Book Review: Driven - The Virat Kohli Story by Vijay Lokapally
There’s one thing that exemplifies Delhi lads. While their hot-headed disposition and pushy arrogance usually stereotypes them, there is an innate sense of self-belief that spurs them to go a step ahead of others.
If you think about it, Virat Kohli is all that. And much, much more. At 27, he has pocketed milestones few dreamt reaching. A phenomenon that rages on with an unflinching blaze, an unrestrained pursuit to clinch the crests of excellence, Kohli is an icon for the cricketing masses and an undisputed champion of the current generation.
Yet, the superstar did not become one overnight. He put in the hard yards like many of his peers. He shared a start with several budding competitors. The real story lies where his mental strength singled him out from the mush of talent around him.
And that is exactly where Vijay Lokapally’s Driven: The Virat Kohli Story first takes you. It takes you where the now blossomed fruit was a mere seed, waiting to make its space in a jungle. When you read Kohli’s story from where it’s ought to start, you start appreciating him even more.
Even as he continues to grow, he has not forgotten his roots. He remains an earnest student, grinding hours at end to polish what he intends to make. For Raj Kumar, his coach, Kohli is still in the making. As a veteran journalist, Lokapally has seen Kohli evolve.
Writing a biography on a current icon is no mean feat. With match clippings and social media interactions smushing the juice out of a celebrity, there is seldom enough left to fuel a book. That is where Driven’s USP lies: it covers angles of all his stories from untargeted points, tapping ex-cricketers, teammates and coaches to find out how Kohli transformed into a world-class batsman.
The anecdotes aren’t just laid out: the essence of each story is captured with interactions from those who matter. Intertwined with interviews of Raj Kumar, the Achrekar to Kohli, the book is lit up with a first-hand account of incidents when there were no tele-cameras or vociferous fans tracking every move.
Hiding behind his mighty mask is what made him the tough and unyielding individual that he sometimes is. As an 18-year old, facing the onerous task of making do with life after his father’s sudden demise moulded Kohli into a resolute competitor. A riveting account of his fight against early hardships makes you acknowledge his sometimes aversive persona.
Also captured is the plight of Delhi-cricket, an oft-overlooked facet in Indian cricketing folklore that threatened to blight a young Kohli’s career. Political overtones and stories on favouritism open a can of worms that expose an untouched aspect of his profession.
What started off as a cocky youngster with a questionable temperament has turned into a modern legend with a whiff of peerlessness starting to unravel around him. The rise might seem sudden to some, but the transition from boy to man is seamlessly captured in the book. With each passing chapter, a chronological milestone in his fledgling career is outlined.
The second half of the book captures the Kohli we all know. The author revisits his recent prowess in limited-overs. Yet, it isn’t a drab narration of his career highlights. With a no-nonsense approach, Lokapally lays it all out on the platter. His innings aren’t described in excruciating detail: a mere brushing clears the dust and makes the average fan reminisce Kohli’s bests. You are dipped into it, but you aren’t sogged.
Yet, it isn’t a Kohli-garlanding exercise. His technical vulnerabilities are highlighted, his weakness against the swinging ball in England is discussed, and the author drives home the point that Kohli is still very much an unfinished work. His ascension to the rank of Captain forms a major part of the literature.
Turn elsewhere if you need a scoop of his relationship status or fitness mantras. As encomiums keep churning out and superlatives become hackneyed with each Kohli masterclass, Lokapally’s pragmatic take serves as an easy read. It limits itself to encompass what Virat Kohli is best known for - a cricketer, and a cricketer alone. The book in itself is like the man’s game: a highly effective compilation of what’s best in a crisp, condensed and unfazed manner. It is just as methodical as Kohli’s construction of an ODI innings.
There is very little complaint from the book, apart from the fact that it provides very less of Kohli’s exclusive, with borrowed quotes on him forming his side of the conversation. A revision of this edition will hopefully iron out unexpected typographical errors in the text, including Stuart Broad being referred to as his father Chris and the World T20 being heralded as the T20 World Cup.
In the age when people’s descriptivity extends as far as 140 characters, a book on a cricketer provides an old-fashioned charm to this new-age sensation.