The stories on how Virat Kohli attained supreme fitness are well documented but not many know about his candid chat with former India coach Duncan Fletcher before he went on to become one of the fittest cricketers in the world.
It is well known that Kohli started taking fitness much more seriously post an ordinary IPL in 2012. He changed his training regime and eating habits completely, realising the need to transform his body to survive the rigours of playing all three formats. An impromptu conversation with Fletcher also helped.
“Duncan told me once that he feels cricket is the most unprofessional of professional sports,” Kohli told The Telegraph after India won the second Test in Vizag to take a 1-0 lead in the five match series against England.
“You can have the skill but do not think you need to train as much as a tennis player. But I realised if you want to stay on top playing three formats in this day and age you need a routine.
“You need a set pattern of your training, the way you eat, how healthy and fit you need to be. Being fitter made me mentally stronger. It was like a direct connection,” Kohli recalled.
India’s batting mainstay admitted that it was tough to follow the strict regime initially.
“It changed in 2012. I had great tours to Australia and scored 180 against Bangladesh and went into the IPL thinking: ‘Wow this is going to be a great season for me’. I wanted to make it my tournament and dominate the bowlers. I really struggled.
“My training was horrible, I ate so bad, I was up until 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 12kgs heavier than I am now, I was really 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 really hard, off gluten, off wheat, no cold drinks, no desserts, nothing. It was tough.
“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 morning and feel like I had energy.
“From 2015 I changed my training again. I started lifting, snatching, cleaning and dead lifting. 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.
It is not a surprise that Kohli wants his team to be the fittest in the world. He thinks being in top shape would help the side both at home and overseas.
“One of the things I would love is for this team to win series outside India, not just in one place but everywhere we go. For me it is not winning one Test match and saying we made history and then not being able to follow that up. I want us to be the fittest Indian team that has played the game as well.
“That is our goal to be become better people along years of playing together. Friendships to last. Most exciting thing is everyone is young building careers together. If things fall in the right place this could be a great phase for us,” he added.