I am a Pakistani and I admire the prodigy that is Virat Kohli
I was the stereotypical Pakistani; hate everyone playing for India and support any team that’s up against them.
I woke up early for the third day’s play of the fourth Test between India and England at Wankhede Stadium to see Virat Kohli getting to his double century. And of course, it followed with a typical Kohli celebration; a rather mature and modest celebration for a comparatively great achievement. I wanted to see it and when he flicked Adil Rashid to get to his double century, I gave him a standing ovation, albeit in front of the TV.
How did it all start?
How could I love someone who’s from India?
How dare I admire someone, no matter how classy or brilliant he is, if he’s from India?
How could I?
It just happened. I couldn’t help myself. Initially, I was the stereotypical Pakistani; hate everyone playing for India and support any team that’s up against them. My initial memories as a cricket fan were of cheering only for Pakistan. After gradually evolving and attaining insight regarding the game, I changed my constricted views, slowly opening my heart to all teams except India and changing my perception to ‘whoever plays well should win, barring India’.
One of my earliest memories of Kohli was when India thrashed Pakistan, as he hit a career best of 183 against us in the Asia Cup 2012 – at that time he was already making a mark as a sublime batsman. Eventually, my grudge against Kohli increased and I was defiant in considering him as anything but average. I still remember when he played that astounding inning against Sri Lanka in Hobart. I wanted India to lose despite how heroic Kohli’s inning was. I even remember how much I enjoyed the moment where Junaid Khan literally humiliated ‘The Virat Kohli’ in his own home ground.
Not liking Kohli was absolutely obvious. He was an arrogant and immature character on the field, someone who always considered himself larger than life and didn’t respect the opposition. After years of ardently following cricket, I finally started to acclaim Indian players. M S Dhoni became Mahi bhai for me. Loving Dhoni was easy; he was calm, respectable, sensible and a staunch cricketer unlike Kohli.
I was supporting the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL) only because AB de Villiers (my favourite cricketer) was playing and, as a fan of the team being led by Kohli, I got to learn more about the Kohli outside the cricket field. It was then that I came to know about the death of his father and that he played a match on the day after his father’s death. I started to read more about him, about his journey from U-19 to international cricket, about his life, his routine etc. I realised that there is a completely different side to Kohli than the one we see on TV and eventually, I came to realise that he is anything but ordinary.
After that, even though he would pile on the runs, it was his attitude that stopped me from eulogising him. But something was still missing, that element that would have me completely overwhelmed.
What really convinced me to love Kohli was his transformation; from an abusive young man to a mature senior member of the team. Ever since I’ve become his fan, the only time he has disappointed me was when he made those derogatory gestures towards the crowd on day two of the Sydney Test. Other than that, he moulded himself so aptly that no one can refute that he became increasingly sane with his choices and attitude. He realised the responsibility on him as a captain and, in IPL 2016, he even batted with a displaced wrist because it was a do-or-die game for his team. He went as far as scoring a century in that game.
He single-handedly took his team to the finals in that tournament. He’s always been there for his team whether in batting or fielding. Had he been a bowler, I’m sure he’d have excelled in that too. Kohli has come a long way – from a once-abuser to a brilliant captain. Love him or hate him, if you can’t admire what a prodigy Virat Kohli is, then sorry, you’re not a true cricket fan.