IPL 2023: Return to roots has a humbling effect on Kohli

It broke the internet, not surprisingly, for very rarely one has seen Kohli indulging in such a gesture

Kohli touching childhood coach's feet (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ ANI)
Kohli touching childhood coach's feet (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ ANI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A return to one’s roots can often have a humbling effect on the most larger-than-life, even abrasive of personalities. It was perhaps such a moment when Virat Kohli, the reigning deity of Indian cricket, bowed to touch the feet of his childhood coach Rajkumar Sharma before a nearly full Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday.

It broke the internet, not surprisingly, for very rarely has one seen Kohli indulging in such a gesture. It was after the gap of a number of years that the cricketing icon returned to Kotla – his ‘home’ in the true sense of the term – with the pandemic forcing the league to move overseas for two seasons and then being restricted to limited venues last year.

Kohli, who became the first batter to cross the 7000-run mark in IPL on Saturday, may have never turned out for the Delhi franchise – but carries a piece of Delhi kaa kadak launda (the hardcore Delhi boy) spirit at heart right through. Be it the notoriety for the short fuse despite being such a senior statesman of the game, or the love for the kulcha-chole (the signature Delhi snack), the intrinsic Kohli has not quite changed – neither has his respect for his first coach.

Sharma was an invitee by the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) to ring the bell and kickstart the game, though it’s anybody’s guess about who wrote the script. Whatever be it, the gesture had the desired effect barely a few days after he was slapped with a hefty fine of Rs 10 million (one crore) by the BCCI for getting involved in a bitter post-match altercation with Gautam Gambhir, the Lucknow Super Giants mentor.

 ‘’Virat Kohli touching the feet of his childhood coach, Rajkumar Sharma. Man of culture’’ tweeted a fan. Another handle, run by his fans, called Virat Kohli WorldWide, said: ‘’Virat Kohli touching the feet of his childhood coach. He knows whom to respect.’’

 There is no gainsaying that the master-pupil relationship between Kohli and Sharma had been almost a part of Indian cricket’s folklore – much like that of Sachin Tendulkar and the late ‘Sir’ Ramakant Achrekar. Sharma had been like a father figure to him after Kohli lost his father suddenly as an 18-year-old, and the incident of him giving gurudakshina by sending his elder brother with the keys of a new Skoda car on Teachers’ Day is very much in public domain.

The RCB social media team interviewed coach Sharma as a build-up for the match, an outing that ended in an embarrassing defeat to the under-performing Delhi Capitals. Kohli was in his element though as he hit his sixth half-century in this edition of the IPL, but the Capitals wicketkeeper-batter Phil Salt launched into a savage counterattack to finish the match with three overs to spare.

While one has to wait for sometime to know if the last has been heard about the Kohli-Gambhir skirmish, there was a gesture at the end of the match which signalled a possible thawing of the recent cold vibes between him and former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly.

 Much has been made of the fact that after the first leg match between these two teams, Ganguly – now Director of Cricket Operations of the Capitals – avoided shaking hands with Kohli in the mandatory post-match ritual. The two had apparently unfollowed each other on Instagram, raising suspicion of yet another flashpoint when DC and RCB met for the second leg game.

The backstory to this is all too well known as Kohli had insinuated that Ganguly, as the then BCCI president, had lied about his unceremonious ouster as the captain of ODIs. It was a pleasant sight to see Dada engaged in a warm handshake with Kohli after the game and having a quick chat too.

Love him or hate him, you can never keep Kohli out of the news!

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