The trip to England in 2014 doesn’t hold pleasant memories for Virat Kohli, so much so that he would want to permanently erase those from his mind. It yielded him a meagre haul of 139 runs in five Tests and his insecurity outside the off-stump was ruthlessly exposed by the English pacers, a template thereafter sought by bowlers worldwide, though not with that expertise or result.
He was understandably demoralised. But that’s when Ravi Shastri took over as the team director and advised him to widen his stance. “He (Shastri) was the one who told me to stand outside the crease and widen my stance after the England tour, and it worked wonders for me in Australia. Then, going back to a narrower stance, again he brought it up with batting coach Sanjay Bangar to help me move better. We felt some areas of my game were being blocked, and now I can really open up. I was not able to play square of the wicket. So these things are important to you. But it’s more important to work on those things,” Kohli recollected.
He soon reversed his Test form and struck four Test hundreds Down Under, and by the end of the tour he replaced Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the Test skipper. And Kohli the skipper, too, has blossomed under Shastri. Shastri, Kohli reveals, has let him be his own man. “He will not try to change things beforehand. As far as captaincy is concerned, he would like to let people learn themselves. But if need be, he will come and tell you. So when he sees something like a batsman is being bogged down in a particular area, he will suggest you a solution about what can be done,” Kohli explained.
Faster than anyone else
Kohli reacquainted his fondness with Australian wickets in the limited-over series, registering a brace of hundreds and 91, en route to completing 7,000 runs in ODIs and 25 hundreds, the fastest to do both. But Kohli still feels he is far from a finished product. “I still think of myself as a club cricketer wanting to do well in every game. Honestly, that’s the kind of mindset I used to when I hadn’t played state cricket for Delhi. I just wanted to go out there and win every match for my academy team and score the most number of runs in every game that I played, to remain not out in the game and finish the game off. That was something that I’ve always been taught by my coach, and it’s something that I’ve luckily been able to remember for a while,” he reflected.
Meanwhile, the Indian think tank has decided to station Kohli at mid-off so that he can keep communicating with bowlers as Dhoni, being a wicket-keeper, has sometimes found it tough to communicate with them. “If you have observed, I stay at mid-off often. That was a conscious decision taken by MS and me. We think similarly about bowling plans. So if he is not in a position to communicate, I can be there. I’ll get an idea of what he wants the bowler to do according to the field he sets. So I communicate that with bowlers. I can talk to them after every ball – if it’s a good ball, then motivate them, if it’s not then remind them which areas they should bowl, and how you can dismiss the batsman,” he added.