Stroke of Genius - Virat Kohli

Love him or hate him; Virat Kohli stinks of success. Whether one questions if he is a better player than ‘Master Blaster’ Tendulkar or a better captain than ‘Thala’ Dhoni, we can certainly debate where he sits within the pantheon of great players. But one thing we can all agree on: He represents the culmination of the evolution in batting, rather than a new age of batsmanship. And that says a lot about his talent. In this week’s cover story, we look into the Indian skipper’s peak moments, how he switched off from the game, his fitness regime, and more!

Peak Moments
Kohli first represented the city’s cricket team before making his first-class debut in 2006. He was captain of the Indian playing XI at the 2008 Under-19 World Cup, and led the team to glory in the 2008 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. On his journey from domestic cricket to becoming captain of the Indian team, Kohli told IANS, “It has been an incredible journey. I come from a humble background, and my journey towards where I am today started from a colony in West Delhi. The road to success was difficult, and I have learnt to face challenges head-on. I have come through the ranks of junior cricket, making my way to Ranji trophy and then the Indian team.” 

A few months later, he made his ODI debut for India against Sri Lanka, and soon established himself as a regular in the ODI as a middle-order batsman. He made his Test debut in 2011. Virat, who was part of the Indian squad that won the 2011 World Cup, reached the number one spot in the ICC ODI rankings for batsmen in 2013. He also found success in the Twenty20 format, and in 2014 and 2016 won the Man of the Tournament at the ICC World Twenty20. In 2014, the Delhi-based batsman became the top-ranked T20I batsman, and continues to hold that position.

The Indian skipper received the Arjuna Award – India’s highest sporting honour – for outstanding sporting achievement in 2013. He also collected the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2018, and the Padma Shri in 2017. He won the 2012 People’s Choice Awards India for favourite sportsperson, and is a three-time recipient of the Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World.

By 2012, Virat was appointed vice-captain of limited-overs, and was named Test captain after Dhoni stepped down from that position in 2014. In early 2017, the run-machine became captain of the ODI team, following Dhoni’s retirement. In the same year, he scored his sixth double hundred as a captain – the most by any captain. The most in-demand cricketer in the world holds numerous Indian batting records, including the fastest batsman to score 10,000 ODI runs, the fastest ODI century, and the fastest to 10 ODI centuries. He is the second batsman in the world to have scored 1,000 or more ODI runs in four consecutive years, and the fastest batsman to reach 4,000 runs as a captain in Tests. Touted as the best chaser in the world in ODI cricket, the right-hander holds the records for the most runs in a single tournament in both the IPL and the World Twenty20. At 28 and at the top of his game, the Arjuna Award winner is a wonderful batsman, and the captaincy is certainly bringing out the best in him.

Lean, Fit, and Fast
The world’s highest-paid sportspeople give us major #fitnessgoals when they hit the gym. With his power-packed performances in all three formats of the game, Kohli avows that fitness is a crucial part of life. “Duncan told me once he feels cricket is the most unprofessional of professional sports,” Kohli said after India won the second Test in Vizag to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series against England in 2016.

“My training was horrible, I ate so bad, I stayed up late, I was having a drink or two regularly. It was a horrible mindset. The season ended, and I was so thankful it was over. I went home, came out of the shower one day and looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘you can’t look like this if you want to be a professional cricketer.’ I was 11 or 12 kgs heavier than I am now, I was chubby. I changed everything from the next morning – from what I eat to how I train. I was in the gym for an hour-and-a-half every day, working hard, off gluten, off wheat, no cold drinks, no desserts, nothing. It was tough,” Kohli recalled.

“For the first two months, I felt I wanted to eat the bed sheet when I went to sleep because I was so hungry. I was craving taste. I was craving delicious food. But then I saw the results. I felt quick around the field. I would wake up in the morning and feel like I had energy.

“From 2015 I changed my training again. I lifted, snatching, cleaning, and deadlifting. It was unbelievable. I saw the result. I remember running after a ball in a Test series in Sri Lanka and I felt more power in my legs. It was, like, ‘wow’. This training is addictive. The last year-and-a-half it has taken my game to another level,” he explained. 

On a talk show hosted by Gaurav Kapoor, Virat revealed a bit more about his diet. “I have a set breakfast. I eat an omelette made of three egg whites and one whole egg. I eat spinach, black pepper, some grilled bacon or smoked salmon along with it. I also take papaya, watermelon, or dragon fruit, if it’s available. A decent amount of cheese for good fats. I drink a big pot of green tea and add lemon to it. For lunch, I have grilled chicken, fish, spinach and veggies, and seafood for dinner. I increase the consumption of red meat when I need to put on muscle,” he added.

The Virushka Brand
From the time he began dating actress and producer Anushka Sharma to his wedding in Italy and even now – a year after the two tied the knot – prying paparazzi and public scrutiny of Virat Kohli’s life has been incessant. India’s cricket captain and the icon of the country’s youth says that while it can get uncomfortable, he’s learning to deal with it. 

“The constant public scrutiny about my personal life can become uncomfortable. However, I have learnt how to handle it. Celebrities are also normal human beings – just like any other person. And I feel people should let them have their space,” Kohli told IANS in an e-mail interview.

Virat and Anushka, fondly called “Virushka” by their fans, dated for four years before tying the knot in an intimate affair in Tuscany, Italy in December 2017. 

Chiku, as he is lovingly called, tries to maintain a healthy balance between his personal and professional lives, despite his chock-a-block schedule. “I keep a good balance. When I am with the family, I try to completely switch off from cricket. I try to catch up with friends, watch a movie or go out for a drive. I like spending time with my dog,” he admits.

The star couple now have a total brand value of around US$200 million. And while they each have their own fashion label and many brand endorsements in their kitty, there’s little no room for competition in their lives. Suffice it to say to India’s captain is riding high, both on and off the pitch!      – Anisha, with inputs from IANS and PTI