Almanac Rewind: Villain? Virat Kohli and the Hadlee effect

Virat Kohli has been having some fun since he came to Australia, hasn’t he? In what has otherwise been an enjoyable and competitive test series, Kohli has been at the centre of all of the verbal shenanigans. If social media is anything to go by (I would recommend going by it as frequently as possible) we Aussie types are not nearly as enamoured with his behaviour as we have been with his exquisite batting and enterprising captaincy in Adelaide.


So why have we taken a relatively quick dislike to Kohli, other than it potentially saving time? There seem to be two schools of thought: either that seeing an aggressive and mouthy cricketer is, for Australians, like looking into a mirror and only seeing the ugly bits; or that he represents the new, young, arrogant face of cricket with a wallet that not so much bulges as throbs at the seams and a sense of entitlement to match. In short, other than being very good at that batting lark, he represents all that is wrong with modern cricket.


Let me add a third theory, we’ll just call ‘Hadlee’s a w*nker’. Not wanting to sound too much like a lawyer on Deal or No Deal, let’s prosecute the cases.


The man in the mirror


Virat Kohli is, undoubtedly, a gloriously talented cricketer. His batting during this series has been enjoyable to watch (no matter how much I mutter ‘get out’ at the screen). The only criticism he faces with bat in hand is the timing of his dismissals. As a fielder, once out of the slips cordon, he is sharp as a Hattori Hanzo sword (confused? see either Kill Bill or 16th century Japan. Kill Bill may be more convenient). The run out of Marsh is evidence enough of that – hopefully as captain he places himself in that mid wicket or mid on part of the world as many have done before him. Just like Ricky Ponting and Allan Border.


He is also brash, talking a good game on and off the field – just like Michael Clarke, Mitch Johnson, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Ian Chappell and many other of our favourite Australian cricketers.


He is an aggressive captain. Although, the most aggressive thing he did as captain in the first four days of the Adelaide test was get in an argument with Warner. But on Day 5, when faced with a daunting run chase, he went for it. He turned what could have been a dull day’s cricket (see Adelaide Oval, Day 5, 2008) into a thrilling finish to a meaningful test. Just as Clarke, S. Waugh and I. Chappell would have done before him.


FIGJAM  or all that’s wrong with modern cricket


Virat Kohli is 26. He has played 32 tests, 146 one day internationals and 157 domestic T20 matches (to add to his 28 internationals). He provides personal endorsements for some 20 companies/products, from soft drink to clothes to motorbikes and cars to beer to women’s skin-lightening creams (I’m sure there’s an explanation that makes sense). Last year, SportsPro magazine named him the second most marketable athlete in the world. He dates a Bollywood actress.


They are some interesting figures (particularly his girlfriend, as Groucho Marx would say). It’s hardly surprising that this man just oozes entitlement and expects his opponents to respect him despite carrying on like a pork chop. It’s not a way to get Aussie fans to like you.


But to be fair, what overseas players do we actually like? Dan Vettori, Phil Tufnell, Monty Panesar – left arm orthodox spinners in losing teams, apparently. I also liked Danny Morrison – any fast bowler with tassels on his shoes is alright with me.


Hadlee’s a w*nker!


But, other than Kohli, who don’t we like? Kevin Pietersen, Jimmy Anderson, Sourav Ganguly and, most famously, Richard Hadlee. Our relationship with Muttiah Muralitharan is a little complicated to chuck onto this list.


As Jones the Butcher said in Dad’s Army: ‘they don’t like it up ‘em’. Let’s face it, no-one does (particularly bayonets). Perhaps especially us – the type we dislike are those who are good at sticking it up us. Kohli fits that mould. His batting has been exceptional and he has been confrontational. We prefer our opponents good but not threatening. And we certainly don’t like those who are up themselves, regardless of how well it is justified (noting Viv Richards’ standing waiver to this rule).


In summary


So what is the most compelling argument? As a classic fence sitter I’d suggest a little bit of all three. I haven’t even considered the joy that could be found in examining cultural issues (I mean what is a Gujjar, is Kohli one and does that make any difference to the way he interacts with the world?). If he was Australian would we admire him, or merely tolerate him as we do Warner?


However, now he is captain, Kohli is responsible for ensuring his team (himself included) adhere to the laws of the game, including playing in the spirit of the game. Whether he is up to the task only time (and thousands of tweeters) will tell.






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About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Good one Dave, but why the hand wringing?
    #2 and #3 are universal. We all despise and are privately jealous of the rich and talented (whatever their nationality). Envy is one of the 7 deadly sins for a reason.
    We all dislike those who show up our inadequacies. Wrath and pride.
    So obviously its #1.
    “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42)

    Warner/Johnson/Haddin may be a fool, but they’re our fool
    If they think they’re better than us they’re wrong

    We talk real funny down here
    We drink too much and we laugh too loud
    We’re too dumb to make it in no Northern town
    And we’re keepin’ the (Indians/Pakis/nig nogs) down

    (Randy Newman – Rednecks)

  2. It’s just like that other sport, politics: it all depends on which side you barrack for.

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Love Kohli. His batting has been superb. session 2 day 3 was as good as Sehwag’s 190.

    Isn’t the booing all part of the theatre? Doesn’t it mean we like him?

  4. Peter Flynn says

    Kohli mouths off and brings instances of on-field chat off-field.

    He’s trying to subvert ‘the Australian way’ of being one-way our-way bully boys.

    The Australian team’s ridiculous reaction to Kohli is to increase the frequency and intensify the mouthing off.

    On Kohli’s level (3 terrific centuries), a win to Kohli I’d say.

  5. Yep, love Kohli.
    Something feels right when bullies get done over.

  6. Ben Footner says

    I don’t like him, but I like the spice he’s brought to the series personally. Sport is a form of entertainment after all, and he has played the part as this summer’s villain more than capably.

    While I have found the on field banter quite entertaining, I actually think Australia would be better served to give him the silent treatment. Don’t engage with him, because he clearly feeds off it.

    As my old man always says – “never argue with an idiot, they’ll just drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

  7. “…why have we taken a relatively quick dislike to Kohli…?”
    Dave, I am not so sure that “we” have taken a dislike to Kohli. From my position in the crowd during the MCG Test I got the distinct impression that there is a huge – almost universal – respect for him.
    And just as with Pietersen, the booing when he walks to the crease is all part of the theatre of sport – there simply has to be a pantomime villain. I didn’t hear too much booing when he reached his ton in Melbourne (and elsewhere), just generous applause for a wonderful batsman.
    So, is it really dislike? A grudging respect? Admiration?

  8. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I am never to quick to criticise re sledging as we never hear the full story , when word eventually got around the cricket traps about how bad , Anderson was I fully supported , Clarke re the broken arm . Kohli the sledging did get to him in the 1st dig and he played a poor shot but , Watson dropped him. Where , Kohli was totally out of line was bringing it up off the ground . Kohli is a sensational batsman but I reckon both him and Warner in particular were at the back of the line when the trams and trains were being handed out . There has been nothing reported about fines etc so there fore the match referee and umpires had no problem with the behaviour during this test match which is very surprising thanks , Dave

  9. Peter Flynn says

    Kohli was rattled on 88 in the first dig after being struck by a ball flung at him while he was safely and easily returning to his crease.

    Johnson escaped censure.

    I think Kohli is deliberately bringing sledging off the ground.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    I’m a Kohli fan. He’s added a great deal to this series, not just his superb batting. Almost unheard of for India to appoint a personality of his type as captain. In my opinion a great move by them.

  11. Matthew Brown says

    not sure I’m totally buying this one, Dave.

    The whole point of verbal niggling is to annoy the bejesus out of the opposition. As Australians we’re supposed to be annoyed by Kohli’s jabber and that’s ok.

    The fact that he takes it off field and whines like a small child – when he will run from any point on the field to join in the niggle – is a bit rich.

    The comparison to Haddlee I don’t agree with. Australians called Haddlee a w****r because he was so b****y good. I may be wrong but I don’t think many Aussies would refer to Sir Richard with such language these days, very much the contrary.

    A better comparison would be Javed Miandad, I reckon. We don’t like him and never will.

    Haddlee, to the best of my memory, was an on field gentleman and could *win* test matches single-handedly. We’ve seen neither of these character aspects from Kohli. Despite his brilliance Kohli seems to get out exactly when he has the chance to carry the day for his team.

    And maybe that’s the thing. There’s no “I” in team, but there is in Kohli.

  12. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for the comments folks. It’s clear the piece was a bit limited in its scope – the question should have been not ‘why do we dislike him?’ as much as ‘why is he so divisive of the Australian cricketing public?’.

    PB – seamlessly moving from the Bible to Randy Newman in the one comment – most impressive.

    Tony – I’ve heard politics described as show business for ugly people. Perhaps it is also cricket for the untalented.

    Peter – yep, his numbers certainly stack up this series. The only criticism, other than dropping a couple of catches, is failure to press on when his team needs it (getting out last over or first over of a session / day). Pretty harsh criticism when you’ve already made a century.

    Ben – came across that exact sentiment twice in 24 hours (the other time in Earl O’Neill’s write up of the GWS v Melbourne game in the 2014 Almanac).

    Malcolm – other than the huge double standard that Clarke only got in trouble because the mic was on, I’m not a fan of that behaviour. The captain has specific responsibility to ensure his team plays in the spirit of the game. In threatening to break Anderson’s arm (with a bowler that could do it) he singularly failed in that respect.

    Matt – yep, I never got the Hadlee dislike, other than him almost singlehandedly beating us a couple of times. A fabulous bowler and decent batsman. I suppose that was the point, if a crowd can dislike him more or less just for being good and not Australian, what if anything does that say about us? Yes, Miandad a good comparison point – will anyone kick Kohli in the bum?

  13. Michael Viljoen says

    Wayne Carey was an undoubted match winner, and a hero in North Melbourne colours, acclaimed by maybe half the MCG fans on any given day. Yet when he played in the representative game for NSW (pretty much wearing the same colours) against the Big V, the MCG crowd quickly isolated him as chief villain. The Wangka chant surfaced very quickly.

    Kohli, Carey, Hadlee. The song just rolls off the tongue nicely. I couldn’t imagine the crowd ever singing ‘Tendulkar is a wanker’. It just wouldn’t sound right. With the first three. I think there is a belief that their shoulders are broad enough to take the chant on. We honour them with grudging respect, and expect they accept their role as public enemy.

    David, I was going along with your article nicely until the last paragraph. I don’t know what you mean by ‘spirit of the game’. Didn’t that disappear with Chicko Rolls, the Chappell brothers, and black-and-white TV? I thought that ever since the underarm game of 1981, the only part of Spirit of the game Australians understood is the bit about winning – winning at all costs. Can you give me any counter example to that maxim from Australian cricket over the last thirty years?

  14. Early impressions are that Kohli has tempered his on-field aggression to a fair degree, at the same time refining and becoming more subtle with his off-field comments. But the fierce competitor remains. Warner and karma?

  15. I will travel the world to watch Virat Kohli play cricket. He is easily the best batsmen in style and proliferation of runs and measures his game beautifully.
    Unlike many Australians and some writers I love the competitive spirit he brings to the game andhis attitude. Attitude? Yes, it is “typical Australian” in many aspects but he is only giving Australian cricketers of the past decade what they deserve. “We” don’t like it but as far as I am concerned I do like it. We asked for it and we are getting it!
    Can’t wait for the Test series to start next Thursday and i will be there.

  16. matt watson says

    I love what Kohli brings to the rivalry between Australia and India. He’s a competitor. Frightfully talented. Aggressive. Everything needed in sport.
    He’s a character. Needed in sport too. It’s a shame he’s only here for one Test. Because he oozes class and brings the fight.
    Perhaps as a teenager I would’ve disliked him.
    But now I just respect those opposing stars.
    Except the Poms…

  17. Daryl Schramm says

    Very interesting to re-read the article and the comments. He got out yesterday when he had us on toast, but at least he has someone to share the blame this time. Even in 2020 he still bats beautifully but I’m sure he will rile me at some stage during his only test for the series. It’s not going to be the same without him after Adelaide. BTW Dave, I for one have been missing your contributions to this site.

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