We all knew Virat will play for India one day because of his habit of scoring big hundreds. It’s a habit since the beginning. I haven’t seen him scoring 30 plus and not going on to score a hundred. It’s only lately I have seen him not getting a three figure mark. Bahot maarta tha and he ensured he scored against all good teams. His mindset was such that if he scores big against big teams then his chances of getting picked for the Indian team will get closer. Log poochenge, jaanenge about him. (People will be curious about him.)
When he is inside the ground, he never gives up. He feels bas mein hi hoon, maine akele ne karna hai bas. (I have to het the job done. It’s down to me.) I’m the king of this place and I will win this game for my team. When inside the dressing room, he will look out for guys with whom he can crack jokes. He will pass comments and ek ek kar dialogue maarta rahega. He keeps the environment light which is very important because sometimes the situation is tense inside the dressing room.
After playing for India, he came to play for us in 2012 and this was the time he went to another level in terms of his diet. We used to call him cheeku-motu in the team. But in 2012 he came with a plan where he began look after his fitness. He began to follow a strict diet. He was determined to lose his weight, and wanted to shed few kilos.
He wanted to be a good fielder, he was a safe fielder then too but in terms of reflexes, he felt he was not upto the mark. He wanted to be the best fielder. He liked to bat for hours in the nets and then he would go do some more knocking.
We had discussed that he needs to reduce his weight many times. He began to do it on his own and in the next three months he reduced 12 kgs.
Inside the dressing room, his meals changed. From mutton-rice, he started bringing all the boiled stuff. Boiled sprouts, egg, green salads, dry fruits. He used to eat by weighing his portions sometimes. Like one day, he said he will eat only 200 grams, one day he said he will take only 200 ml of liquid. Pehle, mutton aur rice ka dongaa bhar ke khaata tha, and then suddenly he was picking on his food. He ate cereals in the night, sometimes fruit, brought his own chips.
He had been my room partner for seven-eight years in junior cricket. He used to love food, street food especially. He was a foodie, korma roll, chicken roll were his favourite. We were in South Africa with the India under 19 team, and someone told him that you get nice mutton roll at some place, but it’s not in a secure neighborhood. Our driver too told us that food is nice but recently some fight took place around there and someone chopped someone’s hand there. I got scared, but he said, ‘chal yaar, wahan chalenge’ (no biggie, dude, let’s go) and he took me there too.
We ate and few random guys chased us, but we just drove our car back and only stopped after reaching our place.
‘I never thought i’ll play 100 Test matches. It has been a long journey. Grateful that i’ve been able to make it to 100’ – @imVkohli on his landmark Test.
— BCCI (@BCCI) March 3, 2022
I saw him tense and worried only in 2008, when he scored a hundred against Rajasthan and then he wasn’t picked in playing XI for next four games. It was before we went on to play India under 19 World Cup. Delhi had players like Viru bhai, Gauti bhai (Gautam Gambhir), Mithun Manhas, Shikhar Dhawan, so five of our top order was set. He got another game against Karnataka, he scored there too but was later dropped. Yeh bhai apnaa baal pakad ke rehta tha, puchhta, bhai kya karoon ab? Main bola baitha reh, your time will come. (He would hold his head in his hands, and ask what more was needed? I told him, sit tight, your time will come.) He would continue knocking, woh bhi jor-jor se, to seek attention.
In Himachal, he was my roomie. When he gets tense, he will go out and do knocking. Aur phir he will eat a lot, I don’t know why he ate so much when was tensed. He will go and say mein biscuit lene bahar ja raha hoon and then he will go for a walk for hours. He likes to walk, I asked him, Oye kahan ja raha hai, bola mein jaake aata hoon. It’s the only time till date I have seen him pareshaan, it was obvious because he had scored back to back hundreds and still couldn’t find a place in the Indian team.
He still plays pranks. Once he called me from his private number and somehow he got to know that I have applied for visa in UK. He called and said, “Sir, aapne joh document submit kiya hai for visa, woh sahi nahi hai. So aapka visa cancel kar rahe hai. Documents pura leke aao.” I called back my agent again and he said, no the process is on. Virat called me again and said, ‘it was me’! So he hasn’t changed for us. We have our under 19 group, he comes on and off there and whenever we meet, we recalls our old days.
I met him recently in some function, mujhe laga change hua hoga. As soon as Anushka crossed over to other side of the room, bhai chalu ho jaate (with his pranks). The moment his wife returned, he became a nice boy. As soon as his wife went to meet someone, Delhi ka Virat Kohli was back to talking in the same old style.
He was alag (different) because of his attitude since the beginning. The way he used to fight and take on anyone on the ground was there from the beginning. We had a great team in 2008 and all were match winners. I knew Virat since the under 19 zonal games, North Zone played a match once against Central Zone. North Zone had players like Ishant Sharma too. I scored 180 runs for Central and he went on to score 190 runs, it was the first time I saw that he has dum (spirit) in him. He slammed us across the ground.
He was aggressive. “People used to say, ‘look, he has attitude issues’. But when he began to perform, his attitude became aggression in their eyes! Many former players used to say, ‘bada khalifa ban gaya hai (he has become a big player)’. They would taunt saying ‘iska chashma (sunglasses) & walk (swag) toh dekho. The moment he didn’t score everyone started pointing fingers at him.
With his performance, everything changed. Now the same people say he is a confident guy. He was different because of his aggression. He was ready to take on anyone, without blinking. A rare quality, especially as no one then was used to such an attitude. He was different for sure, he had that X-factor, the spirit, the attitude of never giving up.
He brought fitness culture to the Indian team and he is the only one who made everyone believe not to give up until the last ball is bowled. I remember in junior days he used to wear earrings, many coaches used to say ‘Delhi ka hai, attitude bahut hai’. Now with performance, the same attitude is seen as confidence.
I met him in Bhuvi’s wedding, he was the same. He took me aside, asked me about how things are going on. We have a watsapp group, he replies whenever he gets free. I hope he scores 100 in his 100th Test now.
As told to Devendra Pandey