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Virat Kohli's grey hair shows what cricket captaincy really demands

The Indian skipper's roots have been ripening for around four years.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Aug 21, 2019, 10.02 AM IST|Original: Aug 21, 2019, 10.02 AM IST
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​​Greying is almost a badge of honour for​ Virat Kohli
Greying is almost a badge of honour for Virat Kohli.
In this era of the absurd, major things no longer always shock us, but small things do — like the greying of a 30-year-old man named Virat Kohli. The white strands in his plumage are the brushstrokes of time, and of the demands of cricket captaincy.

Kohli’s roots have been ripening for around four years. There was a time he tracked it carefully, as if it was his batting strike rate. In 2015, on the eve of his 27th birthday, he said, underplaying the demands of his job, “The only thing that has changed is I have 40 grey hairs in my beard.” On another occasion, not at all underplaying the demands of his job, he said, “I have grown 12 grey hairs over the past five days as I haven’t had too much of sleep.” By now he must have stopped counting. We all do after a point.

How we see the maturing of a sportsman depends on our own age. In the minds of the young, Kohli is an elder statesman of Indian cricket. Those older than him, though, are liable to feel a melancholic pang, like they do at the first signs of age in a younger sibling or child. Because for older observers, 2008 — when a butter chicken cheeked Kohli led India to the Under-19 World Cup win — was not that long ago. Kohli phoning his mother excitedly about earning a reward of just a few lakhs wasn’t that long ago either.

On the brighter side, Kohli is about to enter the best years of his life. The 30s are a time of prime youth coupled with exponential wisdom. Also, greying is almost a badge of honour for a captain, a sign that he cares. It sits well with the job profile, like for a president or CEO. Mike Brearley was a grey-haired captain. Sunil Gavaskar was salt and pepper by his mid-30s. Recent examples where captaincy caused a premature date with hair dye are Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Ganguly once wrote, “The job brings unbelievable amount of pressure. Look at MS Dhoni. He turned grey. Look at me. I lost so much hair.”

Star Of Brands: Virat Kohli Parts Ways With One, Still Endorses Puma, Audi

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There's nothing Brand Kohli can't do. Team India captain Virat Kohli is known to endorse over 17 brands and counting. According to Forbes, the world's highest-paid cricketer's brand value is at $14.5 million (approximately Rs 105 crore) , which is higher than that of football icon Lionel Messi, golf superstar Rory McIlroy and Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry. While a lot of brands endorses the cricketer, Kohli and one of his long-time association with a brand fell apart.

Dhoni said, “I get influenced by pressure but I have so much gray hair because I don’t let expressions on field reveal this.” In other words, he kept things bottled up, never an easy thing to do, and which can have far-reaching consequences.

In an interview, Kohli said, “It’s not captaincy that’s hard, it’s the criticism and everything else. Strategising and tactics. Which bowler to bring on and when? What field placing to use? It’s things like these that take a major chunk of your time and energy. That’s why you get grey hair.”

When Amitabh Bachchan turned 60, he wrote an essay in a newspaper. In it, he referred to a regional expression: Jab saatha, tab paatha (when you are 60, you are wise). In sports terms, one could say the same for 30, and for a scalp that reveals a few scars of responsibility.

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