Delhi made me tough as a cricketer: Virat Kohli

  • Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times, Sydney
  • Updated: Jan 22, 2016 20:58 IST
Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century against Australia in Melbourne. (AP Photo)

In most of the strokes, the way he caresses the ball, he could well have been an artist or a soft-spoken poet. It’s a surprise Virat Kohli is so different to how he plays.

Once he takes off that helmet, the soft side of his personality disappears to such an extent that the Australians relate to him equally as they to their own tough-talking, hard-nosed cricketers.

A lot of that aggressive streak may be natural. The rest was engrained while growing up playing in the tough environments of Delhi, said Kohli.

“I come from a city where you always had to fight your way up the system. Those things, and the things that happen in your life, make you mentally tougher and things don’t bother you after a while because you know you’re working hard enough.

You don’t really go out there and take unnecessary things being said to you from anyone. I follow that in life, I follow that in cricket as well,” revealed Kohli, giving a peek in to his mindset after holding Australia’s attention again with four consecutive high-quality innings in the ODIs here.

Indian player Virat Kohli tosses the ball during their One Day International cricket match against Australia in Canberra. (AP Photo)

Two centuries followed two half-centuries to make Kohli the highest scorer in this series with 373 runs. In the process, he has become the fastest to 7000 and touched the 25-century mark in ODIs. Handling superstardom can be the toughest part of success. Someone else in his position would have been gloating but for Kohli, key is to be able to take it in his stride.

“For the outside world, it’s a number of things - stats, numbers and career - which we never look at when you go onto the field. I think that is very important, because the moment you start drifting towards that side, you start losing focus on what you have to do and everything starts crumbling. I like to feel grateful that I am in that position but it’s very important to remember what got me there and still hold on to those values and beliefs.

“I still think of myself as a club cricketer wanting to do well in every game. In our heads, we still feel like we’re playing the first game. We have that kind of excitement, that sort of nervousness before we go to bat,” said Kohli, humbly adding that he shouldn’t be compared with West Indian great Vivian Richards as he had played in a tougher era with limited protective gear.

Kohli’s love affair with Australia began in Test cricket, the last two weeks has seen it being translated in to one-day cricket also. “Australia is a country I like coming to. It has a very positive vibe; it’s very relaxed. We can be ourselves here. We can walk around and just have a normal life. That as a cricketer is very important to experience. At times, just to feel relaxed and feel very normal. And that’s what I like about coming here,” he said.

On Ravi Shastri’s relationship with him as captain and as a batsman

Honestly, he’s helped me more as a batsman. Just with the mental side of things. As a captain, he doesn’t like to interfere too much. He would probably let you know after a game, how it’s gone. He was the one who told me to stand outside the crease and widen my stance after the England tour, and it worked wonders for me in Australia.

Then, going back to a narrower stance, again he brought it up, with Sanjay Bangar who’s the batting coach, to help me move better. We felt areas of my game are being blocked, and I can really open up. I was not able to play square of the wicket. So these things are important to get, to you. But it’s more important to work on those things as well.

India's Virat Kohli celebrates the wicket of Australia's George Bailey during their one day international cricket match in Melbourne. (AP Photo)

On being touted to be the most Australian among Indian batsmen

Yes, last time during the Test series I think I heard about this. I don’t know, that’s the way I’ve always played. Maybe it’s because it relates to the Australian public more because the players here obviously have a similar kind of approach towards the game. They don’t like to back off from an argument on the field.

As long as I’m working hard and honestly, I don’t really need to explain myself to anyone or go out there and prove to anyone. It’s just something that might connect to them, and they feel that way, but this is the way I’ve always been I guess.

On his altercation with James Faulkner

To be really honest, it’s just for fun. It becomes irrelevant after a point. Because I don’t go to the field thinking I’m going to fight with someone today. I’m in a good head space.

On being compared with Viv Richards

It’s surreal to think about it. It’s better not to think about it. Because somewhere you feel that you don’t deserve that comparison because I always believe that people who played in the previous era had it more difficult. If you’re talking of Viv Richards, I can’t even think of playing in a cap.

He played all his career in a cap anywhere in the world and he hit fast bowlers with the new ball across the line for sixes over square leg. Even thinking about it sends chills down your spine. As I’ve said before, I only try to go out there and do what I can do best.

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