Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma at the practice session in Chennai ahead of the Team India's Sri Lanka tour. (PTI Photo/R Senthil Kumar)
From being a brash kid brought up in the heart of the national capital to have emerged as the future India captain, Virat Kohli has seen a lot during his four years of international cricket.
And if you are wondering whether Virat the person is as mature as Virat the batsman, then you will get your answer in his freewheeling chat with HT during the team’s preparatory camp ahead of the tour to Sri Lanka. Excerpts:
While the Indian team has failed to live up to expectations over the last 12 months, it’s kind of ironic that you have exceeded your expectations, isn’t it?
Well, I have tried to motivate myself all the time. No matter how things are going, it’s very important to keep motivating yourself, and try to get better every day. That’s what I have tried to do in the last 12 months and I am really glad it has paid off, I am really pleased with the way I could help the team in difficult situations. That gives you the most satisfaction. Hopefully, I can continue to do that in the coming season as well.
Sri Lanka is where it all started for you. How do you look forward to the coming series?
I played my first series there and sort of have good memories, I went back for two more series (in 2009 and 2010) but they didn’t go too well. I would like to go out there and perform because that’s where I played my first game (for India), and it’s a nice place to play cricket.
Adapting is easier said than done. How have you been preparing for the spin-loaded attack on slow turners?
We have played on those kinds of tracks. We play Sri Lanka a lot as well, so it’s just about sticking to the basics. As sub-continent players, we have grown up playing on those sorts of tracks, so it’s just about being smart and analysing the wicket and playing accordingly. Track record in ODIs
In four years in international cricket, you have been a part of the World Cup triumph, and tasted success in Test cricket. What does it mean for you?
It’s a great feeling that I have been part of a World Cup-winning team, that too in my first World Cup. Test cricket is something I really wanted to perform in and wasn’t able to do initially. But in Australia where the conditions are tough, they always say Australia makes you or breaks you as a player. I am really happy I did well over there when the conditions were tough. These things are always special for an international cricketer - when you win a World Cup or when you do well in Test cricket.
As a youngster, you have at times got carried away by off-the-field distractions. How did you deal with it?
It happens to anyone. I was 19 when I came into the team. It’s not always easy at that age to just come in and start behaving maturely. You do tend to make mistakes but you learn from them. Eventually you understand that if you are honest with the game, if you correct your mistakes, you will end up feeling good about yourself and your game.
What does stardom mean to you?
Stardom for me is just a substitute to what you do on the field. It is not something I am after; it is not something which would bother me if I don’t have it anymore. My top priority is to do well in cricket and do well for Team India and everything else follows. It’s not like if I do well for the team, I expect people to start recognising me much more or go crazy about me. It’s not that I feel great about it or I feel bad about it. Doing well in cricket is my only priority.
How much have your senior Delhi teammates, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, helped you in that respect?
They have been a big influence. I remember Viru bhai was very close to my coach, Rajkumar Sharma. I remember him telling my coach once “he is probably not concentrating too much on cricket and people are talking about it”. Those things helped me in a big way. All the seniors in the team have helped me throughout. They didn’t want me to waste my talent on other things.
Almost all the top sportspersons, especially cricketers, say they don’t read newspapers or watch news channels. How about you?
I don’t read anything seriously. I have learnt that from a lot of senior members in the team. If I do well, I don’t need people to realise I have done well. It’s for me to realise I’ve done well, and whether it has helped the team or not. If I haven’t done well, again I don’t need people to tell me I haven’t done well because it just adds to the pressure.
Is it because of the realisation that what the dressing room feels about you is the only thing that matters?
It plays a big role. The only thing that matters is when your team mates respect you. When your coach knows that you have the ability and he backs you and the team mates back you no matter what’s written or said. In Australia, when I didn’t do well in the first two Tests, everyone said, “He is not fit enough for Test cricket, drop him”. But MS (Dhoni) gave me that chance, the coach gave me that chance, my team mates believed in me and I delivered. It’s all about showing confidence in people.
You are the only young player who has more or less cemented his place in all the three formats. How do you cope with the additional pressure?
I don’t see it as pressure. I see it as opportunity and privilege. When I am drafted into a team, when I start regularly in a certain format, I start thinking as a youngster what did I want. It was to play every game that India plays.
Do you think it is too early for you to be billed as the next India captain?
I don’t think there is any time for this, like early or late. If I have been given the responsibility of being the vice-captain and people think I have leadership skills, I don’t feel weird about it because I like responsibility. That makes me mature as a person and as a cricketer as well, so it’s going to do me only good. It’s not that I have changed for my team mates.
What does batting mean to you?
Batting means worship to me. When I bat, there’s nothing else I think about. It’s just a different zone that I am in. I think it’s the most beautiful thing that can be for a batsman to be in that zone. When you are doing well for the team, you know you are making the team and people appreciate that. That gives me the ultimate high.