or CEO. Sadly, the reason for our high tolerance levels is because our expectations have sunk so low. Not only is this sort of incident all-too-common but in relative terms, abusing a journalist doesn't rate a mention when so many of our sporting heroes distinguish themselves, almost on a daily basis with more serious infractions involving drugs, fights, sexual assault allegations, urinating in public and shameful social media photos.
Many are disdainful of the media and therefore condone Virat Kohli's similar disdain for a senior member of the travelling press corps. It's almost as if they accept that a cricketer who is akin to a God in the eyes of millions should not be judged by human standards. So what if this cricketer has no manners? He scores hundreds, no?
Thankfully, there are enough voices who feel a sense of mild national embarrassment. It doesn't necessarily follow that criticising Kohli for his poor manners dilutes their love of Kohli the batsman or the Indian cricket team. My professional career is rooted firmly in this space, educating elite athletes throughout Australia about the importance of understanding their privileged positions in society. It is not an easy task.
The new generation of sports star, eschews the notion of being a role-model but wants all the trappings, fame and exorbitant riches that come with being seen as a national hero to millions. As far as they are concerned, it is a one-way street. It is my job to try to provide them with a reality check, to remind them of their incredible good fortune and the powerful inspirational role they play in the lives of adoring young fans. Trying to imagine what that means in an Indian cricketing context is just mind-blowing.
There's been no better sight this summer than watching Kohli bat, flashing blade and eyes, a barely controlled fury that is wonderful theatre. It is also clear to me, having seen this same prototype in Australian sport, that here is a runaway train that will one day derail itself and the pride of a proud nation. Kohli clearly plays on the very edge. He thrives on the adrenaline rush and it often brings out the best in him.
Curiously, ironically and hypocritically, for a nation that also embraces the abrasiveness of a David Warner, Kohli is despised in equal measure for his arrogance and aggression by Australians. There's no reason why Indians should care one iota about what the Australians think of their demi-god but if our long history with troubled sports stars is anything to go by, believe me when I tell you that, left unchecked, his career is a train smash waiting to happen. There will come a point when he crosses a line that even India, steeped in a rich tradition of gentle manners, may just feel a sense of national cringe.
Then again, a century in a World Cup final will render memories short. The runaway train will gather momentum, millions will jump on board and the likes of Kohli, redolent of the modern young Indian, loud and proud, will inspire a new generation that will transcend the dignity of the Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kumble legacy. As a foreigner who loves India, it saddens me. I see the warning signs of an outrageously talented young man who may not be reined in before attitude gets in the way of ascending high altitude.
Michael Jeh, a Brisbane-based former first-class cricketer, mentors athletes
The number of international runs Virat Kohli has scored during the Australian summer. He averages 69.92