To understand India Today’s Newsmaker of the Year 2017, one has to go back to 2006, when he was 18. Representing Delhi, Virat Kohli played for his team against Karnataka the day after his father’s death and went on to score 90, going directly to the funeral after he was dismissed. Many, including his mother, believe that was a turning point in his life, the day when his father’s dream became his own. Looking at him now, dressed in designer clothes with one of India’s topmost actors by his side as his wife, being feted by the high and mighty of the land, it is hard to imagine his origins, in one of Delhi’s undistinguished middle class neighbourhoods, driven to practice every day by his criminal lawyer father. What transformed him into becoming the only player in the world with an incredible above-50 average in all three formats of the game; captain of India with his nominees installed as coach and support staff; the most powerful cricketer in the world’s richest cricketing nation and the man most likely to overtake Sachin Tendulkar’s batting records?And that’s just in cricket. His influence extends far beyond. His fitness regimen has revolutionised the team’s physical strength and prompted Virat to make it a national mission. His carefully chosen endorsements have ensured that he is one of India’s most saleable celebrities with a brand value of $144 million (Rs 936 crore). And his confidence on the field has given encouragement to many who still regard cricket as a white man’s game. His 2,818 international runs in 2017 are the third highest ever in history; he has nine back-to-back series wins as captain; and six 200-plus scores in the past 17 months, special by even his own super-achiever standards.But that is not the only reason india today picked him as newsmaker in a year crowded with potential candidates. The year 2017 is when India grappled with the aftermath of demonetisation, the incomprehensible Goods and Services Tax, and interminable state elections. With his winning streak, Virat lifted the mood of the nation in a difficult year. Above all, he epitomises the wishful meritocracy of a New India, where everyone who works hard can flourish regardless of their history, geography and sociology; where the country can take on the most powerful in the world with equal aggression; and where young people have the freedom to love whomsoever, wherever and however they wish. India Today TV Consulting Editor Boria Majumdar who has tracked Virat’s career closely says he looks fully immersed in the moment, at peace with himself, in his gym, at training, in marriage and between those 22 yards. In his assessment of Virat, he writes: “Virat is fashioning a young Indian side in the same mould of utter self-belief, and it’s seems to be paying off. So far.”Choosing Virat wasn’t easy. As you’ll see from the list of runners-up, there was tough competition. The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo that won critical state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, capping the year with the principal opposition party, Congress, in power in a mere five states. Rahul Gandhi, who finally became Congress president, after 13 years in politics, and many false starts. S.S. Rajamouli, who directed the blockbuster Baahubali 2, very much a made-in-India epic. And the badminton stars whose inordinate success has seen Indians in the top five of the men’s and women’s championships for the first time.Virat’s rise is also a tribute to the emergence of a serious sporting culture in the country. He is a supremely talented cricketer, but he is also invested in sports ranging from football to tennis. He’s involved in a chain of gyms as well as a children’s fitness venture. As one half of the most famous couple in the country at present, he has also shown us the power of social media. Breaking the Internet with photographs and videos from the no-media wedding in Tuscany, Italy, and instructing us on how a celebrity can take control of his own narrative. India is, after all, the land of storytellers, and Virat’s tale is perhaps one of the most compelling in recent times. We all live vicariously through the lives of famous people and few things brought us as much cheer as the smiling faces of Virat and his wife Anushka Sharma. My best wishes to them. On that happy note, I wish all our readers a happy and healthy new year.