The personal stories of Team India members bound for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

2019 Cricket World Cup | Meet Team India: Virat Kohli — the giant of contemporary cricket

Where it all started: Virat Kohli with mother Saroj and his first coach Rajkumar Sharma during a function at his alma mater West Delhi Cricket Academy.

Where it all started: Virat Kohli with mother Saroj and his first coach Rajkumar Sharma during a function at his alma mater West Delhi Cricket Academy.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Kohli’s aggression and passion for the game has helped him reach this level

That Virat Kohli’s imprint on Indian cricket is immense is signalled by the fact that he has ushered in a cultural change. The change has broadly come about in two aspects, his first coach, Rajkumar Sharma, points out — fitness and self-belief.

“Now, all our players are very fit. There’s nobody whom we have to hide. Earlier, we would have two or three players we used to hide. It’s the culture that everybody wants to work hard [and be fit]. That is the best thing,” Rajkumar said.

Urge to throw

Throwing the ball with full strength to the wicketkeeper while fielding may be standard among aspiring cricketers, but the enthusiastic Kohli would ensure he did it every time at the West Delhi Cricket Academy, his cricketing alma mater, regardless of whether anyone was backing up. It didn’t matter whether the throw was needed or not.

“Till today, if you watch any of his matches, if he picks up the ball he will throw it hard. So I would have to shout from the boundary line: ‘Virat, mat maarna (don’t throw).’ But he will,” Rajkumar, his coach at the institution, said.

2019 Cricket World Cup | Meet Team India: Virat Kohli — the giant of contemporary cricket
 

According to Mithun Manhas, Kohli’s senior and captain in the Delhi Ranji team for a number of years, “He is aggressive and passionate and enjoys every moment. It’s a trait which has helped him reach this level.”

Manhas, recalling Kohli’s early days in the Delhi team, said, “He was a good timer of the ball and was technically sound. He had the confidence and the game.”

Hard-working

According to Raman Gujral, a close friend and a fellow trainee at the academy, Kohli would arrive for training early. “When he was young, he always wanted to train alongside the seniors. For the practice session that began at 3.30 p.m., he would arrive by 1.30. He worked really hard and made sure his day’s practice was worthwhile,” Gujral, now a businessman and fitness consultant, said.

By 2006, he was already an up-and-coming star. Gujral said, “Kohli always performed best in crucial matches and big leagues. He hit two double centuries at the under-17 level for Delhi.”

And after the Under-19 World Cup victory in 2008, he became very popular.

Just like his name Virat — meaning huge — he is a giant of contemporary cricket. His batting average is more than 50 in all three formats in internationals, and with 41 centuries in ODIs, he is just eight short of the world record currently held by his childhood idol Sachin Tendulkar.

Successful skipper too

Kohli has been successful as captain, too. Under him, India was the No. 1 Test team for more than two years and clinched its first-ever Test series win in Australia in 2018-19. The side also finished runner-up in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017.

But that’s only half the story because Kohli represents not just success; today he is the face of Indian cricket.

In today’s era of close-up cameras broadcasting players’ expressions, Kohli’s trademark aggressive disposition is familiar to millions of fans — in India as well as abroad.

Giving it back

Kohli is not fazed by sledging. “His style is similar to Ganguly’s style of captaincy because of his aggression. He wants to look into the eyes of the others and reply with his bat or ball. And the good thing is that he takes care of his team,” said Rajkumar.

Kohli symbolises a new Indian side that dictates proceedings rather than follow, that goes for a win rather than a draw.

At times, though, Kohli’s aggression can appear to be a bit over the board. “He was aggressive from the beginning, but sometimes he used to cross the line. With time and age, he has matured. But still, aggression is his strength and I have never asked him to mellow down or change that attitude,” Rajkumar added.

Kolhi’s former Delhi teammate Rajat Bhatia clarified that Kohli didn’t appear to be an aggressive character in his early days. “I remember his debut. I never knew him as aggressive, but now he has changed. It’s a formula that brings the best out of him. As long as he stays within limits, it’s fine,” Rajat said.

“This will be his first World Cup as captain. It is an event that he desperately wishes to do well in. “The sort of guy he is, he’s looking forward to the World Cup. And he’s very keen to be there and do it for India,” said Rajkumar.

But whatever be the journey of the Indian team at the World Cup, Kohli’s image as an icon is set in stone.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 8:19:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/2019-cricket-world-cup-meet-team-india-virat-kohli-the-giant-of-contemporary-cricket/article27356814.ece

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