Virat Kohli bears his heart out: Scooter rides with his father, a joke that didn’t land and a special gift for Tendulkar

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Virat Kohli: World Champion Cricketer
In Depth with Graham Bensinger
Spotify: 74 minutes

When Virat Kohli was 12, he rode with his father on a scooter to buy kites ahead of Independence Day. His father only realised halfway through the journey that Kohli didn’t take the pillion rider’s helmet. A young Kohli convinced him not to turn back. While returning, they stopped to buy watermelon, Kohli’s favourite fruit. The senior Kohli panicked on seeing a few cops strolling about. Worried about being challaned and without realising his son hadn’t got on, he sped off. Kohli says he didn’t talk to his father for two days after that. The father returned to search for his son on realising he hadn’t reached home but Kohli gave him the cold shoulder.

Kohli on the podcast comes up with a gem of story after story, some of them tragic, others witty and some which give an insight into the mind of a champion.

The first time he met his to-be-wife Anushka during an ad shoot for a shampoo he was nervous of sharing screen space with a professional actor. He tried to lighten the mood by saying ‘didn’t you get a higher pair of heels’. The actor had been told that Kohli wasn’t very tall but the joke flopped. However, they bonded while talking about middle-class struggles, among other things, during the three-day shoot and hit it off, Kohli says.

Kohli also opens up about his humble roots. The family gave up their house to fund his older brother’s business and lived in a rented accomodation. The brother’s business boomed and then went bust. Back then, Kohli had not sealed his spot in the Delhi team.

“People were being favoured (in team selection),” Kohli says. His father, a self-made man who could repair a light bulb, didn’t believe in short cuts.

Kohli also gives a moving account about the passing away of his father because of a stroke and a heart attack a few days later. He was unable to cry and broke down only when he reached the team’s dressing room to play a game on the morning of his father’s death.

“I could not cry, I became blank, till date I could not understand…I was thinking why am I not able to cry. I think it was all building up inside me…. My family was feeling nervous looking at me… when I was sitting in the change room and everyone came around, that is the time I broke down.”

The passing away of his father, who had suffered reverses in stock trading, as he tried to make ends meet, had a huge impact on Kohli.

“He used to do online share trading in 2006, and his online trading account suddenly crashed and one transaction went really bad and all the transactions that he did before that and whatever he had accumulated went down in a go. The amount of stress it brought on him mentally was huge, he had a stroke and he had a clot.”

At the end of the day’s play when Kohli was at the cremation, he told his brother that nothing would ‘distract’ him from here on in his quest to play for India.

“It was the most impactful thing that happened in my life. I remember that day after the game, I came back to do the cremation and rituals. I remember telling my brother specifically that I am going to play for the country and nothing is going to distract me anymore. It was my father’s vision as well.”

Kohli admits he lost his way after that too but everytime he ‘hit rock bottom’ he had the belief he could come back and he did.

Having no control over his diet, partying a bit too much and ‘just doing anything to be socially accepted and to be part of groups and wanting to hang out with cool people’ resulted in Kohli losing focus. One day, after a poor IPL season in 2012, he took a look in the mirror (he actually did after a shower) and didn’t like what he saw – an out of shape cricketer. He turned a corner from the next day, the junk food went off the table and Kohli began his journey to become one of the greatest of his generation.

Kohli also turns fanboy when talking about Sachin Tendulkar and reveals an emotional side to his persona. When Tendulkar retired, Kohli gave him a special gift.

“To make him understand what impact he had on me… the most special thing I have is a thread… so my father gave one to me, which he used to have. Just to keep with me. So I used to keep that with me in my bag. And I thought this is the most valuable thing I have… I couldn’t give him (Tendulkar) anything more valuable.”

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