He loves the Aston Martin, Ed Hardy shirts and is the only Indian cricketer with heavily tattooed arms (a Golden Dragon on his forearm is apparently for luck). He chats about sunburn parties in Goa and frequents clubs in Delhi’s GK-1. He’s like any other 22-year-old boy interested in girls, but was the only one lucky enough to flirt with actress Genelia D’Souza on national TV. Whether by choice, or accidentally, Virat Kohli is Team India’s latest sex symbol.
One of the most promising batsmen of recent times, he burst into the limelight after a memorable performance in 2006, his debut Ranji season. One such day was a turning point in his life. His father who suffered from a brain tumour died of a stroke that morning.
Virat went to the field, scored 90 runs and came back for the funeral rites. “He looked blank but continued to bat,” a player told The Indian Express then. “He changed after that day,” his mother Saroj Kohli has been quoted saying. Cornerstone, the sports PR company who signed him, closely guards the secrets of his off-field personal life. “He completed his Class 12,” insists an employee when asked about his schooling.
Virat, who was raised in Uttam Nagar, trained at the West Delhi Cricket Academy since its inception in 1998, and its website has posted him as one of their success stories. At the same time, he used to play matches at the Sumit Dogra Academy in Vasundhara Enclave near Noida. Boys who trained there saw a hero in Virat. He stood out among the eager beavers as well as the talented.
“Virat was gifted and had very strong arms, a feature that you can’t make out from his physical frame till he starts playing. Everytime he played, he scored high,” says one of his former mates. It is this on-field personality, called noticeable by sports commentators that has made him a poster boy of youthful sexiness. What helps is the reluctance he portrays when it comes to being media friendly.
“Why should I speak to the press if Dhoni doesn’t?” he once asked a journalist. What’s also odd is how a number of sports experts who talk about him do not want their opinions to be cited!
Cheeku, as his teammates call him, wasn’t just another player, he also captained his team and won the U-19 World Cup in 2008. From there to cavorting with Genelia in Fast Track advertisements, a brand that caters to the playfully sexy youth, has made Virat a trophy. He is clearly not mortified by love-bite inflicted bruises and public intimacy at an ATM in the advertisement.
Those who know him since his adolescent days say he was always a ladies’ man, enjoyed clubbing and craved for female attention. “His Genelia stunt is going to last him his whole life,” laughs a senior cricket commentator. His manager would have us think that he has, “matured over the years and is now more of a stay-at-home person”, the college girls aren’t paying heed.
Carefully chosen endorsements have helped Virat position himself as the next best thing. Flying Machine jeans, Fast Track accessories, and Sangam Suitings bolster his image as a young sex symbol.
His growing fan base is evidence that something is working. He has more than 15 fan clubs and
Facebook pages, with an equal number of female and male fans. Built on shared knowledge, gossip and photographs collected from his outings, women are frantically posting questions about his relationship status. “I didn’t know he had a girlfriend. I’m so sad!” wrote one college girl on his fan page that has more 69,000 members.