Kohli steel to Indian middle-order

Delhi batsman says he has worked hard to become an important cog in the teams wheel

Kohli steel to Indian middle-order

Sachin Tendulkar has a tip or two for Virat Kohli at the nets in Bangalore on Friday. DH Photo

Today, the young man is on a mission. He still enjoys a good time, but his primary, burning focus is cricket. Furiously committed to his vocation and determined to leave no stone unturned on his part, the former India under-19 captain has evolved into a mature individual, his feet firmly on the ground, his head in the right place, his vision remarkably unclouded.

His wonderful run in the last year and a half in one-day cricket has catapulted the 22-year-old to the number two spot in the ICC rankings for one-day batsmen. Through sheer weight of performance, the right-hander now commands a place in the Indian starting eleven. The articulate young man credits his prolonged excellent run to heightened self-awareness, and the desire to make his presence in the Indian team count.

Added responsiblity

“I have learnt from my mistakes,” he said on Friday, his poise and assurance all too obvious. “Of late, I have also been given the added responsibility of batting up the order, and I had a good chance of playing longer innings if I applied myself more. In South Africa, I was really happy with the way I controlled myself when I felt like playing a rash shot and actually didn’t.”

Kohli was one of India’s better top-order batsmen in South Africa, his stand-out effort an unbeaten 87 in a losing cause in the rain-interrupted fourth match in Port Elizabeth. “I wanted to do well in South Africa, though I did not have any particular target,” he revealed.

Enjoying the game

“I also wanted to do well because going into the World Cup, we had to be confident as a unit. I was just looking to enjoy my game and learn as much as possible, score a few runs because this was my first SA tour. Overall, it was a good experience against world-class bowlers. Doing well against them has given me a lot of confidence and I would like to carry it into the World Cup, but I am not feeling over-confident.
 “I learned a lot on how to be mentally tough, especially while facing the best bowlers in the world.

“It’s all about getting in the face of the opposition and not getting bogged down by them. They might be the best bowlers in the world but if you are confident of your ability, you can succeed. It’s about believing in your ability and having trust and confidence in what you are going to do out there.”

His evolution as a cricketer, Kohli agreed, had also furthered his growth as a human being. “The changes you bring into the field can tend to make you more relaxed off the field too. You tend to think that way, the way you plan your innings, your mindset kind of shifts in that direction. You begin to catch all those qualities of being relaxed and be more mature.”

A majority of that maturing process must come from within, Kohli observed. “As a youngster, when you break into the team and start doing well, people tend to build you up and distract you,” he said.

“It’s important to keep the focus on your game. As long as you spend more time on the field, you are going to be fine. The moment you start thinking I have had enough practice and I am fine with it, that’s when you are in trouble. It’s important to look forward to every practice session, not just the matches. To be just involved in the game more than anything else and be around people who you can learn from is very important.

“Most of it, however, has to come from within. You have to realise where you are going and how you need to correct that, and along with that comes people supporting you who have seen that and experienced that,” Kohli remarked of the need to keep oneself on track and not get carried away by fleeting success and mass adulation.

“It’s a combination of both but 70 percent is your own thinking, the way you want to change yourself, and 30 percent could be the help of other players who encourage you to make a decision on that.”

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