Virat Kohli has credited Sachin Tendulkar‘s technical inputs, including the importance of “the forward press against fast bowlers,” to help him regain his touch after a dismal England tour in 2014. Despite managing only 134 runs in 10 innings on that tour, Kohli said it was actually the “milestone” series in his career.
In a recent Instagram chat with Kevin Pietersen, Kohli had called the same tour “the lowest point” of his career. A few months later in 2014, Kohli bounced back during the Australia tour compiling 692 runs at 86.50 with four centuries in as many Tests.
To analyse his struggles in England, Kohli sought the help of Tendulkar on return, particularly on his hip position.
“My hip position was an issue during that England tour,” Kohli told Mayank Agarwal on bcci.tv. “If the right hip opens or closes too much you, you are in trouble. [You have to] keep that hip position nice and side-on and balanced so that you can play through both off side and leg side with equal control is very very important.
“I came back from England and spoke to Sachin paaji and had a few sessions with him in Mumbai. I told him that I am working on my hip position. He made me realise the importance of big stride, a forward press against fast bowlers. The moment I started doing that with my hip alignment, things started falling in place nicely and then the Australia tour happened.”
“In Test cricket, I realised, when it gets tough, to maintain your composure is the most difficult thing. That was something I really needed to correct in me”
In a chat with The Cricket Monthly in 2016, Kohli had said he sought out Tendulkar’s advice during a training session in Mumbai, to not just focus on the technical aspects, but also “to pick his mind on how he dealt with difficult times.” Summing up his struggles against James Anderson on that tour, Kohli said: “I kept standing in the same position. I kept getting out the same way.”
On the England tour in 2014, Anderson had troubled Kohli a lot with outswingers. But Kohli felt he compounded things for himself by worrying too much about the inswinger and that left him vulnerable against the away-going deliveries.
“I was too worried thinking about the ball that might come in,” Kohli said. “I was opening up a bit too early so the ball that was going away I was getting out to it every time. I just couldn’t get past that confusion. Even my stride to the ball was not as confident as it should have been. I relied on my hands a lot which in this day and age bowlers find pretty quickly and start targeting the areas you are uncomfortable in.
“The 2014 [tour] will be a milestone in my career. A lot of people take good tours as a milestone but for me that tour of 2014 is always going to be the milestone in my career from where I thought the thing might go bad for me very soon.
“The next was the big tour of Australia. I really had to sit down and change things about the way I thought, I approached the game, the way I played the game.
“In Test cricket, I realised, when it gets tough, to maintain your composure is the most difficult thing. That was something I really needed to correct in me. If that tour hadn’t happened I would have continued probably the same way I was. I wouldn’t have improved upon things. I think that tour really made me think about how I needed to approach my international career and if I just wanted to be a pushover every time I play Test cricket.”
Kohli also credited Ravi Shastri, who was named India’s team director after the England Tests, and Duncan Fletcher, then head coach, for the transformation. While Shastri asked Kohli to stand outside the batting crease, Fletcher suggested the tweak to make his stance wider.
“He (Shastri) told me to stand outside the crease. He explained the mindset behind it: ‘You should be in control of the space you are playing in and not give the bowlers so many opportunities to get you out.’ So many dismissals get taken out when you are standing outside the crease. So I started practising that the same year and results were unbelievable.
“Ravi bhai asked me that if I was scared of short ball,” Kohli laughed. “I said, ‘I am not scared and I don’t mind getting hurt but I don’t want to get out.’
“I made my stance bigger after a conversation with Duncan Fletcher, who has amazing understanding of the game. He only asked one question, ‘Will I be able to play the short ball with a forward press and that base (widened stance)’. I said, ‘I can.'”
When asked if the criticism after his poor show in England affected him, Kohli said: “I never really paid attention to what people perceived me after 2014 but obviously it troubled me a little bit because all my credibility as a player went away in a month or so. You do feel like you know you are good enough but then you are focusing too much on what people say about you. That can disappoint you. I did that as well. I went through that journey of mine but then I stopped focusing on what people had to say about me.”