Zee Media Bureau/Dattaraj Thaly
New Delhi: Virat Kohi has been named by SportsPro in a list of top 50 marketable athletes in the world. This is the fifth straight year, SportsPro have come up with a list, ranking sports persons from across the world based on a forecast of next three years. SportsPro is a monthly British magazine that reports on the business and financial aspects of sports across the world.
Several people have been surprised with the number two rank that was given to the Indian cricketer. Only Lewis Hamilton ranks ahead of the talented batsman with Ballon d`Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel and the Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt also featuring in the list.
However, the main reason why the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo did not make it ahead of Kohli is because the FIFA World Cup has not been factored during the process of selection.
It is widely expected that Virat Kohli will lead India`s charge for the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. With Sachin Tendulkar retired and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the fag end of his career, Virat Kohli will not only be the batting mainstay of India but will also be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the side at some point.
With the exception of Indian skipper MS Dhoni, Kohli is the only batsman in the team who has a guaranteed place in the team across all three formats – Test, ODI and T20.
At 25, he has already shattered several batting records and is well on his way to become an all time great. Kohli was signed by Adidas as part of a record breaking endorsement deal last year. Other notable brands that have hopped on the Kohli bandwagon are Herbalife, Pepsi, Nestle and Clear.
Of course, the reach of cricket as a truly world sport is limited, which means he will never make it as a global sporting icon no matter how great he eventually goes on to become. But with a population of 1.6 billion people, India is the biggest sporting market in the world. And this explains why he has been ranked second in the list.
Greg Chappel once said, in India, cricketers are like the Beatles and Sachin Tendulkar is the Paul McCartney. With the great Tendulkar gone, and 65% of the Indian population below the age of 35, Virat Kohli is poised to take over the `frontman` mantle.
Playing inside the pressure cooker that is Indian cricket, one has to perform amid sustained drama, passion and national fervor and Virat Kohli has delivered more than what is expected of him.