Gestures aside, Virat Kohli and RCB’s men must chart their own course

The RCB Men’s team giving guard of honour to the Women’s team (Image: RCB Twitter/X)

The gesture that broke the Internet on Tuesday evening was when the newly named Royal Challengers Bengaluru men’s team gave their women counterparts a standing ovation. When Virat Kohli video-called the women, moments after they had clinched a nail-biting victory in the Women’s Premier League (WPL) final, it outlined the beauty of sport. A gesture premised on respect, it made an instant impact on everyone who watched it. For Kohli, however, the gesture doesn’t end there. It was just the first act of the drama. While all celebrated him for it, the next act was to say that he now needs to do what the women did – win the IPL for the men’s team.

At a time when Sachin Tendulkar was chasing the 100th 100, it had become a kind of national hysteria. On one occasion, he top-scored with 76 as India chased down a challenging target of 276 against West Indies in a Test in Delhi. For another player, the media would have gushed. For Sachin, the headline was “Tendulkar falls 24 short”. By any estimate, Tendulkar would get 200 text messages a day, which all said the same thing – that the 100th 100 was round the corner. In his words, “Wherever I went, people would only speak about the 100th 100.”

With the RCB women having won, Kohli could face something similar with everyone asking the same thing – when will he win the IPL? That’s where things become difficult. Pressure, which is very hard to actually define, starts to mount. Kohli could mentally be the strongest but he will still feel the pressure. His fans consider him the king who can make no mistakes. From him, they will brook no failure. Also, with the rumour mills suggesting that his T20 World Cup spot is on the line, there is additional pressure on Kohli going into the IPL. May be that’s why he said the word king isn’t really apt, and that people should call him Virat.

Being God isn’t easy. Being called king all the time is a huge burden to carry. It is conjectured that he is superhuman and can never fail. And each time he does, like in the World Cup final, it is as if he has indulged in some criminal act. Make no mistake, he is mortal. He can lose more than he will win, for that’s what sport is all about. That he hasn’t won a single IPL is proof that he is mortal. His fans would do well to understand that and give him space.

Yes, the women have won. And it is a huge achievement. But it has nothing to do with Kohli. That the women’s team has won in a five-team league doesn’t mean the men will follow suit in a tournament that has twice as many teams. The men would naturally try to win like they do every year. Each one puts in his 100 percent, and this year will be no different. So to add to the pressure by citing the women’s team’s example could actually be counterproductive.

While the video of the guard of honour was proof of all that is good about sport, it should be treated as a gesture and no more. The women have done their job. The men will soon start theirs. There aren’t any similarities, and there is no passing of any baton.  To push Kohli further is unfair, for he will push himself far more than anyone can imagine. If RCB does go on to win, it will be a fantastic moment for the team and the competition. But it will have nothing to do with the women’s team victory. Kohli, for one, doesn’t need any extra motivation to push himself. We can safely say that none of the other players do either.

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