‘If you are too self-centred, you are looking for ways to get out’ – Virat Kohli

England

134 runs in five Tests.

Stats that make Indian captain Virat Kohli cringe each time he thinks of the 2014 Test series in England.

On Thursday, in an Instagram chat with former England captain Kevin Pietersen, Kohli said that tour was the lowest point in his career and it had come about because he was “too focused” on “doing well from a personal point” instead of putting the team first.

“The lowest point in my career was the England tour in 2014 where that is one phase where I felt like, you know, when as a batsman you know you are going to get out in the morning when you wake up,” Kohli told Pietersen. “That was the time I felt like that: that there is no chance I am getting runs. And still to get out of bed and just get dressed for the game and to go out there and go through that, knowing that you will fail was something that ate me up. It just demolished me completely. And I promised myself I am never going to allow myself to feel like ever again in life.”

Kohli now wants India’s young cricketers not to commit the same mistake. “And that happened, for all the younger guys listening, because I was too focused on doing well from a personal point of view. I wanted to get runs. I could never think of what does the team want me to do in this situation. I just got too engulfed with England tour – if I perform here, Test cricket, in my mind I’m going to feel established and all that crap on the outside, which is not important at all. It just ate me up. I just kept going into a downward spiral and I just couldn’t get out of it. Horrible.”

Kohli said he was able to pick himself up and become the best all-format batsman in the world because he opened his mind and started focusing on what his team needed more than what he needed.

Later, when Pietersen inquired about whether Kohli’s training routine ahead of a match day, he said it was just a mental thing and once again warned against being “self-centered.”

“With technique also, everything is mental. You have played in a time where you were walking and hitting fast bowlers. Coaches don’t teach you that. So it’s innovation. It’s staying one step ahead of the opponent. If you are thinking about how to win the game for your team, these things come to you.

“If you are too personal in your approach, if you are too self-centered, you are just thinking about yourself, then you are just looking for ways to get out eventually because people are going to find you out. You are not getting out of your comfort zone because you don’t want to fail.”

When and why did Kohli turn vegetarian?

By the time Kohli returned for his next Test series in England, in 2018, he had not only improved his skill levels, he also decided to become a vegetarian. Pietersen, who had seen Kohli enjoy meat when they were team-mates at Royal Challengers Bangalore, was curious to know about the transformation.

“I wasn’t a vegetarian till 2018,” Kohli said. “When we actually came to England, I left eating meat just before the Test series started.”

Kohli went to talk about a medical condition that prompted him to become vegetarian. “In 2018 when we went to South Africa I got a cervical spine issue, while playing a Test match at Centurion…one of the discs in my cervical spine bulged out and it compressed a nerve which was running straight till the little finger of my right hand. So it gave me a tingling sensation, I could barely feel my little finger on the right hand. It was hurting like mad, I could hardly sleep at night. And then I got my tests done.

“My stomach was too acidic, my body was creating too much uric acid, my body was too acidic. What was happening was, even though I was taking calcium, magnesium everything, one tablet was not sufficient for my body to function properly. So my stomach started pulling calcium from my bones, and my bones got weaker. That’s why I got this issue. That’s why I stopped eating meat completely in the middle of the England tour to cut down the uric acid and the acidity in my body.”

The biggest difference that has made, Kohli said, was that it made recovery between matches quicker. “I’ve never felt better in my life, it felt amazing, it’s been two years, and the best decision of my life. I have never felt better waking up. I have never felt better when I have to recover after a game. If you make me play three games a week, which are intense, I am at 120% every game. I can recover within a day after a Test match and go on another Test match.

“It’s so much better than being on meat. Being vegetarian now made me feel, honestly I felt like why didn’t I do it before? I should have done it two-three years earlier, to be honest. It’s completely changed everything – you start feeling better, you start thinking better, your body is lighter, you are more positive, you have energy to do more, so, overall it’s just been an amazing, amazing change.”

Kohli’s most “fun” batting performance

Kohli has played perhaps the greatest innings by an Indian batsman in T20Is – a half-century against Australia in the 2016 World T20. That was right after he played a starring role in that same tournament against Pakistan with politicians, actors, everyone including his idol Sachin Tendulkar watching from the stands. But when asked what was his most “fun innings”, Kohli picked out a lesser known classic.

“It was against Kings XI in the IPL. It was I think, a 13… 14 over game or a 15 over game and I got a hundred in 12 overs. That was one of the days where I felt like Jeez, I’m just connecting everything and I just felt like I couldn’t get out. And I’ve never felt like that before. Just to be able to hit and not have that fear of getting out. It was amazing. So that has been my most fun innings.”

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