West Indies v India, 2nd ODI, Trinidad June 8, 2011

Mature Kohli makes all the right moves


Virat Kohli comes to meet the press in a sleeveless shirt. An image of a Japanese samurai warrior with a sword raised screams out in a tattoo on his left shoulder. He looks relaxed; the musk he is wearing is called confidence. He was once brash but he was always ambitious. For a while he was living on the edge, struggling to come to terms with early fame, but his ambition has roped him in.

It was during an inane tri-series in Bangladesh in January 2010 that he first showed signs of maturity in public. It made you sit up and notice then. These days he wears it lightly. The clarity of thought is striking. He seems to be at peace with himself. It's no coincidence that his cricket too is flourishing.

Today's knock was yet another one from the stable of Kohli. He seemed always under control. The bowling wasn't too testing, the pitch had eased up and he rarely let the opposition into the game. Later, he said the right things. These days he always says the right things with a smile. The confidence hits you. The once brash brat is now almost likeable. Times they are changing.

"I was always determined to do well," Kohli said. "Probably what I was doing off the field was not on at that time. I probably got carried away. Someone or other always tell you that this has been spoken about you at this place. I decided to change. I decided myself. No one can force myself to change. I had to do it. It was time to change.

"I have been given a chance to play for India, which is not a small thing because you have 20 others with same talent are waiting for that kind of a chance. So why waste the opportunity given to me. I got the odd game here and there in 2009. I was a replacement player then. I was very determined to do well at each opportunity."

In the early days, the lack of consistent runs devalued the swagger that he always seemed to have. It made him look arrogant. Brash. Wild. Unlikeable. And even made you forget that he was just a young boy, learning to deal with things that not many at his age are forced to deal with. The bad press accumulated. The bad karma continued. Kohli was living in the headlines for the wrong reasons. A talent was on the verge of self-destruction. Then something happened.

"It's about realising that every opportunity is as important as the next one or previous one," he said. "Not everyone gets an opportunity to play for India. It's a big honour for me. I have realised that massively in the last one and half years. I want to give 100% and make use of every opportunity. Initially, in my ODI career, I have made rash mistakes with my rush of blood at important times. If you keep doing it, you are not going to get the opportunity. I enjoy my batting these days. Especially during a chase I know what I have to do, rotate the strike."

Questions about his attitude have dogged him for a while. Has he got bored now? "I think I have answered that too much," he said with a smile. "But I have enjoyed answering that question every time. I feel good with myself for having changed what people did not like initially and then transform into that performances. I feel good about it but it's not something I want to be too proud of and get relaxed. I don't want to get complacent. The whole point in changing from that kind of attitude to this current attitude to perform consistently. I want to keep going."

It's not going to be easy. It will take a constant vigil over oneself. The danger of relapse is going to be there. But Kohli continues to not only say but also do the right things. Sample this answer to a question about whether he strives to ape a Tendulkar or a Sehwag. In his own mind, he has translated that question to mean whether he is striving to be as famous as them.

"It was never in my mind that I had to be at the level of them in fame or whatever. Those guys have been there, done that. It has taken a lot of time to reach where they are. There is no point in comparing oneself to them. Everyone has their own style of batting. I have realised that in the last one and half years. I admire them but there is no use batting like them. Take the first match of the World Cup. If I had tried to bat like Viru bhai, I would have perhaps ended up scoring 40. They have a special ability that has made them legends of the game. There is no point in doing what is not my strength."

The answers were perfect. The cynics will say they were too perfect. His fans will say they come from a man who is in a hurry to mature. He won't say it publicly but one gets the impression that he thinks he can become India's captain one day. Kohli has always struck you more ambitious than a Rohit or even Raina for that matter. A scribe put it to him that he has a wonderful ability to talk and express, and asked if he works on that skill.

"I don't think I work on that ability (to express myself)," Kohli said. "It's about being honest."

Does he think it's a leadership quality?

"I can't say anything about it being (leadership quality). I am honest in whatever question is thrown at me at every press conference. I don't really work on it."

Virat got up and left the room. Ambition floated in the air.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 10, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    time gives all the answers you need.... virat will ride India Surely in future... no doubt the young and most anticipated will do it.

  • Dummy4 on June 10, 2011, 5:10 GMT

    @ Dnyanesh Nadkarni.I think you should get your perspectives right. Anybody who has followed for a considerable period wud know even watching team chase is that much more tense than while watching a team setting a target. Then u can imagine how stressful it cud be for the guy who is actually playing. Any player worth his salt can play his natural game while batting first. But to bring out your best while chasing, that takes enormous guts. This factor cant be taught, u need to have played some cricket to understand what I am saying. And by the way VVS' 280 was while following with a huge deficit and more than 2 and half days to play for, thats even more stressful than a chase. As for Ganguly, the Lord's final '02 chasing 326 he set the tone for the chase with 60(43) and his 144 in brisbane '03 where he set the tone for the entire series are prime examples. Sachin is a great batsman no doubt. But will you ask him bat for your life.No. That wud be the Laxmans, Sauravs and Steve Waughs.

  • Reghu on June 10, 2011, 4:41 GMT

    Gayle not in the squad for 3rd ODI....WI board is mad...... Its right opportunity for the club players back in India....all can be tested against this wi team (without the threat of loosing a match) before these youngsters are made to play for their respective states in Ranji Trophy......lols..... Its impossible to believe that its WI which had produced Joel Garner, Greenidge,Ambrose,Walsh,Richardson,Richards,Hooper,Marshall,Lloyd,Lara etc......

  • Dummy4 on June 10, 2011, 3:58 GMT

    Flush of fame is what strikes a rising star with a gale force. Not everyone can handle it consummately. Virat has an array of the finest examples of stars that came successfully through this dicey phase. Tendulkar, Viru, Dhoni, Dravid et al should be his role models. He just needs to unscramble how a Muralidaran , a Kapil or a Kumble have continued to remain humble in all the glare of limitless fame.

  • Anit on June 9, 2011, 23:45 GMT

    There is nothing wrong in having ambition. If ambition meets mature head and talent, it usually produce good results. I would not say SRT does not have ambition. However he has very mature head and lot of talent to channel his ambition to produce results. I don't understand cynicism in comments.

  • Finn on June 9, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    I think that he is one of the best young batsmen in the world. He'll walk into the Test team when the time comes for someone in the middle order to retire

  • Dummy4 on June 9, 2011, 18:12 GMT

    Calling Virat Kohli a future great might turn out to be like when we all called Irfan Pathan the next Kapil Dev....Kohli looks very ambitious...true that...but I still feel his real test will be when he does not get enough chances in the middle....when India is at full strength...because I feel his ambitious nature might just become a reason for his downfall...On the other hand, I feel Suresh Raina beats him all ends...He is one of the most selfless cricketers I have seen...And also very talented, committed and enthusiasic...His failure to short ball tactics have undone at many times, his brilliance..and people sometimes start to look at him in doubt...but seeing his track record, of how many innumerable times, he has played incredible innings to take his team over the line is heartening for his fans.Would love to see Raina bat a little higher up the order...hope his hardwork will silence the critics soon....and as a fan, it will be more heartening to see a Raina become a future great.

  • Dummy4 on June 9, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    @Fennington Suresh...Please understand cricket and then speak...Cricket is not just about chasing but also about setting...If SRT has set amazing targets than he has chased, its not his mistake...BTW VVS and Saurav are no different statistically...VVS has that magical 280, in tests and BTW even then he wasnt chasing but setting...Saurav doesnt even have that...Sachin has saved a test, lost a test and won a test scoring centuries in the 4th innings...Can many batsman say that?

    BTW I feel Kohli can be the new DHONI!!!

  • Prakhar on June 9, 2011, 17:26 GMT

    Kohli has always been a very ambitious player and its good that he has realized early what exactly he was doing wrong. India would never want to loose such a talent because of incorrect attitude. Kudos to the young man, he has shown very good signs of early maturity and future leader. One can never know he might become the captain of Indian cricket team one day and might become a bigger name than a Sehwag or a Yuvraj, future can be very unpredictable. Thanks to IPL, no doubt its called a distraction for international players but the one best thing BCCI has done is not to allow more than 4 foreign players in a team..giving more opportunity to domestic talent. All the best to Kohli, i'll never forget the statement he gave after winning the world cup. He said when asked about how he felt of lifting Sachin Tendulkar on their shoulders, "He has carried the burden of Indian cricket for more than 20 years, it's time we should carry him on our shoulders".

  • Vicky on June 9, 2011, 17:18 GMT

    Can we compare our fingers with each other, though they are from the same body? The answer is NO. We cant really compare the Past with Future. Thats how the transition happends. From Kapil - Srinath - Zaheer or from Gavaskar - Tendulkar - Virat or any body else. Tendulkar become Tendulkar after 20 years so give other guys a fair enough chance before you even think of comparing.

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