Tracking Virat Kohli’s Evolution With Coach Raj Kumar Sharma

A tete-a-tete with the coach recently feted with the Dronacharya Award.


There are not many who have the luxury of chiding Virat Kohli. There are not many of whom Virat is scared of, and there are not many with whom he avoids a direct eye contact. The person for whom Virat has utmost respect is Raj Kumar Sharma, his cricket and life coach.

It was at the West Delhi Cricket Academy in Paschim Vihar that Virat, aged nine, first learnt the basics of the game. Coincidentally, it was the first day of the newly-opened academy when Virat’s father got him enrolled. Since then, the two have shared a bond that has been built on knowledge and trust. If not after every game, Virat makes it a point to phone Sharma and the two not necessarily ‘analyse the game always, but also celebrate from time to time.’

Having shaped the career of one of the best Indian batsmen ever, Sharma’s contribution was recently recognized and he was deservingly bestowed with the Dronacharya Award. Not wanting to take any credit, Sharama thanked Virat for the prestigious award. “I think he is largely responsible for it. I owe it to Virat for his talent, hard work and work ethic. It is because of him that I have got the Dronacharya award.”

In an attempt to unravel the phenomenon that Virat is, BCCI.TV caught up with his coach to trace his eventful journey

The first impression

He was about nine years old when he first came to our academy. Within two weeks, I realized this kid was different from others. He was very enthusiastic. He was the sort of a guy who always wanted to do well in every department of the game. He wanted to be in the thick of things.

He had tremendous self-confidence even at that age. Naturally, he was in the junior group, but I shifted him to a higher group as he was good enough to play with the seniors. He had a god-gifted talent.

Learning a few tricks of the trade

Virat was technically skilled. He had power. At times, he used to play too many shots and I had to curb those. He played the flick shot a lot initially and I wanted him to play towards mid-on and he did get a lot of scolding for that. I didn’t’ want him to play square of the wicket. When I found out that he is playing the shot very well, we started giving him throw downs. The flick is now his bread and butter shot.

He played the cover-drive too very well and it was his favourite shot. Initially, he played the shot on the rise. I wanted to him to use it only for half-volleys. I have always maintained that once he is set, it is very difficult to get him out.

Dedicated sessions
All other kids batted for 15-20 minutes and he would bat for about 45 minutes. Even after repeatedly telling him it is his final round, he would still not agree. I felt happy about it that this kid has the appetite to bat more. He also got a lot of scolding from me if he got out to a bad shot. Even if he had scored a century and would get out to a bad shot and the team lost, I would still rebuke him.

Once he was made the captain of India U-19, we prepared a separate wicket for him. I had good bowlers bowling at him on the net and he trained both in the morning and evening. Those bowlers would bowl their heart out as they knew they were bowling to an India player. It produced good contests and he did well against them. He would challenge them to take his wicket.

Success at age-group & NCA U1-15, U-17 and U-19

Once he got into the Delhi U-15 team, he started scoring heavily. He would score double hundreds. In the U-17, he scored two double hundreds. He had passion and temperament to play long innings. I always felt that he would be a better Test player because of his habit of playing very long innings. Fortunately, he has done very well in ODIs for India, but I still feel he is a better Test player because he has all the required qualities.

First signs of a leader

He is a born leader. He would go up to the captain and tell him what could be done even for club games. If a partnership wouldn’t break, he’d look to bowl himself. It showed he had confidence and leadership qualities. He has a very good cricketing brain and analyses the opposition very well. Even at a young age, he had qualities to understand the wicket and the opposition.

From foodie to fittest member

He was a foodie when he was young. He was very fond of chicken tikka and butter chicken. Whenever he came to my house, he would ask for chicken rolls. Over time he has changed so much that he is now very conscious of what he eats. Come what may, he won’t skip his gym sessions. Even when he has practiced for few hours, he will still go to the gym. He has controlled everything about his diet. The gym is a must for him.

Backing his attacking instincts

Aggression is his strength. There is a thin line between aggression and over-aggression. I have kept control on him crossing that line. Now he has got a very good head over his shoulder and he knows when to be aggressive and how to respond. I always tell cricketers to respond with the bat. He has also realized that the best reply is with the bat.

What you now see from him is controlled aggression. He is very passionate, which is good for the game. Virat looks into the person’s eye and conveys that I can compete with you and I am even better than you.

Holder of India’s Test Cap No. 268

I always dreamt that he would represent India one day. When he was called for the ODIs, we were very happy and we celebrated. It was the best day of our life when he made his Test debut (against West Indies in 2011). It was a dream-come-true moment. We never thought he would become captain (so soon) and he also says that ‘God’ has been very kind.

Team first

He is always concerned about the team and not about self. Most of the times, he is not even aware of the records he makes. His goal is to see that India remain No. 1. At times, I feel that he is an extra-ordinary talent and he should not be expecting the same from everyone. He says that he won’t ask any player to do something that he can’t. The Indian team at the moment looks very happy and it is a very good unit.

Rock-solid relationship
Nothing between us has changed at all. After his father expired, I had that added responsibility. I looked after him like my own son. He is more (dearer) than a son to me. He respects me. Wherever he plays, we analyze and discuss after every game.

It is not about analaysing all the time. We celebrate his knocks. He knows the kind of shots I like and asks me if I enjoyed his batting.

Better against the best

The 183 against Pakistan (Asia Cup, 2012 in Dhaka) was a memorable knock. He is the sort of a guy who likes competition. He is always pumped up against strong opposition like Pakistan and Australia and prepares well. He feels he must do well, so he always does well against them.

We don’t set long term targets. I want him to take India to new heights. He should be remembered as one of the best captains we ever had and one of the best players India has ever produced.

Pressure to produce another Virat

There is a lot of pressure and lots of expectations. Virat is an inspiration to so many youngsters. Parents now look up to me with a hope that their kids will also represent the country one day. It is a challenge and we need to work even harder. We are sincerely working towards it and hope to have more cricketers play for the India.

© Moulin Parikh, BCCI

Have Lost All Adjectives For Virat Kohli, Nobody At Par With Him: Sourav Ganguly To India Today

Virat Kohli emulated Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 14 hundreds in successful run chases in the history of ODI cricket.


Cometh the hour, cometh the man! The idiom fits Virat Kohli perfectly. Kohli has been on a spree in 2016, scoring heaps of runs in all formats. The stylish cricketer today once again anchored India’s run chase with a masterly 154 not out to help the side win the third ODI against New Zealand by seven wickets and take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.

Former India captain Sourav Ganguly was all praise for Kohli, who emulated Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 14 hundreds in successful run chases in the history of ODI cricket.

“It’s remarkable. It’s such a pleasure to see him bat. We keep talking good things about him. I have lost all adjectives about him. It’s just another good knock. Great knock to be honest. I wish he keeps playing like this,” Ganguly told India Today.

Ganguly also termed Kohli as the best ODI finisher in the world at the moment.

“By far Virat Kohli there’s no doubt about it. He not just scores hundreds at No.3, he even wins matches. He gets hundreds in all conditions whether it’s in Australia, England or South Africa. There’s no comparison with MS Dhoni. These two are the best ODI players along with Rohit Sharma in the squad. I think Kohli is miles ahead of others in terms of his average, in terms of winning, in terms of scoring runs in all conditions. I don’t think Dhoni has got a hundred away from sub-continent in ODI but Kohli has got hundreds in all conditions. I think Rohit has also got hundred in Australia but none of them will be at par with Kohli at the moment,” Ganguly.


Chasing a tricky 286 for a win, India lost openers early and were reduced to 41/2 in the 9th over. Captain Mahendra Singh made a surprise move by promoting himself up the order. He joined forces with Virat Kohli and put on 151 runs for the third wicket. (It’s a joy to watch Virat Kohli bat, says Sachin Tendulkar)

Dhoni scored 80 off 90 deliveries, his first fifty in 11 innings. Ganguly said Dhoni should continue to bat at No.4.

“Not sure if he continues to bat at No.4. Anil Kumble needs to push him up the order because it makes life lot easier for him and people coming down the order. He hasn’t got ODI hundred for three years and the reason is he bats just 40-50 balls. I think he not only undermines his talent but also undermines his team’s capacity of winning games.”

“If you see the innings of Kohli and Dhoni and none of them were under any pressure because both were scoring runs at will. That’s what happens when your two best one day players are at the crease. For me the Indian batting should be Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane. Take the pressure upfront.

“He keeps talking about finishing games. He finished the game today as well. He played so well at No.4,” Ganguly said.

© Jepher Christopher Nickels,


Virat Kohli & His Rise In World Cricket

Superman is that guy, who bats at number three for India and these numbers prove it.


The process is complicated. The bowling rhythm and delivery accuracy needs to be in perfect sync to extract the maximum out of the pitch. The match situation and fielding restrictions must be taken into account and the condition of the ball plays an important role too in determining how much sting the delivery will have upon impact. All of these variables, however, usually line up if a world class bowler decides to bowl a spell which is right up there with the best you could have possibly witnessed.

It usually pays off too, unless you are bowling to Virat Kohli defending a target. Because he is immortal while chasing and you know it with that look of true grit and steely eyes as he takes the stance every time there’s a figure to chase.


At this point, the stats and numbers are just ancillaries to the incredible batting we witness every time this guy makes his way to the pitch. Since the last two years he averages a Bradmanesque 96.40 in successful chases in ODIs and an unbelievable 166.50 in T20Is. But this is not what we see when he comes on to bat. It’s much more than that.

Take, for example, his performances in the T20 world cup and then the IPL where he single-handedly carried both India and RCB to the final stages of the competition. This has been his year by a very large margin with an accumulated 1667 runs from 28 matches at a staggering average of 79.38. And this is not including his exploits in the Indian Premier League where he scored 973 runs at an average of 81.08. So what is it that spurs this Delhi lad to transform into a run-scoring machine, especially when there’s a target to chase?


The answer lies in his upbringing and how it affected him, shaping up his personality over the years. Kohli has over the years stressed heavily on why his father’s untimely death was an important turning point in his career. And it’s really important to understand why because it is something which stirred something inside of him to achieve what he was really capable of.

“I still remember the night my father passed away as it was the hardest time in my life. But the call to play the morning after my father’s death came instinctively to me. For me, not completing a cricket game was equivalent to committing a sin. Importance that cricket holds in my life is above everything else,” Kohli said in an interview in early 2016.
“My father’s death gave me the strength to fulfill my dreams, and that of my father’s also,” he added.


And this is not the only time that he makes a reference to his father. Time and again, through social media posts and stories, it crops up too. It is as if every time he goes on the field he wants his father to know that he is as successful as he would have ever imagined it for him. He wants to feel those acknowledgements that look in his father’s eyes every time he chases down that target. It’s as if he’s chasing that final goodbye from his father, reaffirming his faith in him and telling him that he’ll be fine playing cricket for the rest of his life.

It seems to have had a large impact on how he bats too. He doesn’t take too many risks, he plays the ground shots even if chasing a daunting 344. He isn’t ruffled by the kind of attack in the opposition ranks; he rather just focuses on his interpretation of a run chase and how to track it down even if there’s minimum support from the other side. It’s because of this risk-free approach that he is mostly successful coming in with a target on the board.


But that does not mean Kohli isn’t aggressive, he is but mostly in intent and not so much in his actual batting technique. He’s calculated yet confident and never too rigid in his approach. This is mostly a factor of his growing up in the Delhi cricket circuit. “I have not known a more competitive youngster. He was just hungry for more — runs and attention,” says Ajit Chowdhary who was Kohli’s assistant coach in his formative years. This has and will always be a quality that defines Kohli for most part of his career.

He’s 27 and has a good 4-5 years ahead of him to achieve great things. And at this point there are only two or three guys who can challenge him for the top spot. AB De Villiers, recuperating from an injury; Williamson, who can’t seem to get the hang of things in sub-continental conditions and Joe Root, who’ll be tested in the upcoming tour to India. If Kohli can extend his purple patch for the better part of 2017, then it’ll be really difficult for any of these guys to catch up to him.


For now, he just seems a class apart with his amazing stroke-play and impeccable technique, walking to the ground, intimidating world class bowlers with that incredible drive. He’s Superman, he’s invincible and he’s winning India matches at will or so it seems. So the next time you see him taking guard and looking around for the field setup, devising in his prefrontal cortex the exact route to chase down the target, be assured that he has planned it to the T and no matter if the guys around him fall in the process, he’ll try to execute that plan single-handedly because that is what his father taught him and that will always be his dream.

© Anshul Gandhi, MENSXP