Sure, Virat Kohli is an embodiment of our times. But in this day and age of stings and virals, he's also a victim, albeit of his own doing. Hours after his latest episode with the crowd, a Youtube video started doing the rounds of social networks.
It was also shot at the Wankhede, but not this summer. It was a setup - a bunch of Mumbai brats baiting the brash Delhiite with a chant that praised his victorious opponents. And while Kohli did react rather distastefully to the laughter, it wasn't really clear who abused whose mother. Then again, it didn't matter. The youngster with a history of outbursts - remember the bird to the crowd at the SCG - was held guilty until proven innocent for something he may or may not have done two seasons ago.
On the bright side, no match referee has so far said Kohli is "not in a mental state" to play. That dubious distinction belongs to a bowler whose ability to swing the ball both ways has been undermined by his violent temper. So, Praveen Kumar's empathy doesn't really come as a surprise. "In away games, the crowd sometimes gets the better of you," the Kings XI Punjab pacer told HT. "Peeche se koi gaali de raha hai (someone abuses you)... your concentration gets disturbed, and in the heat of the moment, it translates into on-field banter."
Mental health professionals make the distinction between the two kinds of aggression - instrumental and goal-oriented. "The former includes aggressive acts performed to achieve non-aggressive goals, something which many sports demand," says Dr Amit Bhattacharjee, mental trainer of India's only Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra. "It's the latter -when the intention is to harm one's opponent - which is unhealthy and needs to be controlled using deep breathing and meditation exercises."
All about rivalry
One of the famous instances of aggression in the middle involved the bowling coach of the Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore, long before the high-stakes T20 format had been conceived. "That was instigated," says Venkatesh Prasad of his tussle with Pakistan opener Aamir Sohail in the 1996 World Cup quarterfinal in Bangalore. "But it's good to be aggressive. I have no issues with a few words being exchanged, as long as players know where to draw the line."
That players - from the normally composed Rahul Dravid to Gautam Gambhir to Kohli - have come tantalisingly close to crossing that line is something Prasad readily acknowledges. "I just tell them they need to understand how much they can stretch it, that they need to be responsible for their actions," says the former India pacer. "Then again, whatever has happened this season, it has stemmed from a rush of blood. Nothing major."
Losing it in the heat of battle has become acceptable in any top-level professional sport, even if that happens in the gentleman's game. "As long as what happens on the field stays there," concur Praveen and Prasad, both insisting how those involved are back to being friends once they're off the field. Often, it is the result of a player not being in the pink of form. "As a bowler, if you haven't found your rhythm, and then someone says something, that's when the aggression bursts out," says Praveen.