He’s the “king” of Indian cricket. She’s a glamorous Bollywood actress and former model. Newlyweds Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma are celebrity royalty and India is cock-a-hoop over their marriage.
“Officially India’s First Couple,” screamed the front page of Mumbai tabloid Mid-Day on Tuesday — a day after the pair tied the knot at a private ceremony in Tuscany, Italy.
“Clean bowled!” read the Mumbai Mirror’s headline, one of several newspapers to report the much-anticipated news using a cricket theme. Another publication wished them the best in their “new innings”.
Kohli and Sharma, dubbed “Virushka” by local media, have generated the same sort of excitement and coverage in India as Britain’s Prince Harry and fiance Meghan Markle have in the West.
Both 29, Kohli is India’s cricket captain and one of the world’s highest-paid athletes, while Sharma is an award-winning Hindi film star whose credits include the hit movies “Sultan” and “PK”.
“We don’t have a more power-packed combination than this across Bollywood or the cricketing world. They can be called new-age royalty,” Indranil Das Blah, a marketing executive, told AFP.
Monday’s wedding ended weeks of speculation in the gossip pages of India’s newspapers and on the airwaves of the country’s excitable 24-hour news channels that the couple had recently got engaged.
But while messages of congratulations poured in from Bollywood and cricket stars, some pessimistic astrologers in India — where many are superstitious — struck a different chord by sounding a note of caution.
“While all seems to be perfect in their fairytale wedding, it might not be a very smooth sailing together for them in the years to come, predict astrologers,” read an article in Mail Today, ominously.
Astrologers are concerned there may be “disharmony” and “disputes” in their marriage if they are unable to “maintain a balance between their personal and professional lives”, it went on to say.
– South African honeymoon –
Kohli and Sharma started dating in 2013 after they met during the filming of a shampoo advert, and made their first public appearance a year later during a football match.
Indian newspapers have been gripped by their four-year relationship — which included a reported break-up in early 2016 — and rumours of their impending nuptials intensified recently when they appeared in a wedding commercial together.
Speculation then reached fever pitch when Kohli pulled out of India’s limited-overs matches against Sri Lanka, and Sharma ducked out of her busy acting schedule in December before being spotted at Mumbai’s international airport with her family.
The couple will host a reception in New Delhi for relatives on December 21, followed by a celebration in Mumbai on December 26 to be attended by Bollywood stars and cricketers.
They will then honeymoon in South Africa before setting up home in Mumbai, the cradle of India’s multi-billion-dollar Hindi film industry.
Theirs is the latest in several marriages between Indian cricket players and movie stars over the years, from former India captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and actress Sharmila Tagore to the recent Zaheer Khan-Sagarika Ghatge union.
None quite has the star appeal of “Virushka” though.
“Their brand value will definitely sky rocket. Companies will pay a premium to sign them up as it’s a one-of-a-kind association,” said Blah.