The closest a cricketer has ever come to celebrity status in this country is Freddie Flintoff, when his 2005 Ashes heroics (and the drunken antics afterwards) captured English hearts far and wide.
He was no stranger to the front pages in the years that followed, and for a moment, cricket had its very own David Beckham.
But besides very rare exceptions, Strictly Come Dancing is about as far as most cricketers venture into the celebrity world over here.
In India, however, it’s a totally different story. Especially when it comes to global phenomenon Virat Kohli.
The Indian superstar, arguably the greatest batsman of his generation, returns to action against England on Friday, live on talkSPORT 2, having missed his nation’s stunning triumph over Australia last month due to the birth of his child.
Watching Kohli bat is one of those great sporting privileges – like a Roger Federer backhand or a Lionel Messi free-kick.
You will not find a more perfect cover drive in the game, and the India captain can simply flick bowlers for six if they stray onto his pads.
Virat Kohli stats
- Matches: 87
- Runs: 7,314
- Average: 53.42
- 100s/50s: 27/22
One Day Internationals
- Matches: 251
- Runs: 12,040
- Average: 59.31
- 100s/50s: 43/60
- Matches: 85
- Runs: 2,928
- Average: 50.48
- 100s/50s: 0/25
Kohli, 32, is already the leading run scorer in T20I history, and he is well placed to overtake Sachin Tendulkar’s ODI record by the end of his career.
Tendulkar’s 15,921 Test runs may be out of Kohli’s reach, but in terms of pure stardom, you could argue the man they call Chiku has already taken the Little Master’s crown as God of Cricket in India.
Like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kohli transcends sport as one of the most popular and influential people on the planet.
With estimated annual earnings of $ 26million thanks to numerous sponsorship and endorsement deals, he is the only cricketer ever to feature in Forbes, ranking 66th on their list of the 100 highest-earning athletes of 2020.
With 94.2m followers on Instagram, Kohli is by far the most famous Indian alive, and the nation’s total obsession with cricket makes him more like Harry Styles than Joe Root over there. He’s top of the Forbes 100 in India – which makes it pretty official.
The Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad is the second largest sports stadium in the entire world, seating 110,000 people in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion – most of whom worship Kohli.
In fact, Kohli recently pipped Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in a list of India’s most influential people online, complied by Hype Auditor.
And his wife, Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, also happens to be one of the most popular and influential people in India, making them quite the power couple.
They even have their own nickname – ‘Virushka’. It really doesn’t get more celebrity than that.
While Indian eyes will be fixated on Kohli come Friday, England’s bowlers will just be focusing on how to claim one of the most difficult wickets in history.