‘Superman’ Virat Kohli is trying to come to terms with his popularity in India where a cricketer is revered, and, if he is scoring tons of runs, he automatically attains the stature of a demigod.
In an interview to UK’s Daily Telegraph, the India Test skipper says that, at times, he enjoys being away from the country, so that “I can walk alone for an hour”.
With Sachin Tendulkar having long retired, India was looking for someone who would don the mantle and once Kohli started his century-scoring spree, there was no stopping his elevation to the level of a ‘superman’.
“I tried to fight it (accolades and popularity) initially. This country loves comparisons. The moment I started doing well I was already compared to him (Tendulkar) but it is like chalk and cheese in my book. People come up and have debate and say you can break his records. You fight it for a while. You think why me? There are 10 more people in the team why do I have to go through this?
“There was so much persistence from the fans letting them know what they wanted from me. I stood on the boundary and all they say is they want a century from me. But then I realised that, over a period of time, you set those benchmarks and those standards for yourself.”
Narrating an incident which left him thoroughly embarrassed after his scintillating century against Australia during the World T20 match at Mohali, Kohli said, “The main thing in our country is people like to grab you and touch you and feel if you are real or not. I felt people were reacting in a different way towards me (after the ton); they looked at me as if I was walking in a circular light (a halo) or something.
“I came out of security at the airport and there was this guy who came up to me. I told security to calm down. He stood next to me and said ‘show me your hands’. I held them out and he touched them and it was as if a flow of current went through his body. I said ‘bloody hell’. I was so embarrassed. I think he thought I was a superman or something. When I go away from India I go for a walk alone for an hour,” said Kohli.
The skipper says that at times such things can be unnerving and that his family and close friends keep him from getting distracted. “I have a strong family structure, very close with my family, few friends. Those things really matter especially in this country where there are so many distractions, people wanting a piece of you,” he said.
“It (superman status) is part of being a cricketer in India. If you run away from it, it is going to haunt you, pressurise you and pull you down. I started to appreciate it,” he says, perhaps hinting that he has finally come to terms with the hype – good or bad.