Virat Kohli is an unabashed dog lover and found the invitation to visit CARE, where rescued and abandoned dogs are rehabilitated, simply irresistible. © CARE

Virat Kohli was missing in action during India’s decisive Test against Australia late last month. The shoulder injury sustained in Ranchi kept him off the park not only in Dharamsala, but also during Royal Challengers Bangalore’s first three matches of the Indian Premier League.

Kohli might have been out of sight – on the field, that is – but he was never out of mind. From the sidelines, he watched Ajinkya Rahane mastermind Australia’s conquest at the HPCA Stadium, occasionally ferrying drinks for his mates and offering his tactical inputs. He was at hand during Bangalore’s first two games, television cameras relentlessly hunting him down as he effortlessly surrendered to the emotion of the moment.

Dogs in particular can easily sniff out which is the genuine package and which is not. In Kohli, they found a man with his heart in his right place; the trustees found that he was also willing to put his wallet where his heart was when he ‘passively adopted’ 15 of the 50 special needs dogs that populate the shelter.

On the field, either with bat or while setting fields and celebrating dismissals, Kohli is the quintessential modern-day sportsperson – driven and unyielding, readily if only instantly touched by success and failure, aggressive and go-getting. That’s pretty much the visible Kohli persona, celebrated or pilloried, hailed or censured depending on how one perceives it, but always scrutinised, always dissected.

There is, needless to say, another side to the Indian captain. It isn’t entirely private – can anything involving any Indian cricket captain ever be? – but it is most certainly less discussed. And, it is a side that is far removed from his cricketing character.

Kohli has been unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve out in the middle; off it, too, he is pretty much the same, happy to not just take a public stance on social issues, but also to take ownership of that stance. He has espoused the cause of the girl child, he has appealed passionately for celebration of and respect for women. He loves being in the midst of children, taking particular pleasure in putting a smile on their faces and just not knowing how to say no to the kind of outrageous demands that only kids can pose so nonchalantly.

Kohli has been unafraid to wear his heart on his sleeve out in the middle; off it, too, he is pretty much the same, happy to not just take a public stance on social issues, but also to take ownership of that stance. © CARE

A casual breakfast conversation with one such young girl a little less than a week back brought out another facet of the versatile, multi-hued Kohli. A volunteer at Charlie’s Animal Rescue Centre (CARE) in Jakkur, the youngster and the Bangalore captain got talking about CARE and their activities. Kohli is an unabashed dog lover and is fairly putty around Bruno, his beagle; he found the invitation to visit CARE, where rescued and abandoned dogs are rehabilitated, simply irresistible.

And so, on match-day Sunday (April 16), Kohli made the 45-minute drive from his hotel for a first-hand CARE experience. He wasn’t just honouring his word to an impressionable young kid – that alone is worth all the runs that have cascaded off his willow all these years – he was also genuinely interested in knowing how CARE did what they did, and what he could do to ease their burden, if only by a little. It was a strictly private visit with only one condition – no media and no hangers-on, just the staff and the trustees at CARE.

From all accounts, the suave and polished Delhiite was a huge hit, not just with the awe-struck human beings but also with the injured and ill dogs and the slightly more detached cats. Dogs in particular can easily sniff out which is the genuine package and which is not. In Kohli, they found a man with his heart in his right place; the trustees found that he was also willing to put his wallet where his heart was when he ‘passively adopted’ 15 of the 50 special needs dogs that populate the shelter.

Even pet dogs, brought up in a protected and loving environment, are high maintenance, and we aren’t just talking finances here. How many of us don’t have friends whose schedules are worked around their four-legged babies? Vacations are planned around vaccinations or finding a suitable dog-care institute; a friend leaves his pug in an air-conditioned ‘dog hotel’ every time he has to leave Chennai on work.

Anil Kumble visited the Village Clinic, a medical camp, to distribute walking sticks to the elderly as part of a ‘Walk with Dignity’ campaign organised by the clinic.

Anil Kumble visited the Village Clinic, a medical camp, to distribute walking sticks to the elderly as part of a ‘Walk with Dignity’ campaign organised by the clinic.

There is a reason why dogs are our best friends. Their love is unconditional, the yelp of delight and outstretched forepaws on your chest the most heavenly welcome when you come back home after a hard day in school or at work. Even when you are at your worst, most desperate low, they have a way of lifting your spirits with a furious wag of the tail and a liberal dose of face-licking. They don’t care if you have won or lost, if you are a superstar or an everyday individual. They are the ultimate givers, and in their giving is a lesson for most of us that are engrossed in what we can get.

A week before Kohli’s tryst with CARE, another towering role model quietly went about doing his little bit for society. Anil Kumble is a passionate wildlife nut who has served in an honorary capacity as the vice-chairman of the Karnataka State Wildlife Board, a position that had specifically been created for him – the chief minister is, by convention, the chairman of the board. The former India captain immersed himself totally in ensuring the welfare of not just the animals in the wild but also of the staff that performed occasionally dangerous duties with little fanfare and even fewer rewards.

Anil Kumble is a passionate wildlife nut who has served in an honorary capacity as the vice-chairman of the Karnataka State Wildlife Board, a position that had specifically been created for him. He immersed himself totally in ensuring the welfare of not just the animals in the wild but also of the staff that performed occasionally dangerous duties with little fanfare and even fewer rewards.

In keeping with his standing as a giver, the current India coach visited the Village Clinic, a medical camp put together every Sunday, at village T Begur, some 35 kilometres from Bangalore. In its 43-and-a-half years of existence, the Village Clinic has, it seems, treated more than 20 lakh patients. Kumble was there to distribute walking sticks to the elderly as part of a ‘Walk with Dignity’ campaign organised by the clinic.

Several of India’s leading sportspersons across disciplines are involved with various charities, liberally donating their name, their time and their energies in their bid to make the world a better place. Their beneficiaries are children, the elderly, the underprivileged, the less fortunate. Few, if any, crave publicity; it’s only when one of the beneficiaries meet the benefactor, as Gopal Bhengra did Sunil Gavaskar recently that one realises the true impact of these gestures, these initiatives.

It helps if you are a superstar in your chosen field, but as one school teacher in Tamil Nadu showed the other day, superstars don’t necessarily come with a blaze of well-publicised accomplishments. SM Annapurna teaches English to Class 3 students at the Panchayat Union Primary School in Kandhadu, Villupuram. Her students speak excellent, unaccented English, but that alone isn’t their teacher’s gift. Annapurna sold off her own jewellery to install a digital smart-board system and new furniture in the class room, and bought books worth Rs 5000 for her students. Already giving her students precious knowledge and life-skills, she has also gifted them with a unique, commendable life-lesson. More power to the Annapurnas of the world.