I was trying to fake my intensity: Kohli
Former India captain on why he had to step away and not touch a bat for a month.
What’s ailing Virat Kohli? The question’s done the rounds as the 33-year-old’s lean run kept getting longer. His last international hundred was against Bangladesh in November 2019 – over 1000 days ago – and he’s looked a shadow of the player who ruled across formats since.
In a candid interview with broadcaster Star Sports ahead of India’s opening Asia Cup clash against Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday – which will be Kohli’s 100th T20I – the former India captain opened up on his recent travails. In the past, he has tended to be bullish and brush aside concerns about form but an extended break from the game seems to have offered him fresh perspective.
After featuring in the series against England that ended on July 17, he was rested for the limited-overs contests against West Indies and Zimbabwe.
“For the first time in 10 years, I didn’t touch a bat for a month. I thought about it and I came to the realisation that I was trying to fake my intensity a bit recently. You are convincing yourself that you can do it and you have the intensity, but your body is telling you to stop. Your mind is telling you to just take a break and step back. I was experiencing that I was not excited to train, I wasn’t excited to practice, and that really disturbed me because this is not who I am, and I literally needed to step away from that environment,” said Kohli.
The break has allowed Kohli to rediscover his zest for training and playing. “This has been an amazing break. I am looked at as a guy who has been mentally very strong. I am, but everyone has a limit and you need to recognise that limit,” he said. “Otherwise, things can get unhealthy for you. This period actually taught me a lot of things that I was not allowing to come to the surface. I am not shy to admit that I was feeling mentally down. This is a very normal thing to feel. But we don’t speak because we are hesitant. We don’t want to be looked at as weak people. Faking to be strong is far worse than admitting to be weak. I am feeling light now for sure.”
With the T20 World Cup in Australia beginning on October 16, India’s Asia Cup campaign will serve as a dress rehearsal for the marquee event. Kohli has his doubters in the shortest format given his tendency to take time at the start of an innings. In the past two IPL seasons, his strike rate dwindled to 119.46 and 115.99. It’s at odds with India’s attempts to be proactive and set the tone from the outset.
Kohli, though, suggested that an ICC tournament called for players to react to the situation rather than having a fixation with a particular brand of cricket.
“Our endeavour has always been to play aggressive cricket in T20s. Even in the past, we have had many big scores and chased down many big totals and we have won series in many countries. That cannot happen without having intent in the first place. But in big tournaments, you need more awareness and cricketing smarts than wanting to play a certain brand of cricket because that can implode on a particular day,” he said. “We have the talent in the team to understand the situation. My experience in big tournaments is you need to play the situation. The people who can hold their nerve will come out on top.”
Kohli has fond memories of playing Pakistan in the Asia Cup. His 183 against the arch-rivals in the 2012 Asia Cup remains his highest ODI score and he will hope that he can reignite his touch on Sunday. “The Asia Cup has always been memorable for me. The knock of 183 definitely stands out personally because it was a revelation at 23 that I could play at that level. I kind of surprised myself. From there, my belief grew more and more,” said Kohli.