On September 20, Virat Kohli tweeted a throwback picture to his 16-year old self, unruly hair yanked back, as if he had applied some coconut oil or probably just water as it doesn’t have the finesse of a gel. Alongside it was a recent slick photograph, groomed by hair stylists and even the eyebrows are groomed to perfection. The text read: ‘me looking at my younger self going’ and ended with two emojis – a shoulder shrug and a face palm.
It was an amusing little moment on his twitter feed from this year. It’s something he could have posted about his social media presence itself for that matter. Not just his personality and game, but Kohli’s social-media presence has changed drastically over the years. When he was in late teens, he used to be at Orkut, spilling a raw version of him, openly discussing all things teenagey. Just one item would suffice here, just to give you an idea. His bio had a line: ‘Books? F*%k em!’ Or in other words, he was like most of us.
The adult Kohli, alas to gossip-hunters among us, doesn’t give any salacious satisfaction on his Twitter feed. Why would he, of course? He is mature, ambitious, a man self-aware about his achievements, talent and destination – he is getting there with remarkable fire and commitment.
What a year he has had as a batsman and captain. It started with an historic series triumph in Australia and though the biggest heartbreak came midyear on a gloomy day in Manchester when India lost out to New Zealand in the World Cup semi-finals but he has ended the year on a high as the No. 1 ranked batsman in both Tests and ODIs in the ICC rankings.
A dream year, in many ways, where forget his hundreds, even stray shots like the mindboggling swat-flick has been raved by the likes of Viv Richards and Kevin Pietersen. He has been on twitter from September 2009 and has 32.9 million people following from around the world. It’s perhaps a good time to track his twitter feed for the year 2019 to see if it tells us something about him.
It’s a feed that you would expect from a world-famous sport star: raves about Indian cricket team, the odd gym training videos, lots of promotional material – from money transfer, energy drink, shoes, birthday wishes. It also has a quite a few love emojis, little fluttery heart symbols painted in red associated with photographs with his wife.
Kohli isn’t a man shy about showing his love on twitter. In fact, he can get quite mushy. Earlier this month, he tweeted his philosophy: “In reality there is only
love and nothing else. And when god blesses you with the person who makes you realise that every day, you have one feeling, gratitude.”
Most of his posts about Anushka Sharma go viral. Nothing less than 100K likes, or thereabouts. Holding hands in Bhutan, sipping tea together in outdoors, a hug in Australia – who doesn’t love two beautiful, successful and talented stars? For the Valentines day, he tweeted a picture of them just outside the South American restaurant ‘Nueva’ in Delhi, co-owned by his brother. He also tweeted on karvachauth, a North-Indian tradition where women fast for the wellbeing of their husbands. “The ones who fast together, laugh together, Happy karvachauth,” he tweeted.
Every now and then, a little bit of him would peep out from his feed. Like his food philosophy. This October, he took efforts to point out to the popular Game Changers documentary on Netflix. “Saw game changers on Netflix. Being a vegetarian athlete has made me realise what I have believed all these years regarding diet was a myth. What an amazing documentary and yes, I have never felt better in my life after I turned vegetarian.”
Notes to self, others
A rare moment of revelation came in November through a ‘note to self’ that he posted to his younger self. Kohli is a much-admired star but he isn’t as loved as Tendulkar or a MS Dhoni. Perhaps, it’s due to his self-admittedly brash younger days or his in-your-face aggressiveness that sometimes doesn’t sit well with all the populace, he is also a person who does get his fair share of brickbats.
In that note, he addresses a 15-year old Kohli, and says, “You will be loved by many but will be disliked too. By some who don’t even know you. Don’t care about them. Keep believing yourself.”
He followed with awww-ness about his father, who died when Kohli was 19. “Now you’re thinking those shoes dad did not gift you today. They mean nothing when compared to the hug he gave you this morning or the joke he cracked about your height. Cherish this. I know he can seem strict at times. But that’s because he wants the best for you. You feel that our parents don’t understand us sometimes.
But remember this – only our family loves us unconditionally. Love them back, respect them and spend all the time you can with them. Tell Dad you love him. A lot. Tell him today. Tell him tomorrow. Tell him more often.” He ended it on a lighter note with a bit of wistfulness about parathas, that he eschews these days. “And… savour those parathas buddy! They’ll become quite a luxury in years to come.
No hot topics
Kohli isn’t someone who tweets on hot-button state-of-country topics. His last attempt was during demonetisation days when he raved about the move but since then has kept his cards close to his chest. This year, he tweeted to the prime minister Narendra Modi twice, first on May 19 when the election results came out, and later on Modi’s birthday. He also posted condolences at the deaths of politicians Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.
He does react to tragedies, in country and elsewhere. Like the terrorist attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, or the spate of deaths after ferocious floods in Assam and the death of army personnel in the Pulwama attack. When the news of gruesome gang rape and murder of a woman veterinarian broke out, he tweeted, “what happened in Hyderabad is absolutely shameful. It’s high time we as a society take charge and put an end to these inhumane tragedies.”
As you would expect from someone of his stature, most of his tweets are one-way traffic – from him to the world at large. His year on twitter though had started with a banter with Kevin Pietersen over a photo in January, one of the rare times, apart from saying thanks to birthday wishes, that he interacted with another.
Seeing Kohli tweet a photograph of himself, captioned ‘Basking in sun’, where half his face is just about lit up by sun, the rest in shadows, Pietersen cracked up: “Looks a bit like you’re more in the shade, bro!”. Kohli responded, “Well in that case you should’ve seen my first caption. Much worse. PS – the face is still in the sun”. Pietersen came back with, “I’ll let you off cos I love you!”
That was that. At the end of the year, he would gracefully reply to Viv Richards’s rave about him “Amazing, simply amazing knock” after his knock of 94 against
West Indies in the first T20 earlier this month. Kohli responded, “Thanks big BOSS. Coming from you means a lot” taggedwith the grateful emoji of two hands pressed together.
Fan in him
In press conferences, he has supported and praised the likes of Glenn Maxwell or shown his support to Steve Smith on field in world cup, urging a largely Indian crowd not to boo but clap. On twitter, he raves about his players often and occasionally he would reach out to a cricketer from another team. Like twice with Dale Steyn; first to wish him speedy recovery and then on his retirement, when he called him a pace machine. He also took time out from world cup to tweet to Ambati Rayudu who had announced his retirement in a huff after world cup rejection: “Wish you well going forward Ambati, You are a top man”. Rayudu, of course, has since withdrawn his retirement and would be playing in the IPL. In May, he tweeted his second birthday wish of the year to Ravi Shastri – the first was to Sachin Tendulkar – and wrote about Indian team coach: “friend, mentor and above all fantastic human being”.
There are the occasional interactions with non-cricket athletes like the time he wished Harry Kane, the English footballer, Russ Wilson, an American football quarterback who had sent him his jersey, and the German footballer Thomas Muller, who had wished him well for the World Cup.
And once in May, there was a photograph with a non-athlete, the queen of England. She and Prince Harry had met him along with the other world cup captains. On Mothers day, he tweeted his mother’s photograph. The other non-celebrity picture he posed was with a group of kids saying the ‘future looks bright’ and a couple of pictures of his agent and friend Bunty Sujdeh. There are couple of photos with his dog as well, and as you would expect from a canine-loving world we live in, they went really viral with more than 100k likes and retweets. In a recent post around Christmas, one of his rare retweets, he shared a Star Sports video of him going around as Santa Claus, distributing gifts to kids. There are also the greetings on various other festivals from Diwali, Gurupurab, and Eid.
Language no bar
He tweets in English, barring three occasions. When he posted a picture of himself in April with a turban around his head and ran a text, “Sat shri Akal Saarreyyun nu!” In May, when he tweeted in Kannada to his RCB fans, thanking them for their support at the end of a disappointing IPL season. And one in Marathi, this month, after Shardul Thakur’s heroics with the bat that helped India snatch a thriller against West Indies — “Tula maanla re thakur”. His tweets with photographs with MS Dhoni went viral, and once in September, when he posted about Dhoni – “You will always be my captain – it triggered a huge speculations about whether Dhoni was about to retire. In October, he also tweeted his love for Test cricket: “Always looking forward to Test cricket”.
The cricketing posts are usually two-pronged, once before a game with a training pic from the nets session. Sometimes, before a game or a tour, he would post a flight picture with some of his team-mates. And after the game or a series win, always tagged with a Indian flag emoji, he would post a group photo or a collage of photos from the match.
There are some photographs of him batting or celebrating in those collages, but the only separate batting picture that he put of himself this year, in November, is perhaps the most eye-catching of them all — clad in whites, playing an absolutely gorgeous cover drive. The accompanying text tells us what that shot means to him: “A good cover drive is therapeutic”.