India in Sri Lanka 2012 August 2, 2012

Practice takes Kohli close to perfect

Yuvraj Singh once said he wished he had Virat Kohli's work ethic when he was young and watching Kohli in practice shows why.

It is easy to talk about Virat Kohli's attitude. He is young, successful and from Delhi, a city where brash is known to go with the former two attributes. He has everything a regular 23-year old would only dream of. He is India vice-captain, a World Cup winner, an IPL star and currently in the form of his life. And he makes sure you know all that the way he swaggers around with what can only be termed as the Don't-touch-me-I'm-Virat look. All of this is easily seen and easily spoken about. What is not seen much, largely due to Kohli's outward manifestations, is the way the man goes about his game. Yuvraj Singh has said he wished he had Kohli's work ethic when he was young, and you can see during practice what made Yuvraj say that.

If Gautam Gambhir's eyes drip intensity and Rahul Dravid's stance shows his determination, Kohli's entire being exudes a rarely seen combination of precision and passion during practice.

Kohli's precision is not the mere cold calculation of doing exactly what is required to be done; it seems so natural it's almost surreal. He bats with precision, he takes catches with precision, he does fitness drills with precision, he even gives throwdowns to team-mates with precision. And appears completely natural all the time.

Kohli's passion is not the uncontrollable childlike enthusiasm of a youngster. He will take several blinders at point during training and go down with a contorted face full of disappointment if he misses even one. There are many in this side who would not even go for such catches in the first place. Kohli gives the impression he really wants to be here, doing what he is doing, playing cricket for India.

He starts by thumping the spinners in the nets. There are a couple of local net bowlers and the three specialist India spinners - R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Rahul Sharma. Kohli hardly differentiates between them. He charges out and carts them over the boundary. He lofts them into the stands. He crashes them off the back foot. Even from a distance of tens of metres, the sight is brutal. Not in the display of power, as MS Dhoni shows later, but in the relentlessness of it.

He moves on to taking high catches on the boundary. He takes them all. He leaps and takes them inches from the rope. He runs several yards in front to take them. He drops none. At no point does he appear to be straining himself. Is this man for real?

Now he takes those sharp ones at point. Virender Sehwag joins in for a few minutes, then walks away. Kohli continues to throw himself around. He goes with both hands, he goes with one hand. Suddenly, he drops one. And goes down as is he's dropped it in a World Cup final. Say what you will about the man's behaviour, but surely he can't be overdoing this reaction.

He now takes over the duty of hitting those high catches to his team-mates. And does it with gusto. Dhoni, who is among those taking the catches, asks for one close to the rope. The next ball promptly arrives where the captain wants it.

You would think at least now he would show some sign, one sign, of being tired. But wait. Gambhir wants to practice some back-foot punches. Who to give him throwdowns but his young Delhi team-mate? Kohli keeps banging them earnestly into the pitch and Gambhir keeps punching them sweetly till he is satisfied with the stroke.

Ah, he is done, finally. Surely, now he will show that he is tired. At least a deep breath? Not coming. The swagger is back in place as Kohli walks to the dressing room. He even poses for some photographs with a group of Sri Lankan fans. Did he smile broadly at the camera? Of course not. He's Virat.

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo