TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WHEN Quinton de Kock scored the first century of this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) two Sundays ago, the attendant media made all the right noises. But nothing more.
His 108, which helped Delhi Daredevils beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by seven wickets, was lauded as a fine innings in its own context.
It was not talked up as a bolt of brilliance from cricket’s cosmos come to change the game as we know it forever – like it might have been had Kohli scored those runs.
That fuse was duly lit this Sunday when Kohli made an unbeaten 100 for RCB against Gujarat Lions.
Gujarat won the match by six wickets but that hardly mattered as the media glowed with reports on Kohli’s cracker of an innings.
One headline, in The Hindu, went where it has been forbidden to go: “The Kohli graph is much similar to Sachin’s.”
The paper went to creative lengths to put Kohli and Tendulkar on the same page. Readers were reminded that Tendulkar also scored his first – and only – T20 century in a losing cause, that both Tendulkar and Kohli made their tons against teams new to the competition, that those teams, the now defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Gujarat, wore “kitschy orange outfits”, and that Brendon McCullum was a member of both sides.
Part of the fuss is about the fact that Kohli has passed 50 in seven of his last nine T20 innings for RCB and India.
Kohli is also India’s test captain, and a furiously articulate man who is not short on the kind of confidence that, unchecked, easily deteriorates arrogance.
Whatever time of day or night De Kock shambles sheepishly into the room, it’s difficult to believe he has not been tipped out of a comfortable bed moments earlier. Words don’t come to him nearly as easily as furiously articulated strokes.
At 27, Kohli is a giant of the game. At 23, De Kock is Jack doing a fine job of climbing the career beanstalk.
But there’s more to this than cricket. For a start, there’s 10.3-million – the difference between Kohli’s 10.5-million Twitter followers and De Kock’s 133 000.
De Kock last posted almost a year ago. Kohli’s latest tweet was on Sunday morning, when he wished Tendulkar a happy 43rd birthday. Then he went out and played that innings. Hello, Bollywood? Do we have a script for you …
Which brings us to the women in – or freshly out of – the lives of De Kock and Kohli.
If Sasha Hurly walked into a room crowded with cricket fans, few would know she was De Kock’s fiancé much less an actuarial science student. A smattering might wonder where they had seen her before – she was a dancer at the 2009 IPL.
Not so Anushka Sharma, a Bollywood star and Kohli’s newly ex-girlfriend. How big a star? She has 3-million fewer Twitter followers than Kohli and 7.3-million more than De Kock.
Sharma was named Bollywood’s highest grossing female actor last year. She was also nominated for five other awards, among them “Most Glamorous On Screen Couple (with Ranveer Singh)” and “Most Glamorous Real Life Couple (with Virat Kohli)”.
Her and Kohli’s life together was painful to watch from the distance of the media, where scenes of them grim-faced and gingerly stalking through packs of yapping reporters and snapping photographers appeared all too frequently.
Cruelly, their break-up was celebrated in cricket quarters as just what Kohli needed to return to form. It helped that argument that the split coincided with the start of his current purple patch.
In fact, De Kock should count himself lucky. He is a fine player able to live what seems a healthy, normal private life.
Kohli, for all his talent, is only half that person.