Virat Kohli is not weighed down by the disastrous tour of 2014, the chatter about his rivalry with James Anderson and the debate on if his legacy will be defined by how he does in England. On the eve of the first of the much-anticipated five-match Test series, India skipper Kohli said he is not in the “frame of mind to prove myself in any country”.
In 2014, he scored 134 runs from five Tests as India lost the series 1-3, despite taking the lead at Lord’s. “Back in the day when I did not know better, these things used to bother me because I used to read a lot. But honestly – and I’m not saying this because I’m sitting here in front of all of you — I genuinely don’t read anything. I have no idea what’s going on,” Kohli said.
“After the first two Tests in South Africa, I had no idea what was going on. My only focus was on my preparation and where the team has to head. If I waste my energy on all these things, I’m compromising on my mindset already.
“Because when I walk out to bat, I have the bat in hand. Not people who sit on the outside who write and predict things.” 134 runs in 10 Test innings is not what one would expect from one of the world’s best batsmen, but Kohli remains unperturbed.
“I need to be in the most convinced and the most clear mental space that I can be and that happens when I’m just focused on what I need to do. Very soon, I’m going to complete 10 years. I didn’t think 10 years ago that I’d be sitting here in my career. “So I have no complaints whatsoever and I’m not in the frame of mind to prove myself in any country. I just want to perform for the team, score runs for the team, and take Indian cricket forward and that’s my only motive,” said Kohli.
When asked about the challenge of facing veteran pacer Anderson again, he replied, “It’s pretty simple.” “You focus on what you need to do as a batsman, the plans that you want to take into the middle, and you follow your instinct. You have to have total confidence and belief in your own ability. That’s something that gives you total clarity when you head out to bat.
“I’m not saying that it happens every time. The fact that we’re able to do it again and again is the reason we’re playing at this level. That’s something we need to keep working hard on and not take for granted.” He spoke the importance of having self-belief to achieve success.
“… That’s basically what gives me clarity, which is to believe in my game and it boils down to belief. Even on a flat pitch in India, if you don’t have belief, you’ll get out, even if the ball is doing nothing. If you have belief you can score a big hundred on a green wicket as well.
“It all boils down to what you think in your head. Over the last few years I’ve been more comfortable in my headspace and how I think about the game and my own game as well. I’ve worked hard on it. I’m pretty confident of my own ability and that’s the only thing I’m going to focus on.”
For Kohli, this is another heady curve in his already long career. He has been here before as part of the 2011 Test squad, and then again in 2014 when he suffered a rout at the hands of Anderson.
“It is something that you need to constantly speak to the team about. You need to make sure that all the players and the management are on the same page. Especially when you have a long series and you know it’s going to be challenging you cannot afford to have individuals who are drifting away with their mind set.
“We keep speaking about it regularly. It’s a small thing that changes the mind set – when you take an adverse situation as an opportunity than something to be feared of, it totally changes the mindset. That’s constantly what we speak about.”
The skipper and ace batsman spoke about handing the dual responsibilities as well as keeping the side focussed ahead of an intense five Tests in six weeks.
“… And to understand that the challenge comes in when the situation is not going your way, that’s when composure comes in. If you think about it as an opportunity — to be among the 15 or 16 players picked for the country when there are so many cricketers, to have the honour of stepping onto the field to play for India, if we are upset about it, there’s something wrong.
“We need to be excited about it, we need to take the good and bad equally, just be grateful for having the chance to represent our country and give our 100 percent. That’s something we’re going to be focused on this series,” he added.