It is always fascinating to track a sportsman’s evolution from good to great. From talented to fulfilling expectations and doing justice to the talent. Evolving into a leader who starts to prioritise giving back to the sport and create a very different legacy for himself. And that’s what Virat Kohli is doing. He is trying to recognise and nurture future Indian sporting champions in an attempt to make India a multi-sporting nation by partnering Sanjeev Goenka, chairman, RPSG group (RPG and Sanjeev Goenka Group).
Enlightenment through doubt
Ridden with self-doubt in 2012 ahead of the Adelaide Test in Australia, Kohli had receded into a cocoon. “I had to answer the question to myself if I was good enough to play test cricket. The world did not matter to me. I did. It was about my own self-worth. And I am glad I was able to do what I did”, says Kohli. “The world doesn’t know what goes on behind the scenes with an athlete. How he or she is training and trying to be best prepared. That’s what holds the key to success. Having played sport at the highest level, I know what it entails and that’s why I am trying to accord recognition to others who deserve our appreciation.”
Goenka concurs. “Be it business or sport, you need to create a legacy. Look beyond the immediate. That’s what Virat and I are trying to achieve together.”
“Look, with me you get what you see. I don’t believe in hiding things. I had never imagined 10 years back that I would be sitting here today talking to you as captain of India in all three formats of the game. But that’s the reality. And I will always be passionate about what I do”, states Virat when I asked him about his passionate self on the field.
Virat is a confident athlete who is at the height of his powers. Playing the game with unnerving consistency and success and it is rubbing off on his leadership.
Legacy of a winner
Virat’s real legacy I suggested to him, isn’t scripted yet. 14 months starting December 2017 will determine how good captain Vir
at Kohli is. He has already scored 4 consecutive hundreds in Australia in 2014-15. But India, despite his heroics, did not win. For the record, we lost 0-2. India has never won a series in South Africa. Never in history. And it is the same in Australia. 70 years of touring since 1947-8 and no series win yet. Virat can change this record. Redeem himself and Indian cricket.
“It is an opportunity”, he says in a composed and silent manner aware of the difficulties ahead but looking forward to the challenge. “Look at Roger Federer”, his eyes light up. “19 Grand Slams and the hunger is still the same. I am just one among 15 men in a billion who represents India. It will entail working hard. Giving up on things that may stand in the way of excellence. But you need to be prepared for that. Train hard with a single-minded focus”, argues the self-proclaimed “monk in a civil society”.
Culture of respect
Virat has always been one to accord the highest respect to his seniors. Be it Sachin or be it MS Dhoni, all you get from Virat is the highest show of respect. No wonder, he commands equal and more respect from his teammates. It is his team in every form of understanding.
“I do what comes naturally to me. I am not one to plot things. If something appeals to me and I feel good about it, I will do it. That’s me”, declares captain Kohli, when I asked him about giving his father’s threads to Sachin Tendulkar on his retirement.
He claims he can carry on for 8-10 years if he trains hard and remains passionate. For someone who turned up for a Ranji Trophy game a day after his father’s death, it will come naturally.
He has redefined the work ethic for the Indian team and may well go on to redefine India’s overseas record. His real legacy.
(Boria Majumdar, Historian / Writer / Commentator / Journalist)
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