Indian cricket team captain and father-to-be Virat Kohli has every right and is entitled to take paternity leave, just like any other man. However, much has been said and written about Kohli's decision to leave his team after playing the first of the four-match Border-Gavaskar Test series in Australia, to be with his partner Anushka Sharma's side for the birth of their first child.
Virat or "King Kohli", as he is termed by the media, is arguably the biggest star in world cricket right now. At the pinnacle of his playing career, Kohli is the cynosure of advertisers and is flanked by major global brands like Puma and Audi, to name a few.
It is a no-brainer that Kohli, who wears his heart on his sleeve, is the biggest crowd-puller and his absence this summer might take the sheen out of the otherwise thrilling India-Australia rivalry.
On a day when the news of 32-year-old withdrawing from the Test series broke, it made headlines across Australian press which was mostly concerned about losing the star quotient from the much-anticipated Test series on Australian soil. A report in The Australian equated Kohli's media footprint to that of football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and said that his "limited time" would dent the host broadcasters' purses.
As the news took the Australian media by storm, some past and present cricketers too reacted. India's 1983 World Cup-winning skipper Kapil Dev said it would have been almost impossible for cricketers of his generation to leave a tour midway. Kapil cited Sunil Gavaskar's example. It is worth mentioning here that Gavaskar was in New Zealand playing for his country when he heard about the birth of his son Rohan in 1976. Gavaskar could only see his son more than two months after his birth.
Not just Gavaskar, former captains Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly also missed the birth of their children. While Dhoni was leading the team in Australia when his daughter Ziva was born in 2015, Ganguly too was away in South Africa marshaling his troops in a Test series in 2001 when his daughter Sana was born.
Given the emotions surrounding cricket in India and its captain, in general, it was not surprising to see the raised eyebrows following the announcement of Kohli's paternity leave. In a country where cricket is much more than just a sport, Kohli's decision was ought to create a stir. It may seem a conscious decision taken by a would-be father but it straightaway ruffled some feathers.
Many so-called cricket pundits (found in abundance in India), armed with their 'expert' views on social media handles, launched scathing attacks on the Indian captain doubting his commitment to the team. It soon became the talk of the town with people baying for Kohli's blood. However, among all the hullabaloo, it was forgotten that Kohli is the same man who came out to bat for his team a day after his father's death.
Another aspect that often gets overlooked is that modern-day cricketers play the sport around 10 months a year as compared to players from the past who played full-time cricket for around 7-8 months a year. This reason alone should be enough for critics to cut Kohli some slack.
Yes, India will miss the energy of Kohli, Australia too will miss its love-hate relationship with the talismanic Indian captain, but, one should never forget that he is a human too and he is not wrong if he wants to witness the birth of his first child.