Former England skipper Michael Atherton hailed India’s Virat Kohli for dealing well with off-field adversities amid a torrid World T20 campaign. Michael Atherton feels Virat Kohli did a phenomenal job by backing Mohammed Shami despite realizing what might follow.
Mohammed Shami copped abuse over social media following his poor performance against Pakistan. The Green Army beat India by ten wickets in the opening game of the competition. Nevertheless, several netizens targeted him more for being a Muslim. However, Kohli held the seamer’s back and hit back at the insults.
Writing in his column for The Times, Michael Atherton admits the weight of expectations felt by Kohli amid the Indian media being constantly on his back. Atherton addressed the 33-year old’s move of defending Shami and wrote:
“It has been a difficult tournament for Kohli, whose every move, as captain of a team who carry far greater expectation than any other, is scrutinised and analysed. If Kohli lifts an eyebrow, an army of Indian journalists will decode its significance, so when he defended his opening bowler Mohammed Shami, a Muslim, after his team’s loss to Pakistan, he knew his words would carry weight.”
While Shami was the most expensive Indian bowler on the night, Kohli backed his teammate during a media interaction. Kohli said that attacking someone over religion is pathetic. The right-handed batsman also pointed out that Shami has been a match-winner for India and deserves respect.
“Kohli defended Shami knowing that there was likely to be a backlash against him” – Michael Atherton
Atherton further lauded the Indian captain for not taking a step backwards and supporting Shami despite knowing the consequences. The 53-year old added:
“Kohli did not prevaricate. Before his team’s next match against New Zealand last Sunday, and ignoring the usual pre-match protocols to talk only of cricket, Kohli defended his seam bowler’s right to religious freedom, despite knowing that there was likely to be a backlash against him.”
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Following his statement regarding Shami, Kohli’s daughter reportedly received molestation threats over social media. Former cricketers, who earlier supported Shami, condemned social media users for resorting to such a level.