For quite some time now, India skipper Virat Kohli has been doing wonders with the willow across all three formats but during the recently concluded South Africa tour he took his batting feats to a different level altogether.
While Kohli finished the three-match Test series with 286 runs on some of the most difficult pitches, he aggregated more than 500 runs in the subsequent six-match ODI series against the Proteas. Virat was the only batsman from either side to score a century in the Test series and he compiled three more tons in the 50-over format.
Apart from his top-class batsmanship, the 29-year-old was also fairly aggressive on the field with his body language and dynamic captaincy. Seeing the way Kohli came out with flying colours in a tough tour, cricket pundits and fans are now hailing him in the league of all-time Indian cricket greats.
Overwhelmed with all the accolades and adjectives, Virat said he understands his game better now and doesn’t really look up to anyone else’s style of play. However, he credited quite a few legendary cricketers who have played an instrumental role in the early phase of his career. Kohli, who often motioned the great Sachin Tendulkar as his batting hero, hailed the Master Blaster for inspiring him with his game.
“Obviously, growing up, I looked up to Sachin Tendulkar—everything he did with his batting. I learnt a lot from that. Now, I don’t really look at anyone else’s game. I feel I have gone closer to understanding who I am, and what my game is. I enjoy watching others play; you learn by watching others. I don’t think I look for inspiration from others, because it is very important for me to know what my mindset is like. There are many world-class players around, you look at them and understand the importance of what they do,” Kohli said in an exclusive interview with THE WEEK.
“I watch youngsters in the team and learn from them. I watch them at the nets and say, ‘Wow, these guys are so good, I wasn’t as good at their age’. There is so much to learn on a daily basis. The inspiration to learn is important in the initial stages of your career. But, after that, I think you have to be in control of what you are doing, and execute what you want,” he added.
Besides Tendulkar, the current India skipper has also learnt a lot from his predecessor MS Dhoni and his RCB teammates Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers.
“All these are world-class players and proven performers. What intrigues me at this level is their mindset. Anyone who excels over such long periods of time has the mental capacity to understand the situation better than others around them. So, that is something that really fascinates me,” Kohli stated.
“When I bat with Chris, AB or MS, there is nothing that needs to be said. That’s the most beautiful thing. You know what exactly needs to be done. There is trust, total clarity and understanding. When we bat together, we don’t even call for runs. We just know that when the ball is hit in a certain area, we want two or three runs. It is like (clicks his fingers) done, because our line of thinking is exactly what it should be—achieving what we want for our respective teams,” he explained.
Even though Kohli is strong all around the wicket and has a repertoire of strokes in his armoury, his wristy flick often grab eyeballs of the cricketing fraternity. But very few people know that Virat’s childhood coach Raj Kumar Sharma used to discourage him from playing this shot.
“I think it was because I was not technically that strong in my early days, and the flick used to get me into trouble quite a bit. But, as I kept working on my game, my technique became better, and I understood better when to play it and when not to. That is how I am executing it better. I have always loved playing the flick, but, obviously, he wanted me to cut down the risk so that I could be more consistent. After a point, when I understood that I could be more in control of it, I started playing it more often,” Kohli revealed.
During the ongoing South Africa-Australia Test series, stump mic has become a matter of huge debate and Kohli feels that players should be given the freedom to show their emotions.
“Players around the world are talking about it. People are trying to stir up things on the field, which is not good. It is not good for the game. Rivalries have always been there, but no one knew about them. If you don’t have rivalries, where is the fun in sports? I mean, competition is essential in sports. It is not robots playing, you have human beings playing for the country. Obviously, emotions will fly,” the Indian captain concluded.