He is still the ‘King Kohli’ surrounded by people and his outspoken swagger remains a big part of his personality, but at the same time he looks a very different person and is very approachable.
Even if you’re not a manic cricket fan, you’d still like to break a barricade to get close to him and maybe just say ‘hello’.
There is every possibility that you will get a smile back and that seems very sincere, deep and genuine. Your day will be made up for and you will go home a happy man.
Cricket is a performing art and as a performer it’s not just his achievements, but the bond he slowly builds with his fans will contribute immensely to his rich legacy.
It’s not just about praising the alpha male you see on TV screens every night while enjoying your dinner. Now the relationship seems much more organic, where the admiration of fans and the reciprocity of their hero has become a two-way street.
Success teaches you a lot, but failure is certainly the greatest teacher. It may make you explore your inner vulnerabilities and interact more with the general public.
In these 14 days in various Australian cities, watching Kohli connect with his fans, sign autographs, give selfies, stand for a group photo or share a moment or two with familiar faces from the media, would make one feel like he no longer wants to alienate people.
Well-known actor Will Smith after the Oscar gate referred to what colleague Denzel Washington told him: “Be careful at your highest moment, then the devil will come for you.”
It’s not that he didn’t come by for selfies, autographs or a chat before, but the same Kohli in Australia 2015, England 2017 or 2019 looked like a man from another planet.
When you look at some of the selfies Kohli gave during his peak, it seemed like a mandatory exercise again. Perhaps the three years of unconditional support as he battled a lean spot made him realize the need to take people with him.
In Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide, this correspondent met at least 10-15 different people who showed their selfies with Kohli, while a few others showed signatures on caps.
A few also met him at a mall and some grabbed him at the coffee shop.
An Indian from Canberra, who had come to watch a match in Adelaide, said: “We saw him in the coffee shop with some of the support staff. We were a little apprehensive about approaching him, but he called us and posed with us.”
A junior hockey team from a Melbourne women’s club got to pose with the former India captain at the center.
Now when he sees familiar faces in the media, he would greet them with a smile and check on their well-being.
He smiled at a journalist turned Youtuber and spoke to him briefly as he walked back from practice. The journalists and youtubers (there are way too many) surrounded him.
“Aap sab aoo, (you all come),” he shouted to all of them, including photo and video journalists, and posed with them. He was very furious with a traveling freelancer in New Zealand in 2020 for an article he had written. He saw the journalist and asked him to come along for a photo.
The videos will give these youtubers thousands of hits and some of them will go to the couch laughing. Kohli is the reason for that smile. He is happy and it shows in his playing. The effortlessness is back with that smile.
As he celebrates his 34th birthday on Saturday, he has hit his second peak and one can bet his last shirt that even if another dip comes, rest assured a few million pure fans will join his bandwagon of ‘Viratians’ too.
Will India’s playing XI see any change?
Indian team management may be wary of changing the playing eleven for the all-important final group league game against Zimbabwe.
While Axar Patel (bowling a total of 6 overs and batting 9 balls) seems grossly underused, but dropping him isn’t an option as Yuzvendra Chahal doesn’t have the punching skills.
However, there is a possibility India will face England in the semi-final in Adelaide (Saturday will become clear) and Chahal has a better record than any Indian spinner against Jos Buttler’s side.
But throwing him straight into a semi-final could be unfair to him and so it remains to be seen if he will get a match against Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe also has several left-handers in the highest order.