India captain Virat Kohli, in a podcast with commentator and former English first-class cricketer Mark Nicholas, opened up about a difficult phase in his career as a professional cricketer, when he struggled to find the motivation to practice.
Kohli reflected on India’s 2014 tour of England, where he had a poor run with the bat in the Test series and failed to counter the swing bowling of James Anderson and Co. Kohli was 25 years old at that time and registered scores of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0,7, 6 and 20, averaging 13.50 in his 10 innings, as India went down 1-3 in the five-Test series.
“I did (suffer from depression). It’s not a great feeling when you wake up knowing that you won’t be able to score any runs, where you’re not in control of anything at all. I just couldn’t understand at all how to get over it.
“When you look back at a really difficult phase, you realise that you had to go through that phase fully to understand what went wrong and rectify your mistakes to move forward. That was a phase when I literally couldn’t do anything to overturn what I was going through. I felt like the loneliest guy in the world. And that’s what happens, you can really push yourself into a downward spiral. You feel like you’re going down each day.”
Kohli said he strongly feels that cricketers must seek professional help during such periods, otherwise such phases can be impossible to cope for some.
“For me, it was a revelation that you could feel that lonely even though you’re a part of a big group. I think I would like to see a change, someone that you can go to at any stage, have a conversation around and say ‘listen, this is what I’m feeling, I’m finding it hard to even go to sleep, I feel like I don’t even want to wake up in the morning, I have no confidence in myself, what do I do?’
“A lot of people suffered with that feeling through the sport that we play. I strongly feel the need for professional help there to be honest. Otherwise, you’re just left to figure things out on your own and you’re expected to toughen up and just get over it. Sometimes people are not able to.”
Talking about Anushka Sharma’s impact on his life, Kohli said she has helped him cope with the rigours of professional sport and said the conversations they have help him maintain a positive outlook.
“From a mental point of view, I have a lot of conversations with my wife. Anushka and I have such great detailed conversations about the complexity of the mind and how it can pull you into negativity and what are the things that matter to put things into perspective,” said the 32-year-old about his wife.
“She has been a pillar of strength for me in that regard. Because she herself is at a level where she had to deal with a lot of that negativity. So she understands my situation and I understand her situation. And to be able to have a life partner that understands exactly what you are thinking, feeling and what you are going through, I do not quite know if I would have had that clarity if she was not in my life,” he added.
Kohli also said that legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar once gave him valuable advice on how to deal with negative feelings.
“I did have a chat with him about the mental side of things as well and the thing that he told me was, in cricket what he experienced was if you are going through a strong negative feeling and if that is coming into your system regularly, it is best to let it pass. If you start fighting that feeling, it grows stronger. So, that is the advice I took on board and my mindset really opened up from then on,” he said
You can listen to Mark Nicholas’ full podcast – Not Just Cricket – with Virat Kohli here.