Mumbai: The impact of Virat Kohli’s in-your-face persona on young, impressionable cricketers is a cause for concern for Rahul Dravid. The former India captain feared aping Kohli’s aggressive words and approach might lead to youngsters not being authentic to themselves.
While Dravid admitted to cringing at some outrageous things Kohli says on occasions, he also defended him by saying that so long as he was true to himself, and it helped get the best out of him it shouldn’t matter.
“I think the game is still about performance. So let’s not take that way from someone like Kohli,” Dravid said at the Bangalore Literature Festival on Sunday.
“That’s his personality. People have asked me, “Why didn’t you behave like that?’ But that’s not what got the best out of me. I would have been inauthentic to myself if I had tried to put tattoos and behave like Virat.
“Sometimes, especially before an Australia series, you’ll find Virat saying the most outrageous things. And I read the paper and cringe at times. But then I think back, maybe he actually wants that contest. He wants that lip on the field because that gets the best out of him. Now that might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But at the end of the day, he’s got to do what gets the best out of him. Ajinkya Rahane is very different and he gets the best out of himself by doing different things. I think being authentic to yourself is very, very important.
“If engaging in a contest, sometimes needling the opposition, is getting the best out of Virat – and it certainly is because his level of performance is second to none in the world today – then so be it. You can’t blame him for it.
“What worries me a little bit is a lot of that gets translated into junior cricket. That’s the scary thing for me, not so much what Virat does. Kids at 12, 13, 14 want to become the next Virat Kohli, not realising that maybe that’s not authentic to who they are.”
During the Test series against Australia earlier this year, Kohli took on Steven Smith and alleged systematic DRS abuse. He also said his relationship with the Australia players was irrevocably damaged. Dravid was happy that cricketers today were a far more confident lot and that the financial security that came with playing the game even at a lower level empowered them.
“I think there’s a certain confidence and belief in Indian cricket today which has come about through results” he said.
“It’s definitely more evident today than from the time I started. I remember I was sitting on a flight and I was really excited going on one of my early tours and said, “It’ll be great if we can win the series.” And what I got was, ‘We’ll be lucky if we can win one Test match. Let’s hope we can win one and draw the rest”.
People expect India now to win. Certainly, there is a level of fitness, confidence and belief that probably didn’t exist when I was starting out.
‘When I look at a lot of the India A guys or Under-19 guys that I coach, I can see the fearlessness and confidence. It also comes with a certain level of financial security.
For me, as a 21-22-year old, I knew that the B.Com degree I barely managed to get in college wasn’t going to suffice, and I needed to make cricket work.
There was a pressure to make cricket work and make it possible for me to lead a good life. Today’s cricketers know that even if they don’t play for India, they can still make a very good living for themselves. I’m very happy about that.”
Dravid, however, had one cautionary note for young players: they don’t need a player agent until the time they reach a high standard of cricket.
“One of the things I like to tell young cricketers is that you don’t really need an agent. Okay, a Virat Kohli or a Mahendra Singh Dhoni today needs an agent because if they have to focus on their cricket and play at that high level, they need to ensure that somebody else is looking after their finances,” he said.
“They don’t want to be chasing their dates, or chasing people for money that is owed. But at the younger age of 17, 18 and 19, having agents is definitely not necessary. I don’t see any big hoarding of a 17 or 18-year old. The only hoardings you see today are Kohli or Dhoni or one or two other Indian players. So it’s only when you reach that standard of cricket do you need agents to support and help you.”