Bad omen. Panauti. Golden duck. Renowned Bollywood actress and film producer Anushka Sharma is no stranger to social media trolling ever since she married cricketer Virat Kohli. The attacks on Sharma multiplied tenfold when Kohli’s bat went silent for a period longer than anybody had anticipated.
The man destined for greatness and often clubbed in the same league as the legend Sachin Tendulkar was returning to the pavilion without making a noticeable dent on the scoreboard. A player of his calibre who would score centuries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner hadn’t hit an international century since 2019. He would have to wait for another 1,019 days for his 71st ton.
Although coach Rahul Dravid, skipper Rohit Sharma and the team management backed the cricketer, many others outside the Indian dressing room wondered if they had already seen the best of Kohli. His fitness was never a cause for concern, gym pics were still a staple on his gram. Kohli was dynamic on the field, the springs under his feet well-oiled. Yet, when he held the bat, it wasn’t the same focused, run-hungry Kohli we all had grown comfortable watching. Something was amiss.
During this lean patch, Kohli was under extreme pressure. His string of failures continued, the calendar rolled. His form or lack of it became a mainstay topic of heated debates on primetime television. Scathing headlines ran, some experts wanted him to vacate the seat that they believed he had hijacked, for he was everyone’s favourite.
The frustrated fans lost their patience. They desperately looked for answers as to why Kohli was failing them repeatedly. Trolling him became the routine. The meme community was armed with staple jokes mocking him, prophesying his next failure. But the public humiliation wasn’t limited to the cricketer alone.
Anushka Sharma, who met the cricketer at a commercial shoot and married him in 2017, was sucked into the ugly crevasse of social media — one that blamed her for Kohli’s lack of form with raging misogyny. The Bollywood actress who neither coaches Kohli nor has a cricketing career behind her was dragged into the trolling pits. A few Kohli “fans” disparaged her presence in the stadium, declaring her “bad omen”. Yet, she showed up at the stadium, time and again, to support her husband.
Kohli, still down and out, matched her cheerleading energy by taking a stand for his wife.
In an interview in 2021, Kohli credited Sharma for bringing a positive change in his life and helping him alleviate as a person.
“If I hadn’t met her (Anushka), I don’t know where I would have been,” Kohli told Dinesh Karthik. “She has made me believe where I am and what impact I can have through what I do. She has alleviated me as a person, and that has eventually filtered through in cricket. I couldn’t be more grateful and lucky to have a life partner like her. She is absolutely my better half.”
Then 2022 happened. Kohli’s century drought finally came to an end in September after a wait of nearly three years. Kohli scored his 71st international century against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup and he knew there was one special person who deserved the credit more than anyone else: his wife.
“I mentioned one special person – Anushka – who stood by me through these tough times and I mentioned her as she has seen the absolute raw side of me throughout all these months. She was the one putting things in perspective for me, kept giving me the right kind of guidance, vision moving forward and I came back into the system as relaxed person,” said Kohli.
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But the best comeback was only reloading. A month later in October, a sensational Kohli stunned Pakistan in the T20 World Cup — an innings considered “best ever” by many in the cricket fraternity. ICC later stamped its seal on Kohli’s straight drive six against Haris Rauf in the match, deeming it as the ‘Shot of the Century’.
This time, however, before Kohli even could, social media rose to the occasion. In a surprising change, folks on the internet credited the Bollywood actress for Kohli’s heroics. “Well Done Anushka Sharma,” was one of the top trends on Twitter (now X) on the night Kohli shone the brightest. “That is a shot of an emperor. He is not just a king he is genius.” That night, you remember.
Everyone say thanks to Anushka Sharma and Vamika Kohli. — Hara ✨ (@Mystic_riverrr) October 23, 2022
Sharma was elated. In an Insta post later that night, she praised Kohli’s “contagious” strength and that she was proud of him for coming out the rough phase stronger and wiser.
“You are a wonderful wonderful man my love. Your grit, determination and belief is mind boggling !! I have just watched the best match of my life I can say and although our daughter is too small to understand why her mother was dancing around and screaming wildly in the room, one day she will understand that her dad played his best innings that night which followed after a phase that was tough on him but he came out of it stronger and wiser than ever before!” an ecstatic Sharma captioned her post for Kohli.
Come 2023, Kohli is currently the top-scorer in the ICC World Cup 2023 with 594 runs to his tally. The 35-year-old has slammed two centuries and five half-centuries so far in the coveted tournament at the time of writing this.
Again, Sharma cheered the loudest during the dead rubber between India and The Netherlands, when her wrong-footed inswinging menace husband bagged his first World Cup wicket against the Dutch. His victim – skipper Scott Edwards. Her reaction – priceless.
Having each other’s backs in public spaces both during good and not-so-good times has rightfully put Kohli and Sharma in those done-to-death, cliché listicles that call them “couple goals”.
“Everything about them seems uncomplicated to me. It doesn’t happen naturally though, couple has made conscious efforts in making it that way. Just listen to them talk in interviews and it feels both are so sync with each other,” a Reddit user expressed in a discussion on the couple.
Harsha Bhogle, perhaps best summed up the ‘Kohli’ after Sharma entered his life. This Kohli has evolved into a mature, wholesome, less in-your-face cricketer.
Bhogle said: “I’m very lucky that I have seen the evolution of Virat Kohli. I have seen Virat Kohli in 2008, Virat Kohli in 2012 and Virat Kohli after Anushka Sharma,” CricCast quoted him as saying.
Maybe, just maybe, we recognised the Queen. The King was there all along.