“I was captaining India and came to Delhi to play a Ranji game. In the dressing room, pacer Pradeep Sangwan said, ‘Viru bhai (Virender Sehwag) ek player aaya hai chhota sa. Ek din aapse bhi bada playyer banega.’ (A small-looking player has come. One day he will be a bigger player than you). I laughed out thinking my friend was pulling my leg, but in fact he was talking about Virat Kohli.”
“Trust me when he came to bat alongside me in the match, he played a straight drive that whizzed past me like a bulllet and that was the moment when even I thought that he was a big player,” Sehwag said about Kohli, displaying his by now well-known aptitude for humour at the launch of ‘Driven: The Virat Kohli story’, a book on the Indian Test captain written by author and journalist Vijay Lokapally.
The book itself takes readers through each stage of Kohli’s career. The idea for it took root at Kohli’s house in West Delhi. In December 2015, Lokapally visited Kohli’s house with the cricketer’s coach Rajkumar Sharma. The idea was to interview the Indian batsman and Kohli had invited both of them to talk over breakfast. Kohli’s mother served sumptuous punjabi paranthas. “They were simply irresistible,” said Lokapally.
But what caught Lokapally’s attention was the resolve with which Kohli kept himself away from the paranthas. A food he loved dearly all his teen years. In Kohli’s actions that morning, Lokapally could see the Indian skipper’s transformation from a chubby fellow to being India’s fittest cricketer. The journalist had traced Kohli’s progress since the day he joined Rajkumar’s Academy and could sense in him the drive to stay at the highest level for a long time.
“It took me less than three months to write the book. But seeing Kohli that day, eating a healthy mixture of proteins was a shock to me. We insisted he have a bite and he duly obliged us,” said Lokapally.
On Tuesday, cricket legends such as Anil Kumble, Ravi Shastri, Kapil Dev, and the man himself, Kohli, went down memory lane, bringing up interesting anecdotes as they attempted to share their understanding of the Indian Test captain’s persona.
Anil Kumble and Ravi Shastri have been with the Indian team as coach and former team director, and both of them praised his simplicity as a cricketer. “You got to give him all the credit for what he is. Whatever he does in future from here on, he is already a great cricketer for India. Best thing about him is his work ethic and how simply he continues working hard,” said Shastri, who has seen him in the team.
Kumble said what struck him most was Kohli’s sense of responsibility. “I first saw him during the U19 days. Then he joined the RCB (IPL side Royal Challengers Bangalore)and since then we share a good relationship. He is one guy who raised the bar for the cricketers. I have seen one guy who owns up for getting out and takes the entire blame on himself for the loss. That is a superb quality in Virat,” Kumble said.
Kapil Dev said Kohli’s fitness was on a different level, putting it down to the choice and ability to eat better. “He is supremely fit. I would say he is easily far better than what we were in our times. I remember we never had money to eat dinner but these boys decide what to eat for dinner. That is the difference he has made to Indian cricket. And he is only raising the bar.”
Fitness certainly adds to Kohli’s success mantra, but it also shows his determination towards the game. Murali Kartik said, “I have seen only two players punishing themselves. Marcus Trescothick and Ricky Ponting. They were so good at their games that they liked to take the onus on themselves. Kohli could be the third to add to that list. He might not enjoy the rewards of his success but he certainly pushed the limit to punish himself in order to continue taking the onus,” Kartik said.