If one was left disbelieving, Virat Kohli himself was grinning ear to ear, perhaps wondering what the cricket board’s PR machinery was turning him into. In what must have felt like an out of body experience, he thanked the media for all support and criticism, signing off with a “God bless you”. While Kohli’s stock as batsman soared in Australia, his boorish behaviour had marred those successes.
From the time the team landed in Sri Lanka though, the young India skipper leading in his first full series has tried hard to keep smiling, to show he has mellowed. It showed when he fielded questions on Rohit Sharma playing ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara in the Galle Test or his own batting blip.
Concerns one had lost the old Kohli briefly vanished when he kicked the ball away with a choice word after he caught debutant Kusal Perera in the first innings. There was a war cry running up to celebrate with Ishant after he dismissed Chandimal on Day 4.
But those were fleeting moments as he has tried to project a new image, confidence as the leader of his group which is willing to pull together, clearly evident. At the post-series media conference, he was asked how much he has grown as skipper.
He laughed: “I don’t want to say I’ve grown as a captain because if I make a mistake again, I’ll be made a child again. Let things be the way they are right now. It is time for us to celebrate a series win. The mistakes I make in future will be corrected, but it’s important to cherish the good moments as well.
“I don’t want to think I’ve grown as a captain or behave differently now. As long as my team-mates are happy with what we are doing and the management is happy, I think the small little things can be managed.”
But one need not worry that Kohli would from now on become boring. The Cheeku peeked through when asked about harnessing Ishant’s aggression. “I was very happy with the incident when he was batting because it happened at the right time for us, because we had to bowl yesterday and they made him angry… And the way he bowled in the second innings, he didn’t concede a boundary for 19 overs. That’s the kind of pressure he created on those batsmen because of one incident.
“It was important not to let things go out of hand, but at the same time I was very happy he has an aggressive mind set, and an angry fast bowler is a captain’s delight.”