IPL: Virat Kohli returns to cricket, same as ever

Virat Kohli for the Royal Challengers Bengaluru. Source (X)

The answers from Virat Kohli did not take long coming. To those who were wondering if he would find his touch and form, his match-winning half-century for Royal Challengers Bengaluru against Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League game in the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Monday offered enough evidence.
To those who keep insisting that he is above normal, he showcased his ‘normal’ side after the game during his interaction with Harsha Bhogle. Be it his approach to getting the Orange Cap or his awareness that he is being projected to promote the T20 game around the world or his simple desire to be able to walk on the roads without being recognised, let alone be mobbed.
At the post-match presentation, he gave everyone some insights into the additional layers of maturity and perspective that he may have added to his persona in the two months away from the game and from constant scrutiny. He spoke with candour about the bonding with his growing family, especially the connect with his elder child.
“We were not in the country. We were at a place where people were not recognising us. Just time together as a family just to feel normal for two months for me, for us as a family was a surreal experience,” he said. “It’s an amazing experience to just be another person on the road and not be recognised and just carry on about life that normally people do on a daily basis.”
His candid revelation – nudged by Harsha Bhogle’s curious question laced with care: “Tell us about the last two months, if you can?” – sparked a recall of what may have been an apocryphal story from all those years ago of Sachin Tendulkar reportedly bargaining with a street vendor in a remote German town where nobody recognised him.
Kohli had his feet rooted to the ground when speaking of the perceptible shift in decibel levels. “I was telling the guys that when we came back the voices back home felt that much louder. I was just not used to being called my name for two months and then immediately you hear these loud noises and then you’re back in it all again, but it was beautiful,” he said.

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The longing to be able to walk on roads without being recognised and the craving to live a ‘normal’ life come along with superstar status that broadcasters, organisers and sports fans alike impose on athletes gifted with abnormal talent and skills. He was shining a light on the imbalanced lives that most high-performance athletes lead even as their own sport adds to their lives.
Indeed, it is quite necessary that athletes find the time to include leisure, solitude and relaxation in their schedules as a refuge from the turbulences that high-performance sport bring along. Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, another Indian athlete who is high on the popularity stakes, gets to train overseas much of the time and may be able to walk the streets without being mobbed.
And yet, some things remain the same as far as Kohli goes. He did not lose a chance to remind some who have begun to write him off that he is still relevant. “I know nowadays my name is quite attached to just promoting the game in many parts of the world when it comes to T20 cricket. But I still (have) got it, I guess!” breaking into an impish grin that led to a knowing giggle.
He also told fans not to get over-excited about the Orange Cap he wore on Monday night. “It is only two games. I know what this means,” he gently warned fans as they cheered while he wore the cap. “At the end of the day, when you look back, it is not about the numbers and the stats. It is the memories that you create.”
Indeed, somethings do not change. On Monday night, while he led the chase in a manner born and after his team won the match, it was apparent that while he is evolving as a father of two and as a person, Kohli the cricketer is hungry, passionate, aware, but, above all, human. The same as ever.

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