Reflecting on his first 10 years as an international cricketer, Virat Kohli says he is proud that he has stayed true to himself throughout his career, while acknowledging, “I really laugh at a lot of the things I did when I was younger”.
Kohli made his international debut in an ODI in Dambulla, Sri Lanka in August 2008 and is now recognised as the best pound-for-pound batsman in the world, currently topping the ICC rankings in both the Test and 50-over formats.
His career has not been without its moments of controversy though, and in an exclusive interview in the latest issue of Wisden Cricket Monthly, available to order here, India’s captain picks out one moment in particular he would rather forget.
“The one thing I remember most is when I’d had enough of the Australian crowd at Sydney [in 2012] and I just decided to flick a [middle] finger at them. ‘I’m so cool’. The match referee [Ranjan Madugalle] called me to his room the next day and I’m like, ‘What’s wrong?’. He said, ‘What happened at the boundary yesterday?’. I said, ‘Nothing, it was a bit of banter’. Then he threw the newspaper in front of me and there was this big image of me flicking on the front page and I said, ‘I’m so sorry, please don’t ban me!’. I got away with that one. He was a nice guy, he understood I was young and these things happen.
“I really laugh at a lot of the things I did when I was younger but I’m proud that I did not change my ways because I was always going to be who I am and not change for the world or for anyone else. I was pretty happy with who I was.”
Kohli admits he is indebted to his childhood coach and family for keeping him in line during his first steps as an international cricketer and says offering guidance to India’s new breed of young stars is integral to his role as skipper.
“My coach, Rajkumar Sharma, was always looking at things from the outside and he understood me the most, after my family, because I had interacted him so much over the years. My family as well. Every time they felt like I was not on the right path they told me.
“But my coach was the one that was very stern with me. If I was doing something wrong he would make sure that he got that across, one way or the other. He was the only person I was scared of when I was growing up. I went into his academy when I was nine and even now I still speak to him about my game.
“I look forward to guiding the young guys in the team to not make the same mistakes that probably I made when I was their age because I want them to have three more years of quality cricket compared to going up and down, struggling here and there and then finally finding their feet.
“If I see someone making the same mistakes that I committed and I cannot correct them, then it’s my failure. If I choose to stay quiet I’m not really doing my job. You don’t want to suffocate anyone but the mistakes I made early in my career, I would not like to see youngsters make them more than once, because that’s just wasting such an important phase of their lives and careers.”