India captain Virat Kohli on Thursday said he became a better person by playing Test cricket, calling the format a representation of life where one doesn’t have the option of quitting when the going gets tough.
Speaking to former England batsman and IPL teammate Kevin Pietersen during an Instagram live session, Kohli touched upon his passion for Test cricket, the worst phase of his career, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s title drought, how he turned into a vegan and how much he is filled with gratitude for being able to live a comfortable life during a global crisis like Covid-19.
Asked which is his favourite format, the Indian skipper emphatically replied: “Test cricket, Test cricket, Test cricket, Test cricket and Test cricket. I have said it five times. Because it is the representation of life. Whether you get runs or not, you have to clap when others are batting. You have to go back to your room, get up and come the next day.”
“You have to follow the routine whether you like it or not. It’s like life where you don’t have the option of not competing. Test cricket has made me a better person,” said the world’s premier all-format batsman, who has 27 hundreds and 7240 runs in 86 games.
Pietersen, a successful Test batsman himself, lauded Kohli for trashing the idea of four-day Tests which the ICC has floated to pull in more crowds.
“I was called for a debate and I told them that if Virat Kohli doesn’t want four-day Tests, it’s not happening,” the former England captain said as Kohli had a hearty laugh.
Friendship with ABdV
Talking about becoming a better person, Kohli felt that he can count his blessings of having all the comforts in life at a time when the world is reeling under the havoc wreaked by coronavirus.
“I am grateful to god that I have a place to live at a time when people are struggling for jobs. You just want to sit back and reflect. You are filled with gratitude. We should never sit back and complain about what we don’t have,” he said.
His aggressive on-field demeanour has polarised opinions but the Indian skipper feels that for him, aggression is a form of enjoyment and then comes thinking about strategy.
“I don’t think I need to behave myself just because I am the captain. I need to be able to enjoy and then comes strategy.”
But there is one guy he will never sledge in his life and that is AB de Villiers.
“IPL has done a lot in terms of respecting each other. I would never ever be able to do it [sledging] with AB. There is a friendship that lasts much longer than all these things,” he said.
Asked to choose two batsmen he enjoys batting with most, De Villiers is one of them along with former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
“I enjoy batting with those who understand my running between the wickets. You have to understand my calls. I have enjoyed batting with MS and with AB, we don’t even need to call as we look at each other and we know.”
About moving away from a meat-based diet, Kohli spoke about how he developed a cervical spine problem during the 2018 tour of South Africa.
“I had literally no feel in my little fingers. It was when I also realised that I had an acidic stomach and the calcium was being pulled from the bones. I stopped eating meat and I never felt better. I can now play two Tests matches with little gap at 120 per cent intensity.”
As he had said earlier once, he would like to play all formats till 2023 and then take a call. Kohli reiterated that the 2014 tour of England was the lowest point of his career when he felt that failure was inevitable.
“It was a phase where I felt that there was no chance of me getting any runs. I would get up and go to a match knowing that I will not get runs. To go through that feeling that you will fail demolished me. I promised never to let that happen to me again,” he said as a message for all youngsters who want to be the next Virat Kohli.
The reason for the disaster in England was putting himself ahead of the team and being “obsessed about his own game and success” and not being able to shut out the voices who spoke about success in England being the ultimate Test of a cricketer.
“Don’t be self centred,” was his message to the youngsters.
Pressure on RCB
Kohli also said the added pressure on Royal Challengers Bangalore could well be the reason why his side have never managed to win the Indian Premier League so far.
In twelve editions of the tournament so far, RCB have finished runners-up on three occasions in 2009, 2011 and 2016. They have underperformed in the last three editions, finishing at the bottom twice.
“I remember about all the times when we have done well at RCB, we never thought of winning the title or reaching the semis,” the India captain.
“Its just the added pressure whenever we have played in the recent past. We’ve just thought [about performing well] season after season and it has just blown us all over the place. We need to bring that joy back,” he said.
Responding to the former England international on how he faces questions about RCB’s failures to win the title, Kohli said the franchise was always going to be under scrutiny as it has big players.
“When you have had the biggest players playing for RCB, there’s going to be much more attention on the team,” he said. “Even with the current team involving me and AB [De Velliers]. [Chris] Gayle played recently for us as well. So we are always going to be in focus. And we’ve spoken about it. We’ve reached three semis, but those things are irrelevant until the time you don’t win that title.
“We feel the same as everyone to be honest. We keep talking about the team we have. Even when we’ve had the best team, we weren’t able to do it. That has been one of our main goals but we deserved to win a title,” he said.
With the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic putting the IPL 2020 schedule under doubt, RCB might have to wait for another year to win the title if the tournament is called off.
(With PTI inputs)