Virat Kohli, No More the Internet Darling

Social Commentary

Virat Kohli, No More the Internet Darling

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

T

he mighty, it is undoubted, have fallen.

Last week, the Indian cricket team, those darlings of the media and the bearers of million-dollar advertising, gave us an unhappy ending we didn’t deserve. The bloodshed was evident right from the first few overs, as Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali started piling on the runs against the hapless Indian bowling attack, but the death knell sounded in the next innings, when India’s captain Virat Kohli allowed himself to be meekly dismissed by a fired-up Mohammed Amir.

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As the ball sailed from Kohli’s wayward bat into the cupped hands of a Pakistani fielder, time seemed to slow down. Kohli’s life flashed before my eyes – from his ascent into the public eye as the captain of the U-19 World Cup-winning squad, to his triumphant entry into international cricket, from the gigantic billboards of him endorsing Puma and Pepsi on the Mumbai highway, to his much-talked about relationship with Anushka Sharma, which blended two of India’s national drugs, Bollywood and cricket. I saw it all with stunning clarity, leading up to his coronation as India captain.

Virat Kohli was the king of the world. The man had the aura of infallibility and the nation eating out of his hands. Yeah sure, he could be overly aggressive, and came across as a hothead at times, but those were small transgressions in a man well on his way to becoming a legend. His star was on the rise, and we were all basking in its radiance.

And then the Champions Trophy slipped out of his hallowed hands and everything plunged into darkness.

For many like Kohli, the internet has written a legacy and an obituary long before they did anything to deserve either one.

As our Sunday evening went to hell in a hand basket, the blame accrued upon Kohli’s shoulders. Angry fans accused him of match-fixing and those who weren’t accusing him of breaking laws outright, were still muttering discontentedly about his “attitude” and “ego”. The immediate exit of the winner of the award for the Most Huggable Cricketer, Anil Kumble, as team coach in the aftermath of the defeat didn’t help with Kohli being labelled a brat, which we all know is a grave breach of sanskar. From his rise as an internet darling, the inspiration behind status updates and inspiring tweets, Kohli was primed for the fall. The tide, riding the impulsive bitch that is the internet, had turned.

The point before the debacle that was the Champions Trophy, will go down as the point I like to call Peak Kohli. Peak Kohli marks the point just before which the internet turns on its darlings, behaving much like its favourite animal, the cat, which will claw you right after letting you rub its belly. As the celebration of a persona, Kohli in this case, reaches critical mass, it implodes under its own hype.

The internet is an unpredictable lover. She can sweep you up in her arms and take you to the stars, and then casually let go of the harness after she’s done with you. For many like Kohli, the internet has written a legacy and an obituary long before they did anything to deserve either one.

But the man, who has ridden the internet rollercoaster harder than anyone else, is Muffler Man Arvind Kejriwal. He was the firebrand, the revolutionary, the upsetter of the established order who claimed the Delhi CM seat with a strong mandate, and #PaanchSaalKejriwal started to look like a possibility for 2019. But like all internet darlings before and after, Kejriwal slipped up by engaging in public rinsing of dirty laundry with his party cadre at that most dangerous of points, Peak Kejriwal. One thing led to another, as Kejriwal’s position of strength crumbled under him, leaving him significant only as prey for Prime-time Predator Arnab Goswami.

Virat Kohli

From his rise as an internet darling, the inspiration behind status updates and inspiring tweets, Kohli was primed for the fall.

Charlie Crowhurst/ Getty Images

The answer to whether Kejriwal deserved the diss or not, depends on where your political affiliation lies, but Kohli unequivocally did not. What went down during that final match can be filed away under a bad day at the office. Amir was bowling like a man possessed, and had the potential to dismiss Kohli even if he’d been in full flow. There was nothing glaringly unforgivable in the dismissal itself, except that it arrived at the point of Peak Kohli. Adoration sublimated into animosity, like a split second chemical reaction catalysed by the heat of the moment.

The heat will pass and life will resume at even keel. There is a life after Peak Kohli, even if it may be a less deified one. The internet may favour trends over talent. But still, its darlings find a way to live on.

Ask Jennifer Lawrence.

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