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Virat Kohli Birthday Special: Thankful to God for getting a student like him - Childhood coach Rajkumar Sharma

While coach Rajkumar is one of the most sought after coaches in the city, it is interesting how the man behind Kohli’s transition from a budding talent to a world-class cricketer often thanks god for gifting him a ward like the India skipper.

cricket Updated: Nov 05, 2018 12:18 IST
Baidurjo Bhose
Baidurjo Bhose
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Virat Kohli Birthday,Happy Birthday Virat,India VS West Indies
India skipper Virat Kohli with childhood coach Rajkumar Sharma(Rajkumar Sharma/ Facebook)

Fastest to 10,000 runs in ODI cricket, 24 centuries in 73 Test matches, 62 hundreds in international cricket. And to think that Virat Kohli has only just turned 30 today. From a kid who picked up the cricket bat like millions in this country do to becoming one of it’s favourite sons, Kohli has travelled a path most can’t even afford to dream of and one man who has seen his meteoric rise from close quarters is none other than his childhood coach Rajkumar Sharma.

While coach Rajkumar is one of the most sought after coaches in the city, it is interesting how the man behind Kohli’s transition from a budding talent to a world-class cricketer often thanks god for gifting him a ward like the India skipper.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Rajkumar revealed that his bond with Kohli has been one of a friend, philosopher and guide. From talking about the young kid who impressed him with his powerful shot-making to the hours that Kohli still spends at the nets to fine-tune his skills, Rajkumar takes us behind the scenes on a journey that has seen the young boy from Vikaspuri become one of the best batsman in world cricket.

Making no bones about his unconditional love for the India skipper, Rajkumar starts by saying that while people wish to get trained by him, he feels blessed to have had the opportunity of training someone as immensely talented as Kohli.

“I am thankful to god that I got a ward like Virat who is no less than a son for me. Success is something else, but the discipline and dedication he has shown is something that is a mark of a true champion. He is not just a quality student of the game, he is also an extremely hard working person. I feel privileged that I got to train a special talent like Virat.

“He is very soft at heart. He is an emotional person and has a heart of gold. Those who know him know his true nature. He might come across as brash and flamboyant, but that is not true. He loves kids and is extremely affectionate towards elders,” he said.

Virat Kohli impressed his coach from the moment he came to Rajkumar Sharma’s coaching camp. ( Rajkumar Sharma/Facebook )

Cut to the first time Rajkumar saw a young kid looking to make a mark for himself and the coach says it was Kohli’s power-ridden strokes that first made an impression in the eyes of one of Delhi’s most successful coaches.

“He impressed me with his power the first time I saw him. Even as an 8 yr old kid, the way he played some of the strokes, the punch he packed behind them made you immediately sit up and take note. Also, even while fielding, he threw the ball from the boundary with great force. This wasn’t something that was common for kids of his age,” he said.

From being impressed by one of the many kids who came to his academy to taking on the mantle of guide once Kohli’s father passed away, life has tested Rajkumar just as much as it tested the captain. But Rajkumar says his job was made easier as Kohli himself turned a new leaf in the chapter called life post the sudden passing away of his father.

“We all know that Virat was very fond of his father and they would come to the ground together and he would ride Virat around the city as he played one game after the other. It was indeed a difficult time, but to be honest with you, the episode changed Virat in more ways than one. He actually matured overnight. The kiddish behaviour was gone as were some of his acts which were a clear sign of his immaturity.

“He turned into a smart kid who knew what was expected of him. Yes, he did need my guidance from time to time and I was always there looking to help him in whatever way possible. I tried my best to provide him the support he needed,” he said.

One important aspect of Rajkumar has been his policy of speaking his heart out to Kohli. While many coaches seem to shy away from criticizing their wards once they become stars, Rajkumar has always believed in showing Kohli the true picture and that he says comes from the fact that Kohli is his son first and ward later.

Even after breaking into the national team, Virat Kohli has often been seen training at the West Delhi Cricket Academy. ( Rajkumar Sharma/Facebook )

“He was never my ward. He has been my son and will always be. So, the question of not scolding him for anything he did wrong never came to mind. Just like I will scold my son, I scolded him when I felt something was amiss and somewhere deep down, Virat also knew that I am his well-wisher and whatever I do is only for his good in the long run. See, when you know that someone is taking a step or telling you something because he wishes you well, you also start to respect that and give that person that position,” he explained.

If the sudden passing of his father was a personal low, the tour of England in 2014 was the lowest point in his cricketing career. And once again, Rajkumar was right there to pull his ward out of that negative zone. Even as pundits claimed his technical issues had come to the fore, the coach made sure that Kohli realized how well James Anderson was bowling at that point in time.

“I would like to credit James Anderson. He was bowling brilliantly at that time and credit where due. I have always maintained there was no technical flaw, it was just a case of bouncing back and that is what he did. Every player goes through a tough phase and it is the self-belief that makes Virat the player he is. If you see, it is that very self-belief and adaptability that makes him one of the best batsmen in world cricket at present. He can visualize situations and play according to the opposition and match positions. A champion is made from these very qualities.

“Yes, Anderson was having a brilliant series and he too is someone who has represented England successfully. The moment you give someone his due, you also realise that there is more to life than one failure,” he said.

Rajkumar doesn’t generally differ from his ward Kohli. But while Kohli recently said that he has a few years of international cricket left in him, his coach believes that the rise of Kohli the superstar has only just begun.

Rajkumar Sharma with his favourite ward Virat Kohli. ( Rajkumar Sharma/Facebook )

“He has a lot of cricket left in him. He will play for another 10 year for the country considering the hunger in him. God willing, he will remain injury free and trust me when I say that there is a lot of cricket left in him. He will make the country proud and keep serving the nation like he has,” he smiled.

When asked if that meant that Kohli was destined to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 100 international centuries, Rajkumar made it clear that his ward plays for the country and the billions who brave every situation to come out and watch the boys play, not to break records.

“We don’t speak of records so I wouldn’t like to get there as he never runs after records. Yes, he feels good when I tell him of the records, but records are not his goals. He plays to win games for the country,” he signed off.

First Published: Nov 05, 2018 12:13 IST