Indian Test team skipper Virat Kohli is unarguably one of the best batsmen in world cricket at the moment. The right-hander possesses every shot in the book and has a great temperament as well.
Kohli has come a long way, from being an aggressive cricketer who loved to have a go at the opposition, to a mature leader who wants to keep things under control during a match.
During an interview with former England skipper Michael Vaughan for The Telegraph, the Delhi batsman came up with some interesting answers regarding his personal life and career.
When asked about how he managed to cope with the comparisons that Indian fans frequenrly engage in, Kohli mentioned that he initially tried to avoid it. He also revealed instances of him being compared to Sachin Tendulkar: "The moment I started doing well I was already compared to Tendulkar but it is like chalk and cheese in my book. People come up and have a debate and say you can break his records. You fight it for a while. You think, ‘why me?’ There are 10 more people in the team; why do I have to go through this?"
"I stood on the boundary and all they say is they want a century from me. But then I realised that over a period of time you set those benchmarks and those standards for yourself," he added.
“People like to grab you and touch you and feel if you are real or not”
Vaughan was keen to know how Kohli handled the huge amount of attention that he got from the Indian crowd, but the Indian skipper was quick to point out that it was common for Indian cricketers to go through that. He said, "The main thing in our country is people like to grab you and touch you and feel if you are real or not. I promise you."
"I clearly remember after a World T20 game in Mohali against Australia this year. I felt people were reacting in a different way towards me; they looked at me as if I was walking in a circular light or something," he said.
He went on to mention one instance where he was embarrassed by a fan’s reaction."I came out of security in the airport and there was this one guy who came up to me. I told security to calm down. He stood next to me and said ‘show me your hands’. I held them out and he touched them and it was as if a flow of current went through his body. I said ‘bloody hell’. I was so embarrassed. I think he thought I was Superman or something," he was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
“Sachin asked me for a drink”
Kohli went on to speak about how he felt when he got to meet his idol for the first time in 2008. Sachin was asked to speak to the India under-19 team, which was captained by Kohli. He said, “I don’t remember a word he said because I kept looking at him. You cannot express your feeling when you see the person who is the reason why you started playing the game and you wanted to become like him, and then he just walks up. Those five seconds were the worst, I swear.”
However, he revealed that years later he went on to have a drink with the master himself. “It is a very Indian thing; in front of your seniors you do not want to admit you drink or go to parties. Guys were very strict about it when I was growing up. Sachin asked me for a drink. I said I don’t drink. He persisted. I said I don’t drink. Eventually I said I will have four ice cubes. From then on it was pretty easy.”
“It is the best thing in the world to be able to spend some time alone with myself”
Kohli mentioned that he loved spending time alone and away from the limelight. He spoke about his times in England where he used to walk through the streets and people would turn their heads, but refrain from mobbing him the way they do in India.
“When I go away from India I go for a walk alone for an hour. You do get recognized in countries that play cricket but they will wave and walk off. That is nice. That is fine to not have someone barge into your space," he said.
The 28-year-old went on to add, "When you go to play Australia or South Africa I usually do not make plans with anyone. I just walk around to get a feel of what it is like to just walk down the street. It is amazing. It is the best thing ever. I just put my music on, walk and go nowhere in particular. It is best thing in the world to be able to spend some time alone with myself."
“For the first two months, I felt I wanted to eat the bedsheet”
The Indian maestro went on to speak about how much importance he gave to his fitness as well. Vaughan called him one of the fittest cricketers around and asked him why he concentrated so much on his fitness.
"You can have the skill but do not think you need to train as much as a tennis player. But I realized if you want to stay on top playing three formats in this day and age, you need a routine," Kohli said.
The 28-year-old recalled that it was in 2012 when his perception regarding fitness changed. He said, “My training was horrible, I ate so bad, I was up until late, I was having a drink or two regularly. It was a horrible mindset. The season ended and I was so thankful it was over. I went home, came out of the shower one day and looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘you can’t look like this if you want to be a professional cricketer.’”
His struggle in IPL that season was the chief reason behind him opting for a strict diet and fitness schedule. "I was 11 or 12 kg heavier than I am now, I was really chubby. I changed everything from the next morning, from what I eat to how I train. I was in the gym for an hour-and-a-half every day. Working really hard, off gluten, off wheat, no cold drinks, no desserts, nothing. It was tough.”
"For the first two months, I felt I wanted to eat the bedsheet when I went to sleep, because I was so hungry. I was craving taste. I was craving delicious food. But then I saw the results. I felt quick around the field. I would wake up in morning and feel like I had energy," he added.
“I want us to be the fittest Indian team that has played the game”
Kohli, when asked about what he wanted the team to achieve in the coming days, said, “One of the things I would love is for this team to win series outside India; not just in one place but everywhere we go. For me it is not winning one Test match and saying we made history and then not being able to follow that up. I want us to be the fittest Indian team that has played the game as well."
"That is our goal: to become better people along years of playing together. Friendships to last. Most exciting thing is everyone is young, building careers together. If things fall in the right place this could be a great phase for us," he added.
“I think cricket chose me”
Kohli also took Vaughan through his early days in order to explain his love for the game. He said, “I think cricket chose me. My memory of growing up is me holding a cricket bat. It is the only game I played. As soon as I got hold of a bat I wanted someone to throw a ball at me for me to smack it. I am lucky that I am the third child in the family so there was not much pressure on me in terms of academics and making sure I got a degree and stuff. I was the one who was pampered because I am the youngest, and I took advantage of it."
Kohli recalled the first bat that he bought and how excited he was then. “It was RNS Larsons. I bought it from a sports shop. I still have a picture of me trying to bat with it. It was about 1,000 rupees and pretty decent for the time. That was one of the challenges, getting the right stuff," he said.
“Sometimes you have to make your own decisions”
The run-machine also spoke about how Sachin helped him out after he endured a miserable tour of England in 2014. "I came back and went to Bombay for 10 days. I spoke to him. He spent time with me. He said he had watched me in England and he helped me with a few technical things that are important at this level – getting a good stride in, always having intent when playing the ball and never being unsure of what to do at the crease."
"When trying to build a career you straight away try to make sure everything is in sync for you to do well. Sometimes you have to make your own decisions, and because he had played for so long, the expectations and consistency made a lot of sense. From then on I followed what I wanted to do," he added.
“I have curbed down celebrations”
Talking about how he has managed to remain calm on the field lately, the skipper said, "I have curbed down celebrations with milestones. It feels like this is what I am supposed to do, so why show much excitement? It is what I am picked to do."
The Indian Test team skipper concluded that though the team played well in the second Test at Vizag, it was necessary to keep the momentum going for the rest of the series.