Drama and action are but part of any sport. What if the ingredients of the drama happen outside the arena? It can still be riveting depending on the actors behind the act and that is why cricket icon Virat Kohli and tennis great Novak Djokovic, the two super stars in the sports world today, have to be thanked for the kind of interest the two demanded for what they did recently! If Kohli stunned Indian cricket followers and abroad too with his announcement to step down from Test captaincy then Djokovic left the tennis world aghast with his determined but vain effort to take part in the Australian Open as an unvaccinated player. But there the commonness ended. While Kohli in the aftermath of his decision received plaudits for all that he had done for Indian cricket ever since he took over the reins from M.S. Dhoni seven years ago, Djokovic was the subject of scorn and sympathy depending on which side of the Serbian one were. But one thing was clear in the end, the widely known Serb had cut a huge sorry figure by his vain glorious approach.
Indeed much has been happening in Indian cricket lately, not just the disaster in South Africa but prior to that the way talks surrounded Kohli for the way he moved away earlier from limited over cricket captaincy. Perhaps murmurs around him may or may not have hurt him but it was his batting form that was beginning to prove a worrying point. So when the Indian team landed in South Africa, Kohli must have thought of a fresh beginning which included adding a little muscle to his batting abilities in addition to keeping the Indian cricket flag flying high. Kohli's success abroad had become well known by now and the way things started with an emotion-packed victory at Centurion, the first by an Asian country, the predictions had begun to turn rosy. India would finally capture the final frontier winning the three-Test series too, was the optimism among the diehards. But the reversal did not take long! Whatever happened to the batting till then had looked capable or the bowling, particularly the pacers who were begun to be described as the best that had happened to Indian cricket for a long long time. Everything went haywire and suffice to say, the fall from a high was deafening. Kohli must have realised he as the leader could do little, his batting woes continuing and his aggressive show of intent on the field failing to inspire.
One thing this Delhi-born cricketer still achieved by timing his decision to quit captaincy just after the Test series was to put this dismal team show in the shade! For, the focus turned to all the positives that Kohli had done ever since he came to the helm. Statistics portrayed his contribution glowingly. 40 wins in 68 matches as captain made him the best among Indian skippers over time and what is more, placed him fourth in the international list behind Graeme Smith of South Africa, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh (both of Australia). No wonder tributes poured in from all parts of the cricket world and from stalwarts. Former India cricketer Wasim Jaffer, the highest run getter in Ranji cricket, perhaps summed it up best when he tweeted “When Virat took over as Test captain, India winning a Test overseas was an achievement, now if India loses an overseas Test series it is an upset. And that is how far he has taken Indian cricket forward and that will be his legacy”. Nothing more need to be said of this plucky cricketer who is also the most successful Test captain in terms of batting average. With an average of 54.80 he left behind such classy players like Ponting, Clive Lloyd (West Indies) and Allan Border (Aus). Indeed if only his form had not dipped as it did, perhaps Kohli would have been somewhere else and not just on 20 centuries as of now. It would be the wish of every cricket lover in India to see him progress further now that he would be without the burden of being a skipper.
It would be this overwhelming acceptance of greatness that will be something missing with regard to Djokovic after his latest faux pas. Somehow this Serbian has a penchant to be a touch controversial! Remember the US Open 2020 incident when he accidentally hit a line judge with the ball. He was disqualified and had to leave the event with a red face. Djokovic's skills can be incomparable but the poor man suffers from want of self-control. With the latest incident he has embarrassed not only himself but tennis lovers all over. The central point was the suspense he had kept on his vaccination status. In this period of pandemic when the world over vaccination has been the password for safety, to end up trying to force his way with an exemption into Australian Open, a championship where ruled like a Lord, Djokovic perhaps overreached himself. That he faced deportation finally and perhaps will be slapped with a ban too reflects poorly on this great tennis player's credentials. Along with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal he forms the trio who have won 20 Grand Slam events each. Djokovic has the best chance of overtaking the other two but what will be the price he will be paying for the greatness he is seeking! Being impulsive can be so damaging.