The most important man in Indian cricket – there is possibly no other, or more apt, way to describe Virat Kohli.
Be it scoring centuries, breaking records, chasing targets, or leading the team to new heights – there is very little that Kohli hasn't achieved.
And he’s only just turned 29. Today.
To celebrate the man who gives India a reason to rejoice so very often, The Quint has put together this compilation on the Virat we all know, and a little of the Virat that we don't.
What were his dreams before he first made headlines? Who does he credit his cricketing career to? What’s he like, when he's around friends and family? How much time does he devote to cricket when he's off the field? How much does he love his fans? Twenty-nine years of this legend in the making.
Here’s the other side of the Virat fairytale.
There are stars, there are superstars, and then there is Virat Kohli. The stylish right-handed batsman is regarded as one of the best players in the world and the fact that he’s breaking a Sachin Tendulkar record at regular intervals means that the ‘legend’ status isn’t too far off.
Also, remember, he's just 29. As of today.
Virat reached a new career high during the ODI against New Zealand in October 2017. On his way to a vital 113, he created the record for the fastest batsman to smash 9000 ODI runs. The 194 matches he needed to get to the milestone broke AB de Villiers' previous record – at 205.
Virat's current batting average in one-day cricket (55.74) is better than any player in history. His strike rate of 91.73 puts him ahead of his contemporaries, save for AB de Villiers.
So, what went into the making of Virat, the batsman? How has he managed to become a supreme force in the Indian batting line-up?
Kohli's batsmanship appears to be driven by the challenges ahead of him. The tougher the challenge, the better the batsman Kohli is on the day.
In just 202 ODIs, he already holds the record for the most centuries (19) in successful chases. When there is a target in front of the Delhi lad, he always paces his innings well and is determined to stay on till the end to take the team over the line.
Apart from his determination and hard work, the Indian captain has also been excellent at detecting flaws in his technique and finding solutions for them throughout his career. Even in Tests, Virat Kohli’s away average of 45.13 is only a little lower than his career average of 49.55. He has notched a hundred in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and West Indies.
Virat’s greatness lies in the fact that he is able to answer questions that are constantly posed to him. He had a problem outside the off stump against James Anderson (in 2014). Six months later, he resolved the issue. - Rahul Dravid to NDTV
Of his many memorable innings, three stand out – 35 vs Sri Lanka in 2011 World Cup final, 116 vs Australia in 2012 (Test) and 133* vs Sri Lanka in 2012 (ODI). For a young cricketer, there cannot be a higher pressure situation than walking in to bat in a World Cup final at 31/2, while his team is chasing a daunting target of 274. However, Kohli pulled himself together and strung together an 83-run partnership with Gautam Gambhir, which helped India get back on track.
The series that truly took his career to the next level was the tour of Australia in 2011-12. As a team, India had a very disappointing series, but Kohli shone bright.
First, he notched his first Test hundred in the fourth match of the series, when all the senior batsmen around him had failed. And then, he smashed 133* off 86 balls to help India chase down 320 against Sri Lanka in 40 overs. The win gave India a bonus point and helped the team stay alive in the competition.
So well, you get the idea. There is no batsman more virat than Kohli.
A relationship like no other is what India owes this great cricketer to.
Two decades ago, Prem Kohli was advised by his neighbors to move his son’s evening pastime of breaking the colony windows to a more institutional set up. A lawyer by profession, it could well have been advice that Prem chose to ignore, but he saw something in his son.
That something, two decades later, is the biggest asset of the Indian dressing room.
That something, one decade after his passing, is Prem Kohli’s greatest legacy.
And Virat will never let you forget that.
It may be posts on his Instagram account, that slight bow when he celebrates his major feats but Virat will remind you every chance he gets, that we owe all the runs he scores to his father, and the support he gave his son’s dreams.
Virat’s metamorphosis on the cricket field, though, has had its effect on the life he shares with his family – a grueling calendar, months on the road, and the son, the uncle, or the brother Virat misses out on being while on tour. But that one regular call home is always something he never skips.
“Our mother doesn’t go out of the house often but whenever Virat calls me when he’s on tour, he makes it a point to remind me to take care of her and asks if she’s with me or if she needs anything,” says Virat’s brother Vikas Kohli.
Having walked into the West Delhi Cricket Academy together almost two decades ago, Vikas has seen his younger brother transform into a world-class cricketer, but it’s his loving side that he speaks most fondly of.
Growing up, we came from nowhere. Life wasn’t always easy and Virat remembers that. He is always doing what he can to give back. When he returns from long tours, he has a lot of cricket equipment that he will not need again. He ensures he carries it all to cricket academies to distribute to junior players. It’s equipment they may not be able to afford yet and it also gets them inspired. - Vikas Kohli, Virat’s brother
“Virat can hardly step out of the house in Delhi anymore. We used to go for late night movies but even those are not very possible now. He prefers calling his friends over for dinner instead to play PS or FIFA,” explains Vikas as the price his brother pays for fame becomes apparent. But there is enough in the house to keep the young chacha busy.
“Virat is a fitness freak and he has been getting my son to live healthy as well. He is always trying to make him eat healthy and when Virat feels my son’s being lazy, he makes him do his work himself. Like he has to go and fetch water for himself, no servant is allowed to get it,” says Vikas.
Virat Kohli’s career has seen a number of transitions. From a young boy learning to pick up the bat, to the captain of the Under-19 World Cup winning team, to winning the ICC World Cup and now, as Captain of the Indian cricket team. It has been a meteoric rise up the ranks for a boy who had no cricket in his blood; only a family who believed in him, and a coach who had a vision.
Rajkumar Sharma opened his West Delhi Cricket Academy over two decades ago, and on the first day of registration had a father bring his two sons to the ground. A father with two sons, like many other. Only, Rajkumar knew better.
Having groomed India’s Test skipper in his formative years and remained his close confidant over many more, Rajkumar is an integral part of Virat Kohli’s support system. The Quint caught up with the coach to try and capture the relationship that gave birth to India’s Test skipper. Here is an excerpt from our interview:
Q. What is your first memory of Virat Kohli? How old was he when you first met him? What were your first impressions like?
He was nine/nine-and-a-half-years-old when he came to me. When we started our academy in Paschim Vihar, he was one of the first few students we enrolled. On the first day of registration he came with his brother. His father brought him there.
Q. When was the first time you had a feeling that Virat will make it big in international cricket?
After Virat joined the Academy, in about 15-20 days, I could make out that he was different from others. He was an extremely talented and gifted cricketer. When he got his first double hundred in the under-15 category, that was when I was sure he had cemented his place in the Delhi team.
Q. The day Virat's father passed away, he called you and asked whether he should go and continue playing the Ranji game. What did you say to him?
Virat’s father was a very nice human being. He was also very dear to me. He was a very passionate cricket fan. I was out of India when he (Virat Kohli) called me. He was crying when he told me the news. I asked him what he thinks he should be doing, and his response was ‘I think I should play’. I encouraged him and told him that this is the time to show your character. That was the biggest thing any cricketer could have done - his father’s body was at home and he went to play for his state.
Numbers by themselves cannot paint an accurate picture of the transformation captaincy has brought to Virat Kohli’s game. However, being the resident statistician, it is through numbers that I unravel this facet of Virat’s career.
Captaincy came to Virat Kohli as a bolt from the blue; it was in December 2014, when MS Dhoni failed to recover from a thumb injury and had to miss the opening Test match in Adelaide, that Kohli was first handed the captaincy. He began with a bang, scoring hundreds in both innings.
Two Tests later, after MS Dhoni announced a shock retirement after the third Test match, Virat again held the reigns. And yet again, he rose to the responsibility in style, and accomplished something no other captain had achieved in Test history; he scored a third consecutive century in his third innings as Indian captain.
Virat thrives on responsibility and therefore his incredible numbers as captain should come as no surprise. In the 29 matches he’s played as India’s Test captain, he has scored ten centuries, as opposed to the seven the made in his 31 outings under other skippers.
Whether it is just him maturing with age or being spurred on by the additional responsibility, Virat has developed a big hunger for runs in the last few years. A drive that’s most evident in his ability to convert fifties into big scores at a pleasantly alarming rate, of late.
Before becoming captain, he had only scored seven Test centuries in 55 innings – or one every eight innings. But since becoming captain, that frequency has risen to a century nearly every four innings. What’s more, in the last two years since being handed the captaincy, Virat not just scored his first double century, but has taken the tally to four.
To put Virat’s accomplishments as captain in the context of Indian Test cricket history, after 29 Tests no other Indian skipper has scored more runs, or centuries. And the list includes some illustrious names like Sunil Gavaskar and MAK Pataudi.
One aspect of Virat Kohli’s game that numbers cannot capture is his aggressive instinct, and how it has rubbed off on the rest of the Indian team and has affected results. In his very first Test match as captain, India was faced with a fourth innings chase of 364 runs in 98 overs. Most teams would have taken the “draw-first” approach given it was the first Test of the series and given the enormity of the task; not Kohli, whose 175-ball 141 took India within striking distance. After his dismissal, India lost three wickets for 11 runs and lost the Test by 48 runs.
Recalling events around that Test match later, Virat revealed that his first official address as captain was before the start of the final day of that Test match when he suggested to the team that they pursue whatever target Australia set them on the final day. That was a statement made – then and there!
In January 2017, a new facet to Virat’s cricket career was added to the mix. He was also named the limited-overs captain and was now truly the one leader in the Indian dressing room.
As always, added responsibility only made Virat pick his game up further and to throw a stat in to back that – he’s the highest scorer in one-day cricket this calendar year. He averaged 52.94 in the 176 ODIs before being made captain and in the 26 outings since, he averages a staggering 76.84.
Also remember, he’s only just 29. As of today.
After winning the Polly Umrigar Trophy for the third time this year, Indian captain Virat Kohli said something that was very simple yet emphatic.
“If I give my 120 percent everyday, no one has the right to question me,” he said on the podium after receiving the award for his amazing consistency in the previous year.
What makes this consistency even more special is that all his personal achievements were gathered while leading a young cricket side that’s trying to create its own legacy and history.
India’s recently concluded Test series against Australia was a classic example as there was a lot happening on and off the field. Post match drama, like the Steve Smith DRS incident, has the potential to drain everything out of a leader.
He just tries to give his best – as a son, brother, friend, cricketer, teammate, captain, brand ambassador, citizen of India – in every minute and day of his life, and expects the rest to fall in place.
There is no debating that 2017 hasn’t been kind to Virat. From the highs of 2016 he had to overcome a very quiet Test series with the bat against Australia. He then injured his shoulder and after that, no matter how hard he tried, his IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore could not manage to get their campaign off the ground.
The last spot finish was a new low in Virat’s career.
So how does the young captain deal with these recent setbacks and lead the Indian side into one of the biggest tournaments of his career?
Just like he has dealt with success… All this sounds so easy and boring, but the beauty of Virat’s rise as a sportsperson is in his boring routines.
While there is a lot of discussion on the success of Virat, not many know about the process behind this success.
Somewhere around 2011-2012, Virat made some conscious and hard calls about the way he wanted to play his cricket and what all he wanted to change in his lifestyle to make that happen.
Since then, what I saw from very close quarters was Virat beautifully compartmentalise his life.
He fixed some goals, not in terms of how many runs he wanted to make or how many hundreds he wanted to get, but in terms of the amount of effort he needed to make, how much rest he needed, how much and what kind of food he needed to eat and how many weights he needed to lift.
Virat on an Off Day
On a typical non-match day, Virat would be at the breakfast table with an amazingly mundane and tasteless (keeping in mind that we Indians grow up on fried and spicy stuff) looking plate of food.
While seated at the table, he never rushed through his high protein and high fibre food.
During practice sessions, he would be the first one to be on the ground and the last one to leave.
On the surface it may appear like a routine, but in his mind he enters every session with specific targets. Often morning net practice is followed by well-deserved rest and gym session in the evening.
Leading by Example
On a match day, everything in Virat’s schedule would change according to the situation. But the intensity and sense of purpose remains the same, all the time.
After a long batting day where he scored 100 for his team, he would be the first one to pick up the ball and start a game of foot-volley.
During a match he is always alive and keeps the dressing room ticking, sometimes with a motivational speech or sometimes with a funny one-liner to relax the mood of the dressing room. He sets the tone of the team and sets the benchmark in terms of fitness, work ethic and performances. And now, everyone follows his template and good practices.
During India’s Test against England in Vizag, Virat bumped into Pakistan legend Saqlain Mushtaq who was working as a spin bowling consultant for the touring side. After spending the whole day at the ground, Saqlain was shocked to see Virat in the gym. He kept asking him where he gets his zeal and drive from, and said he wished some of the young Pakistani batsmen followed in his footsteps.
This is the kind of example Virat sets nowadays. His pursuit of greatness and the path to it is extremely unassuming. There isn’t anything fancy about it. His philosophy is very simple – keep doing your stuff, keep ticking your boxes and the rest will fall in place.
In a nutshell, he controls the controllable. He tries to control his system, his preparations and his training. Performances and results aren’t in his control. But if you follow the process, the rest should, more often than not, fall into place. So this mundane business of scoring runs and training kicked off on the right note in the UK with a fine 50 against New Zealand in a practice game.
Everything around Virat and his lifestyle is amazingly boring. But in his case, boring is beautiful and boring is essential. He knows greatness is carved out of monotony.
Even though Virat Kohli has always kept his relationship with Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma private, media and fan speculation have made it seem like nothing has ever been under wraps. The two, who reportedly first met while shooting for a shampoo advertisement in 2013, have had a tumultuous relationship that has seen their fans extremely invested.
During the honeymoon phase of their relationship, both Virat and Anushka were seen visiting the other on set and during tours. After being seen together at an Indian Super League match in Pune, Anushka was spotted in the stands during multiple cricket matches in 2014. But the one that stood out from those was India’s game against Sri Lanka at Hyderabad where Virat had blown a kiss with his bat to his lady love after scoring a half-century. And the same year, Virat had allegedly visited the actress while she was shooting for Bombay Velvet and even flew to Udaipur to celebrate her birthday.
However, with the popularity of their relationship came ugly trolls who found something as petty as one poor performance by Virat Kohli a reason to attack Anushka Sharma. And while the actress chose to mostly remain mum on the issue, the Indian skipper took to social media to shame the trolls who had been “having a go at Anushka” and attributing his poor performances on the field to the actress.
"Shame on those people who have been having a go at Anushka for the longest time and connecting every negative thing to her. Shame on those people calling themselves educated. Shame on blaming and making fun of her when she has no control over what I do with my sport. If anything she has only motivated and given me more positivity." – Virat Kohli on Instagram
This was in early 2016, when the couple had allegedly broken up. Virat and Anushka had unfollowed each other on Instagram and the public appearances had stopped. Yet, his gesture to speak out against trolls had been widely appreciated. And perhaps, Anushka liked it too. Because soon after, the couple were once again seen hanging out together.
In December 2016, Virat and Anushka attended Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh’s grand wedding in Goa where the two were seen busting a move together.
Soon after, rumours of a ‘Virushka’ wedding started floating on the internet. However, Virat cleared all the speculation with a tweet that said:
Since news channels can’t resist selling false rumours & keeping you confused, we are just ending the confusion. We aren't getting engaged & if we were going to, we wouldn't hide it.
Virat and Anushka celebrated Christmas together with a vacation in Dehradun and have had a pretty great 2017 so far. They’ve vacationed in New York, attended Sachin Tendulkar’s movie premier together, walked on red carpets together and even appeared in a super adorable ad together. And this comfortable and compatible vibe that the couple have exuded, has once again lead to fans asking – Are Virushka getting married??
With over 35 million likes on Facebook, 19.8 million followers on Twitter and 16.5 million on Instagram, Virat Kohli is one of the most followed sports personalities in the world.
While his consistent performances have won him a large fan following, his social media popularity is unprecedented - he has the largest Twitter following among all the current players in the world.
Take a quick scan of his social media profile, and you'll notice that every scroll throws up at least one selfie and one workout post. Just like Kohli knows what strokes work best for him on the field, the cricketer also appears to know what angle works best for his selfies. In the car, in the gym, with the teammates, with adorable canines and with the family, Kohli seems to have left nothing out in his selfies. So much so that his teammates are often heard mocking his obsession with selfies.
A known fitness-freak, Kohli loves sharing videos and photos of himself working out. We're not sure if he does it to show us his pumped-up post-workout body, or whether he just wants to motivate us to work a little harder.
But muscles and pouts are not the only thing on Kohli’s social media. The cricketer’s tweets about lady love Anushka Sharma have been a big hit with his fans. And the post where he ‘shamed’ those who trolled Anushka wasn’t just a reflection of what a great boyfriend he is, but also showed that Virat publicly takes a stand for everything he feels strongly about.
He voiced his outrage when the horse, Shaktiman, was brutally thrashed in a BJP rally. And after the Uri attack, an ‘emotional’ Kohli paid his respects to the martyred soldiers. There is also the fun side of him that he shares on social media, like this cute interaction he had with Ziva Dhoni at her home in Ranchi.
This is the magic of Virat Kohli. It isn’t just a delight to watch him play cricket the way he does, but his outspokenness and powerful image outside the cricket field makes him a favourite not only in India, but across the world.
Authors - Rohan Pathak, Arun Gopalakrishnan, Nishant Arora, Shreeda Aggarwal and Mendra Dorjey
Video Edit - Hitesh Singh and Prashant Bhardwaj
User Experience and Interface - Jaivardhan Singh Channey
Design Concept - Rahul Gupta