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Cricket megastars: Celebrities and concerned citizens

If MS Dhoni is charmingly old world, current Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli is the exact opposite, feels columnist Amrit Mathur.

cricket Updated: Nov 30, 2017 09:28 IST
Virat Kohli,MS Dhoni,Sachin Tendulkar
Virat Kohli (L) took over captaincy of the Indian cricket team from predecessor MS Dhoni.(AFP)

If playing cricket is tough,being a cricket celebrity is no less challenging. In the pre-mobile/internet/social media era, the roles were clearly defined. Those days, players were restricted to cricket and fans looked at them from a distance.Today, the influence of players extends far beyond the boundary of cricket.

Sporting heroes are downloadable content, available at the click of a button, splashed across the media.They are embedded in our lives 24/7 and in a partnership that works for both,the media chases stars and stars invite fans into their lives.

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In a wired world, stars can’t escape being celebrities but the accompanying attention is a double-edged sword. Players are expected to meet high standards of conduct and often required to take a position on sensitive matters about which they might know little. Plus the bother of unrelenting scrutiny, where every move, every word is assessed and judged. A cricket celebrity is an all-rounder — a player, concerned citizen and a responsible Indian.

Still, Indian cricket’s three current megastars — SRT/MSD/ Virat — have navigated this tricky world remarkably well. Each in his own special style. SRT combines achievement with humility. He is a modern-day royalty with the touch of a commoner. SRT is the role model who uses his power for public good; for him fame is an opportunity and a responsibility. During his playing days, he rejected offers to promote cigarettes, fulfilling a promise he made to his father. Now, he plays for Unicef, polio eradication, specially-abled children, Swacch, beti padhao, and much else.

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SRT is the model celebrity, contributing to public life and ‘giving back’ to society. On sports and other issues, he has a powerful voice. Compared to him, MSD is a silent celebrity who speaks through his actions. His fascination for the men in uniform is sincere, not a public relations strategy. A man of dignity, MSD maintains an aura of suspense around him. He shuns the media glare and guards his privacy as a batsman protects his wicket. MSD’s absence from social media means the world is not privy to what he eats or where he holidays.

If MSD is charmingly old world, Virat Kohli is the exact opposite. Kohli represents the Gen next, a symbol of an India that is global, connected, aspirational and assertive. Totally front foot, Virat believes in making every moment count.

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Indian cricket’s current blockbuster star is a multi-tasking master. Apart from his lead role as the best batsman in the world across formats, Virat is a Page 1 celebrity, youth icon, supreme athlete and a rare Rajouri Garden Punjabi who made the supreme sacrifice of removing butter chicken from his diet.

He is also a khiladi who doubles up as a business entrepreneur with interests in the fitness, hospitality and fashion. Virat does not neglect his social role either and supports campaigns on pollution, road safety and fighting corruption.

In different ways, Indian cricket’s three megastars stand up for India.

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with the Indian Premier League in official capacity. The opinions expressed by the author in this article are personal)

First Published: Nov 30, 2017 09:26 IST