Indian captain Virat Kohli recalled the impact his late father had on his cricket career, saying his teachings helped him become what he is today.
Kohli recalled an incident from his early days when his father rejected a bribe which could have got him a place in Delhi’s state team. In an Instagram live chat with Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri for his video series Eleven on Ten, Kohli revealed he cried a lot after his rejection but that incident taught him a big lesson.
How Sport Inspires
Inspirational stories from the world of sport
“At one point state cricket things were not fair. There was an opportunity where someone chose to step out of the rules and said ‘there is no problem about merit but you will have to do something more.’ So my father understood that, he’s a guy who came from a humble background and became a lawyer. He said to my coach, that if he plays on his merit it is enough or we won’t make him play,” Kohli said.
“I cried a lot after that. I was broken but that showed me that the world works like this. If you need to go ahead, do things that no one else is doing. So that was the lesson he gave me and I saw that from my father who made a life for himself and gave me the right teachings by actions. That impact from him was huge and the courage he gave me was all I could ask for,” he added.
Kohli was 18 years old when he lost his father, who suffered a heart-attack. Kohli was playing a Ranji Trophy match for Delhi against Karnataka during that time while batting on 40 overnight. To everyone’s surprise, Kohli returned to the field the next morning and scored a fighting 90 to save Delhi from a follow-on. The Delhi batsman said his father’s death gave him a sense of direction in his cricket career.
Kohli made his debut for Delhi’s state team in 2006 before making his national team debut two years later in a One-Day International against Sri Lanka. He has since then broken many records, scoring 27 Test centuries and 43 in ODIs.
“I remember about him positively even now,” the 31-year-old said. “That incident to me was a blessing in my life. Something like that happening to me at that age where you could lose your focus, where you don’t know your priorities, that incident left me with no other option but to keep moving forward,” he added.
Responding to one moment if he could cherish with his father if he was alive, Kohli said: “After whatever he did for the family, the only thing I could have done for him is to give him a life of great retirement. These are things you can do by giving a comfortable life without any worries. That’s the biggest gift I could have given him back.”
Choosing cricket as a career
Looking back at his early days, Kohli said that it wasn’t until he joined the Indian Under-19 cricket team that he believed he could make a career in the sport. The Delhi cricketer further said his first tour of England as part of the Indian U-19 team gave him the motivation that he could become a good cricketer.
“I remember telling my father that I play well and I love the sport . Even my friends told him that I was good enough and I should learn professionally. So he enrolled me in an academy and the initial challenges were the monthly academy fee, the gear. When I played state cricket, I started earning fees per matches. So that’s when I thought if you keep going up, I can make a career out of this at some stage because you are committing your life to it. And my only aim was to give everything that I have and that I would see after that,” he said.
“I never doubted, that if I didn’t choose cricket, then what else? I had clarity that this is what I wanted to do. And I went ahead with it. When I ended up playing for the Indian U-19 team, that’s when I thought that [it could become my profession] since the first tour fee was a decent amount at that age for me.
I was 16 when I played my first U-19 tour and it was in England. That’s when I realised that I can choose this path and everything is going to unfold well if I keep working hard. So that first tour gave me the motivation that this isn’t going to be a waste of my time. If I keep going forward, everything will be taken care of,” he added.
‘Till the time I am playing the sport, I will be a maniac’
Kohli credited former India strength and conditioning coach Shankar Basu for his transformation into a supremely fit athlete and said he will continue to train like a “maniac” till the time he plays cricket. Talking about his transformation, Kohli said he would not take credit for it.
“It (fitness and training) is everything for me, I would not take credit for it, for me the biggest factor for my career going in another template has to be Shankar Basu,” Kohli stated.
Elaborating, the skipper told the national football team captain, “He [Basu] was a trainer at Royal Challengers Bangalore, he introduced me to lifting. I was a bit hesitant, I had some back issues, it was a totally new concept for me. But within three weeks I was amazed at the results that followed.
“After that, he worked with me on my diet, I started paying attention to what was happening with my body, that’s when I realised that because of my genes, I have to work twice or thrice on my body, I am doing the basic thing which my career requires me to do.”
Kohli, who turned vegan as part of his fitness regime, is also one of the team’s fittest players.
On training, he added, “Till the time I am playing the sport, I will be a maniac, if you are playing for the country, you have to work hard, if you cannot do that, then you should step away.”
During the session, Kohli said he is in awe of Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo, saying that his “beast” mentality is extremely inspiring.
“There are lots of people who look extremely good on field but to turn up for big matches that regularly, Cristiano stands out,” Kohli said.
Praising Ronaldo, Kohli recalled a Champions League round of 32 match between Juventus and Atletico Madrid.
“He went to Juventus and Champions League game, they lost 2-0 and then prior to return leg, he asked all his friends and family to come and watch the game saying ‘it is going to be a special night’ and then to play like that, score a hat-trick and take them through, unbelievable,” Kohli said.
He said the Portuguese footballer’s attitude inspires him the most.
“That is beast mentality. I can literally count on fingers the number of people who can have that conviction to say something and then do it like that. That for me is extremely inspiring,” Kohli said.
Watch the full conversation here: