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Kohli: 'The game remains simple, desperation doesn't get you anywhere'

India batter says his mantra is playing every game fearlessly like it's his last

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Play every game like it's your last game, and be happy about it, not sad. That's what Virat Kohli learned during his lean phase with the bat.
Between November 2019 and September 2022, Kohli didn't score a single international hundred. He ended the drought with his first T20I hundred during the Asia Cup last year, and now has two in his previous two ODI innings, the latest one coming against Sri Lanka in the first ODI in Guwahati.
"The one thing I learnt was desperation doesn't get you anywhere," Kohli said after receiving the Player-of-the-Match award. "The game still remains very simple. It's when we start complicating things with our own attachments, our own desires, our own attachment to who we become from people's point of view, not who we were when we picked up the bat or the ball when we started playing. I think when that perspective goes off, you start putting yourself in a space where everything just keeps spiralling downwards.
"And it's only that detachment, in the real sense, [that helps], where you go out there playing without any fear, and you go out there playing for the right reasons, almost playing every game like it's your last game and being happy about it, not being sad about it. These are the things that I learnt.
"I cannot hold on to things. The game is going to move on, it's going to keep going on, many players have played in the past as well. I am not going to play forever. So what I am trying to hold on to, what I am trying to protect? So all these were the things that I realised. I am in a happy space [now]. I am just enjoying my game and I just want to play with enjoyment as long as I play."
After Sri Lanka put India in on Tuesday, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill set the platform with a 143-run opening stand in just 19.4 overs. Kohli too started aggressively and maintained that tempo throughout, finishing with 113 off 87 balls at a strike rate of almost 130. His knock helped India reach 373 for 7, which proved to be out of Sri Lanka's reach.
"I don't think there was anything different that I personally prepared like," Kohli said. "My preparation always stays the same, my intent always stays the same. Sometimes you don't quite get the flow you want but today I just felt like I was hitting the ball nicely from the get-go. So I just kept backing my intent and even when the wickets fell I kind of had to hold one end and bat along with other guys.
"As I said in the innings break, it was very close to the template that I play with. Understanding the conditions [dew] in the second half, I also had in mind that we would need those 25-30 extra runs and eventually I was just happy that I was able to get that for the team, to give us a comfortable total on the board."
During his innings, Kohli was dropped twice, first on 52 and then again on 81. Kohli said he was grateful for days like this as luck doesn't always shine on you.
"I would take those any day," Kohli said at the innings break. "Look, luck plays a big part and you can just bow your head down and thank God on these kinds of evenings when luck goes your way a little bit. We tend to get frustrated when luck doesn't go our way. But these evenings are very important to remember as well.
"I could have been out for 50-odd and ended up getting a hundred because of luck. I am pretty aware of that, so I am just grateful and thankful that I was blessed with this little bit of luck today. The important thing was to make the most of it."

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo