Virat Kohli
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Virat Kohli: What people say or write about me does not matter at all..

By HT

That Virat Kohli is one of the brightest cricketing stars – besides a super successful captain too – in the cricketing world right now would be making an obvious statement. 
 
“I want every ball to be an event that we win as a team,” says the Indian skipper. Not just his game, the Delhi lad is now also focused on backing a scholarship programme for sportspeople through Virat Kohli Foundation. Last week, the foundation also organised the inaugural Indian Sports Honours in Mumbai. In an exclusive chat with HT, India’s star cricketer opens up about his career, pressures, captaincy and more.
 
Nowadays, whenever you take the field – individually and as a captain – the expectations are sky high. Does that ever turn into pressure?
 
Not at all! In fact, I have [high] expectations of myself – to work hard and prepare to the best of my potential. The expectation isn’t of scoring a century every time I step onto the field because whatever said and done, people will say and talk a lot about all the factors but as an individual, you understand that it’s not possible to go out there and execute [every time] what you want to because there are 10 more people in your team and you are playing against another 11. So, it’s not like you’re the ‘lone man’ or the last standing warrior on the field.
 
Has the pressure ever become too much to handle?
 
As an individual, the only thing that’s in my hand is preparation and [having] a [positive] mindset. And I am fully committed for that. In fact, I make sure that I am absolutely giving it my all to prepare and think in a certain way. After that, I just go out and enjoy myself. For me, it’s about doing my duty for the team and the sport that has given me everything. So, to me, what people say or write about me does not matter at all, not even one per cent.
 
But you have always been cool about such things…
 
In fact, it has never mattered to me because I have seen that whatever is said or written about you is very unproductive. You perform [badly] a couple of times and those things (good things) go out of the window in no time but they also come back in no time, so it shouldn’t matter to any individual; it certainly doesn’t matter to me.
 
Being an India cricketer, what’s your biggest high?
 
I take this [being a cricketer] as an opportunity to go out there and just represent my country. I don’t want any tags or to be called something. I also don’t want to be remembered as someone [special]. I just want to do my duty on a daily basis to the best of my potential, help my teammates grow into better cricketers along with the team’s journey and obviously keep myself too in a good space.
 
Thanks to your chock-a-block schedule, you travel throughout the year. Do you miss Delhi and spending time with your family?
 
I have gotten used to it now. Obviously, when you get a few days off, you want to go and meet your family but that’s about it. There is so much happening all the time that even if you manage to meet your parents or family for a couple of days, that’s good enough. Ever since we have started travelling (due to cricketing commitments), going back home and just to be present with them (family) in one place gives a familiar feeling.
 
By now, you and other cricketers must have gotten uses to such a schedule…
 
I think from the ‘connect’ point of view and meeting your parents, that’s exactly how everyone feels and we don’t miss it so much since we are all used to it now. Also we choose not to miss it because then it becomes very difficult to focus on what we are doing. It’s all about having priorities and all professional sportsmen including everyone in the (Indian) team understands that their full concentration should be on what you are doing during a (cricket) tour.
 
Besides your batting and captaincy skills, you have become a fitness icon too. Is fitness possibly the most important thing for a modern-day cricketer, who plays all the three formats of the game?
 
Of course, that is the most important thing because when you play in all three formats because you want your game to be at a certain level all the time. You need to work hard, make lifestyle changes because your fitness and routines have to become the priority. That’s the only way you can attain or achieve the standards that you set for yourself every time. And I am someone who doesn’t like to take any game easily and not be intense on the field.
 
By now, we all know that you are extremely passionate about the game…
 
I want every ball to be an event that we win as a team. So, I give my 120 per cent for that. I am naturally like that so I need to work hard. My game will be nothing if I am not intense enough on the field and that is one of the main reasons why I keep working hard on my fitness but now, it has become more of a second nature and my lifestyle. I would rather miss a practice session but not my training session. That’s how important it has become for me.
 
You are very passionately involved with your organisation, Virat Kohli Foundation. What’s the main ethos behind it?
 
We set up the foundation in 2013 and had announced it during the first-ever football game (an exhibition game) that we organise every year. The main idea came from the thought of giving back to society and having the ability to be in a position where you can help. That’s what makes you think of doing something like this because you understand that the money is going to the right source and things will be controlled and it’s fair as well transparent.
 
How did the idea for a foundation come about?
 
Initially, we thought of helping the underprivileged section of society, which is one of the most urgent needs of our country. So we, somehow, just wanted to make contributions towards that but I think the breakthrough initiative has come now with Indian Sports Honours and the scholarships that we are giving. We thought there was no better way of promoting sports and, at the same time, provide infrastructure and facilities to athletes who can make the nation proud in the years to come.
 
What are the future plans vis-à-vis the foundation?
 
With regards to helping the underprivileged kids through sports, we have a lot of plans in mind but for that we need a solid base and we would like to set that up with what we are doing right now. Over time, we would like to create more opportunities for children to showcase their skills and talents to make them feel that they have a way of life through sports. So, that is the ultimate goal.
 
We have learnt that your physical training regimen is very tough. True?
 
Off season, when I am doing two sessions a day, I end up spending around four hours in the gym. You can’t spend four hours in one go in a gym as you won’t have any energy left (smiles) and so, it’s not productive. So there are two phases (of the workouts) throughout the day.
 
Can you give us a quick low-down on your exercise regimen?
 
Generally, I do a lot of power lifting; cross fit exercises, sprint exercises and speed workouts including my lifting and speed-strength. I also do power endurance and shuttle (sprints). So, all these sort of things are done on a regular basis.
 
How challenging is it to maintain such high energy levels on an almost daily basis?
 
What helps a lot is that I have understood my body type as well. I took a DNA test recently where they take a sample of your saliva and tell you exactly what your body type is so, whether you are a power athlete or an endurance athlete. It also tells what you need to and don’t need to eat, so I am following that precisely. My energy levels are absolutely on point all the time because I am very particular with what I am doing right now. I don’t let any of my trainings or diets go to waste.
 
Also, Indian Sports Honours is a unique idea. What was the thought behind it?
 
Actually, that’s precisely why we decided to do this. In the past couple of years, I have realised that your position should be used for good [purposes] and to make a change around you. There should be a sense of responsibility firstly, towards your own fraternity and then the society.
 
It’s a great initiative by you but you are still active in your sport?
 
The whole idea behind doing it at this moment is that since I am still involved in my sport and have a lot of connect with my fans, whatever I want to address or changes that I want to bring about in the surrounding or society, that can have maximum impact. Even when you are done playing whatever sport you play, you will be good but the impact would be much more while I am still playing for the country.
 
A few days back, you played brilliantly at an exhibition football match. And we have heard that since childhood, you have been passionate about badminton too. True?
 
While growing up, I’ve played all kinds of sports except obviously rugby and golf because we didn’t have any set-up for rugby in north India and golf was a very expensive sport, so we could never try that. But I have tried my hands at every other sport such as tennis, badminton, football and even table tennis. And I strongly feel that kids need to do that. They need to explore every sport possible as you don’t know how good you can be at what game. When I was very young, a good friend of mine used to be a state level badminton player so I used to play with him.
 
Do you find any similarities between cricket, badminton and football?
 
Badminton is a racket sport and we play [cricket] with a bat. So the shuttle sense, bat sense and even racket sense are very similar, besides the understanding of holding a bat. A lot of cricketers play badminton as well and they are pretty good at it because of these reasons. Football, too, comes naturally due to the ball sense and the same goes for tennis as well as table tennis. I used to enjoy all the sports because I had a good connect in terms of what needs to be done, and not just because I was playing a sport (cricket) that had similar sort of body movements. But yes, badminton and football are my most favourite ones.
 
Hypothetically, given an option, would you have become Kidambi Srikanth or Lionel Messi?
 
I would choose Kidambi Srikanth (smiles). I think since we see someone like Messi score goals and all, everyone aspires to [be like that] but you need to have a lot of natural skills to do that. But I would have certainly tried my level best at badminton.