New Delhi: Virat Kohli has never shied away from proving his naysayers wrong. And while he faced a bit of flak for his antics and “lack of professionalism” in the initial days of his career, the Indian captain has gone on to become the “quintessential professional”, feels former Australia batsman Greg Chappell.
Chappell, in his article in The Sunday Morning Herald, said Kohli is a “proponent of all-out aggression” as he outlined the career of the 32-year-old while comparing him with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni.
“Former Indian opener Lalchand Rajput, who coached Kohli at under-19 level, recognised very early that he had what it took to be a champion. Not everybody was convinced, however. The doubters did not have the advantage that Rajput had of seeing the young man up close. This proximity gave him an insight into the passion, desire and, more importantly, the self-belief Kohli held that he could be a great player,” Chappell wrote.
“Not that India hasn’t produced great batsmen in the past. Sunil Gavaskar and Rahul Dravid were veritable run machines and VVS Laxman was an artist of consummate skill. Sachin Tendulkar, especially the early iteration, was a genius. But none of them were in-your-face personalities like ‘King’ Kohli. MS Dhoni matched swashbuckle with Kohli in the white-ball formats, but he could not consistently pull it off in Test cricket,” he added.
To highlight Kohli’s strength of mind, Chappell cited the example from December 2006 when Kohli’s father passed away during a Ranji Trophy game in Delhi. Chappell said it was expected that Kohli would withdraw but the latter came out and scored 90 in a “backs-to-the-wall effort to save Delhi from defeat.”
Chappell said Kohli becoming a “quintessential professional” was not by chance. He said it was a reflection of the player’s sheer hard work and “attention to detail”.
“He was rewarded with his first one-day international cap as a 20-year-old in August 2008, but his first Test cap did not eventuate until June 2011. Kohli struggled with his early elevation. He got caught up in the bright lights and made some poor choices.
Doubts intensified that his antics and lack of professionalism would undermine his ability,” Chappell said.
“His coach, Rajkumar Sharma, gave him a wake-up call. He had a good look at himself and decided that he didn’t want to waste his talent. Virat reviewed his lifestyle and immediately changed his attitude, diet and the way he trained. No Indian cricketer has paid as much attention to detail and no aspect of preparation was left to chance. He became the quintessential professional and a model of the modern Indian cricketer. Allied with his determination and aggression, he became the player that competitors feared most,” he added.
Chappell also touched upon how Kohli’s performance affects “aspirations and mood of a billion people”.
“As captain of India, Kohli is tremendously influential. He is also under the most pressure. It cannot be underestimated how hard it must be to go out to bat with the hopes, aspirations and mood of a billion people, riding on your every performance. As Kohli says, ‘If I focus on that, I can’t breathe. I must focus on what I can do’,” he said.
India is currently in Australia, gearing up for the four-match Test series. However, the skipper will only be featuring in the opening Test and will then head back home as he has been granted paternity leave by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
“While entirely understandable, it is a shame for this contest that Kohli will go home for the birth of his first child after the Adelaide Test. This series is a bout between heavyweights. Arguably, the best two teams in world cricket will battle it out at near full strength. India won last time on Australian soil, but the asterisk was that Smith and David Warner were absent. Kohli is an intensely driven man. He will want his team to reiterate their supremacy, and I expect something exceptional from him before he goes,” Chappell wrote. (ANI)