'Maintaining emotional composure is a vital aspect of my performance' says Virat Kohli
In the world of cricket, few players have faced the level of scrutiny that Virat Kohli has. Despite his commanding presence, handling the relentless attention is no small feat.
Very few cricketers have been subjected to as much scrutiny as Virat Kohli. Even for someone with a commanding personality like him, it's a challenge to distance oneself from the constant attention. The anticipation of Kohli achieving his 49th ODI century was nearly palpable, and the nation watched with bated breath. Perhaps, the relief of Kohli reaching the same milestone as Sachin Tendulkar was felt more by the fans than by Kohli himself.
However, for Kohli, pressure serves as a motivator to reach greater heights, and he offered insight into how he manages to stay composed amidst the frenzy. In a recent interview on Star Sports, Kohli stated, "I have always strived to maintain control over my emotions and feelings. This is a crucial aspect of my game, and I prioritize this awareness ahead of every match."
Even though a congratulatory message from Tendulkar can still make his heart race and his eyes well up, there are moments when Kohli's emotions get the better of him. One such instance was when Rohit Sharma, known for his stoicism, jubilantly celebrated India's victory over Pakistan at the T20 World Cup 2022. Kohli, who played a spectacular unbeaten innings of 82 off 53 balls in that match, pointed to this moment as an example of how he deals with pressure.
In this match, Kohli confronted a formidable Pakistan pace attack, including Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Haris Rauf, and his exceptional performance sealed India's four-wicket victory. Kohli reflected on the challenge: "There was no special preparation to face them because, over the years, you become accustomed to facing bowlers delivering at speeds of 140, 145, or 150 kmph. The key is to enter a certain mental space and be prepared for the challenge."
Many observers saw the India-Pakistan clash as a grudge match following India's loss to their rivals in the T20 World Cup 2021. However, Kohli explained that such thoughts never crossed his mind or those of his teammates. This underscores Kohli's ability to maintain a clear mindset during high-pressure moments. He said, "The defeat against Pakistan in 2021 was not on our minds in 2022. In sports, where human error plays a significant role, there are no guarantees that you will win on any given day. We had been victorious against Pakistan for years, but on that particular day, they outperformed us. There's no shame in admitting that. It served as a valuable reality check for everyone. We can't enter a match with the mindset of avenging a past defeat."
After a period of relatively modest performances, Kohli made a strong comeback with a T20I century during the Asia Cup in Dubai. His unbeaten 122 against Afghanistan resulted in India winning the match by a resounding 101 runs. Kohli acknowledged that this performance put him in a positive mental state leading up to the T20 World Cup. He commented, "If I wasn't performing well, I might have felt a bit uneasy. But my first T20I century in the Asia Cup gave me a sense of contentment. I didn't feel desperate or anxious; I was simply delighted to play on such a grand stage again."
Recognizing Kohli's skill in maintaining composure under pressure, head coach Rahul Dravid entrusted him with addressing the team before the India-Pakistan match at the MCG. Kohli's words served as a masterful crash course on dealing with high-pressure situations. He advised his teammates not to rely on others but to believe that they were the ones capable of completing the task. He also emphasized that in pressure situations, if they felt the heat, the opposition likely felt the same, offering a glimpse into his pragmatic and calm approach to cricket.