'Virat Kohli knew going too much in the opposition's face...': Zaheer Khan on transformation of India legend
Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan who were a part of the RCB squad in the inaugural season of IPL in 2008 spoke about a young Virat Kohli.
There was something special about Virat Kohli. Not only the way he batted but also how he handled himself even as a teenager. A certain fearlessness stemmed from his unshakable self-confidence that made Kohli stand out. After leading India to the U19 World Cup victory in 2008, he was one of the very few who straightaway got to play the IPL with the big boys of international cricket. Identified as the one for the future, Kohli played 13 games for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the inaugural edition of the league scoring just 165 runs at an average of 15. He had a highest score of 38 but the then-RCB leadership group comprising legends like Rahu Dravid and Anil Kumble backed the talented right-hander from Delhi.
There was gradual improvement in Kohli's performance in each season and he soon climbed the ladder in both the Indian and RCB teams.
Anil Kumble, who was also a part of the RCB squad in the inaugural season spoke about a young Kohli. "He was very confident when he walked into the dressing room and you could see the talent as soon as you watched him at the nets," he told Jio Cinema.
"The one good thing that has happened to Virat is that there were a lot of U-19 youngsters who got into IPL franchises that year, but he got a chance in the first game. That's very important because when you're doing well as a 19-year-old and you get that break in your first season, you are not even thinking about the massive players in the dressing room. You are soaking in that atmosphere and getting involved in the match and that is exactly what happened with Virat. From there on, not just him, but the team had a tough year in 2008 and we did well in 2009. Virat continued from there on and then he became captain later on. It's wonderful as a 19-year-old to walk into any team and get the opportunity that he did," added Kumble.
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Alongside Kumble, Virat also had the veteran eye of Zaheer Khan watching over him in the RCB locker room. Khan elaborated on the change he saw in Kohli over the years and said : "One thing that stands out is Virat's appetite to learn and how quickly he went on adding things to his game and his approach to the game. He knew that once he had the responsibility of being the captain, he can't be doing the things he was doing earlier like just going too much in the face of opposition. You need to have that control and maturity as a leader, which he added. That was something that wasn't there if you look at the initial part of his journey.”
“One thing which he really made a difference with was that he brought in that culture of looking after yourself. If you look at how he was in 2008, a chubby kid full of energy, to becoming a very lean, mean person who is adding on that other side to the game. Everybody would do their routines to get themselves ready for the big stage but he went a notch or two higher than that," added Khan.
Kohli, the highest run-getter of IPL, will start his journey in the 16th edition when RCB face Mumbai Indians on April 2.