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Putting ‘Nation First’ in the line of duty

Controversy and Virat Kohli seem to have become an unbreakable pair. One or the other controversy seems to be clinging on to the Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli, more than his gear in recent months. It cannot be denied that the flamboyant Indian captain has infused a newfound spirit of never say die attitude in his team players topped with a strict fitness regime to take on their competitors, specially the Australians. The team follows suit because the captain leads by example. His fiery and explosive demeanour on the field and countering sledging with sledging in tense situations has become the new normal. As a result, his presence on the field and outside in press conferences remains central to Team India putting up a fighting performance and getting over the line. There is no doubt that during the tour of India to Australia, Team India will look to feed off his aggressive captaincy and cricketing greatness to match up to the might of the fully packed Australian team.

But, for that he needs to lead from the front through the tour without courting any more controversy. However, the Indian captain has barely recovered from the controversies triggered by the spat between his wife Anushka Sharma and Indian cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar during the recently concluded Indian Premier League, and his remarks on the social media telling his fans to ‘leave India’ if they did not like Indian cricketers. His decision to seek ‘parental leave’ to be with his wife, who is expected with their first child, after the first Test has triggered another controversy. Quite expectedly, the Indian fans have vented out their frustrations over the social media and Indian cricketing legends like Kapil Dev too have expressed their dismay over his decision to leave the tour in between. Former Indian Skipper Kapil Dev in a recent interview said that ‘parent leave’ is a luxury for the current team which was not available to them. He recalled that his teammate Sunil Gavaskar was unable to see his newly born son Rohan for two and a half months while he was on the tour of West Indies in 1976.

It is also now a stuff of legend that Sachin Tendulkar was playing the 1999 world cup in England when he lost his father. He flew back to attend his father’s funeral and later rejoined the team for the rest of the tournament sporting a black arm band. Unfortunately, in the current pandemic scenario, due to quarantine regulations, this option is not available for Kohli. Saurav Ganguly, the current President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, who approved Kohli’s ‘parental leave’, was himself unable to see his daughter Sana, when he was touring South Africa in 2001. In 2015, during the World Cup in Australia, M.S. Dhoni’s wife Shakshi was expecting their daughter Reva, and the captain chose to stay put with the team. At being asked he said, “Not really…as of now I am on national duties so I think everything else can wait. The World Cup is a very important campaign.”

No wonder, the fans and cricketing legends have expressed their disproval of Kohli’s decision to avail the ‘parental leave’ after the first Test in a four Tests series. Australian tour is always a gruelling experience, mentally, physically and otherwise, and the absence of the skipper will severely dent India’s hopes of winning back to back Test series in Australia.

Many also argue that the Indian defence personnel deployed in India on the border and in conflict areas, have been unable to attend to their family commitments, including bereavements, in the line of duty. So why should there be an exception for the cricketers? This Nation Comes First principle is what the Indian cricket legends expect Virat Kohli to uphold. It will be a great welcome twist to the unfolding controversy if Anushka Sharma herself advises King Kohli to stay put with his troops and not abandon them on the battlefield mid-way. Well, there is every possibility that it may turn out this way because it is a great opportunity for India’s power couple to win back their fans and public support. India News too hopes that the Indian skipper will put ‘Nation First’.