Greg Chappell had recently called Kohli the “most Australian non-Australian cricketer of all time”
Arguably in an Australian manner, Virat Kohli has refused to accept being called the most Australian non-Australian, instead choosing to identify himself as a representative of a “new India”, which “stands up” to all challenges. The reception for Kohli on this tour of Australia has been unprecedented, with former Test players, newspapers and TV stations talking only about Kohli and the impact his absence will have on the three Tests that Kohli won’t play.
The most telling comment has come from Test great and former India coach, Greg Chappell, who, in a Sydney Morning Herald column, wrote that “Kohli is the most Australian non-Australian cricketer of all time”.
Kohli, though, was happy being himself.
“Firstly I would like to say that I have always been myself,” Kohli said. “The way my personality and character is, I think it is a representation of the new India. And for me that’s how I look at it. It’s not as such in my mind a comparison to me being similar to Australian mindset or anything like that.
“For me it’s how we have started to stand up as the Indian cricket team. And my personality has always been this way from day one. This for me is a representation of the new India where we want to take on challenges and move forward with optimism and positivity and make sure we are up and ready for any challenges that come our way.”
Kohli did acknowledge, though, that Australia, the country, does open up its arms to those who do well on its shores. “I have been touring this place for many years now, and it is a wonderful place to play cricket,” Kohli said. “When you perform well here, you earn the respect of the public. Obviously there will be anticipation and chat around wanting to see you play. Similarly with Jasprit [Bumrah] as well. Last time around he performed really well here. There is obviously going to be anticipation and excitement around him to watch him bowl. Similarly for me I have been coming here for many years.
“For us, more importantly it is all about the general public wanting to see India perform as a team, which was the highlight of our last tour as well. Our focus remains that. All the external things are not in our control. That is great for the publicity of the series but the focus truly and simply remains on how well we can perform as a team here.”
Knowing the Indian team, the others will be happy to fly under the radar and let Kohli take all the attention. That is true of the man who will take over the team when Kohli leaves. Ajinkya Rahane is a completely different personality to Kohli but the India captain promised similar intensity once he leaves.
“We have had a lot of mutual understanding and respect over the years,” Kohli said of his vice-captain. “We have had great partnerships batting together, which is based on trust and understanding of what is needed for the team. Jinks has done a tremendous job in the two practice games. He seems to be very composed and he knows the strengths of our team and how we need to go about things.
“Actually the way that we have played our cricket has been a collective effort of the whole team. It is a cultural effort and not only down to me strategising things and putting things in front of people. It is the whole team that has bought into it. They already know the template we play with and how we want to go about things. We are absolutely on the same page.
“I am sure he will do a tremendous job in my absence as well but the focus remains till the time I am here to provide captaincy and leadership and performances as a player to the best of my abilities and then from then on I am pretty confident that Jinks will do a tremendous job. I have said this before that I feel like this is his time to really step up and perform strongly as an individual and then captain as well.”
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo