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A portrait of the glamorous cricket captain as captive slave

He is popularly known to have a status that is, as of now, beyond all threats and far from the slightest whiff of insecurity.

Pulakesh Mukhopadhyay |

24×7 factotum or neighbourhood bore, used-car salesman or IT whizkid, what everyone says apropos of Virat Kohli is that, when it comes to Indian cricket, he is the one who lays down the law.

He is popularly known to have a status that is, as of now, beyond all threats and far from the slightest whiff of insecurity.

It is something akin to an others-abide-our-question-thou-art-free stature.
The putative omnipotence is reflected not only in the way the bowling is farmed out or the batting order is decided on or who is in and who is out of the first-choice 11, but, also, it extends into areas the hoi polloi cannot penetrate, strategic silence being one of the cricket control board’s articles of faith.

But then, it might not be all that simple. Even if you are inclined to believe that Kohli is the god of all things, small or large – the power is wielded actually by those who put in so much money to pull out so much more in due course – you might not be naive enough to nurture any hope that something he has said about his disagreeable workload will make the governing authorities allow a let-up in the way the modern cricketer finds himself squeezed as he tries to earn his living.

Kohli is resting now, even as some of his peers slog it out in a Twenty20 series in Sri Lanka which is quite unlikely to go down in history as an event that shook the world, and, probably spoken to by a television network, has let us in on his penchant, when away from work, for lazing around.

In the process, some niggles are healing too. Even machines need looking after, after all. The cricketing workload, he is quoted as saying, was not agreeing with him.

He had clearly needed the respite they eventually granted him, leaving him free to enjoy himself, however briefly. So there are moments in life when even the glamorous, wealthy and powerful cricketer feels probably just as vulnerable as the throngs of unfortunates in Modern Times.

The celebrity, of course, does not live from hand to mouth, unlike the crowds in the Charlie Chaplin film, but the vulnerability of the widely projected all-conquering heroic character dispels, however fleetingly, the illusion of reality that cricket is cocooned in.

In a way, it is like chancing upon one’s favourite hero and finding a bald pate where there should have been billowy hair. Time was when the annual international captains’ conference at Lord’s used to be preceded by resentful references to fixture congestion.

There is no getting away from it. It was a point the more famous ones agreed on invariably, but it would also have been the area of disagreement between the cricketers and the game’s minders.

Given the way things are, it is easy to deduce how the referrals went. So Kohli works himself into the ground, and when a spot of rest is allowed by those who do not really need to work, he is presumably grateful for small mercies.