Confidence or arrogance? How Kohli became enemy No.1
The imposing influence of Virat Kohli on the psyche of Australia cricket was laid bare at a cricketing luncheon in Sydney earlier this year.
Aussie speedster Pat Cummins, when asked for his best prediction for the coming home summer, had the temerity to suggest Kohli - the Indian captain, the best batsman in the world and his team's great talisman - wouldn't score a century in the four-Test series.
"My brave, bold prediction: I'd say I think Virat Kohli is not going to get a hundred and we're going to knock them off over here," Cummins said at the Sydney function in June.
Cue an Indian meltdown as word reached the subcontinent and Kohli's 26.8 million Twitter followers.
When those fans pointed out - in their millions - that the man they simply call The King averages 62 against the Aussies in Australia, and that when he was last here he piled on 692 runs in four Tests, including four centuries, Cummins couldn't backtrack quick enough.
"I was almost trying to do the opposite to the way (the comments) were perceived," Cummins said in the aftermath.
"But I certainly didn't mean to say he's no good because I couldn't hold him in higher regard."
Remember, this was in June, nearly six months out from the start of a Test series that looms as the greatest immediate challenge of Justin Langer's coaching career.
But even then, no one associated with the Australian team wanted to have anything to do with even the slightest, mistimed sledge of Kohli because, like most of the best do, the Indian skipper thrives when the tension is at its greatest.
That's the reason he pushes so many buttons for Australian cricket fans and players.
Kohli, 29, plays the role of arch-enemy, of the villain, to perfection.
As the new Australian way becomes to play subdued but combative cricket, Kohli has cranked up his own dial and that of his team - with the full backing of Indian officialdom.
Indian cricket is happy to let Kohli get his way because when The King is primed, his team, an outfit idolised by the billions who live and breathe the game in the subcontinent, plays with supreme confidence.
That's despite India's series defeat in England this year, which suggested that for all their big-talking bravado about being the best in the world, they really were only the best in local conditions.
Still, Kohli maintains winning in Australia is not only achievable, but expected when the first Test starts at Adelaide Oval on December 6.
After losing the England series 4-1, Kohli believed only himself and his bowlers performed to expectations, and that India's undoing was brought about through losing games rather than the home team actually winning them.
"More often than not we have given the advantage to the opposition rather than them brilliantly turning around a situation," he said.
Some would call that the height of arrogance and disrespectful to the victors. Indian cricket supporters would call it confidence and agree entirely with him.
The rest of the cricket world would call it Kohli being Kohli. The man who regards nothing as impossible. Where every match is his to win, every bowler is his to conquer.
If you don't support India, that might seem an insufferable character trait.
But it's this character that has made Kohli such a force not just for himself, but for Indian cricket.
He wants you to hate him. He wants you to want to get him out so badly that you get lost in the moment of desperately trying to make him look silly.
It's because he's captain, too - and the age-old desire to cut the snake off at the head.
But the harder you try, more and more often, the sillier you are made to look.
Kohli has got 6286 Test runs worth of rebuttal, with 24 hundreds and just 19 fifties. Very few players have that conversion rate.
Even without the bat, when he's marshalling his troops from the slips, being verbal, cheering even the simplest wickets like he's won the World Cup, Kohli has the ability to wrinkle the opposition, players and fans.
He doesn't care if he's on top or not - he goes at it the same speed to get the result he wants.
It's the Kohli way. And this summer, The King is coming to get under our skin.
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