Ranchi: Virat Kohli, considered by many as the next India captain, spoke to The Telegraph after the ODIs against Pakistan and before the ongoing series versus England.
The following are excerpts
How do you look back on 2012, a year of considerable highs for you and some lows… Also, as a team, we didn’t do well…
It was a dream year for me and I couldn’t have asked for more… It was an important year, to establish myself in all formats, and I did well… Yes, the team saw lows, but it’s not that the effort wasn’t made. Everybody did try hard.
But why couldn’t we get it right?
For much of the year, we were a team in transition, with not everybody being high on experience… It’s not that we didn’t win at all, we won in Sri Lanka, beat New Zealand at home… But, yes, we didn’t have the momentum for a period of time.
Did you find yourself under too much pressure?
Things can change quickly in cricket… One day you’re regarded as being out of form, two innings later you’re in great form! I did feel the pressure of expectations in the last IPL, after my performances in Australia and during the Asia Cup in Dhaka… I guess I also put myself under plenty of pressure.
I got out of it on the July-August tour of Sri Lanka… Told myself that being stressed doesn’t help and that the results would come as long as I kept working hard.
So, what did that phase teach you?
That nobody can be consistent all through the 12 months, that one needs to be patient… To allow four-five innings (of low scores) to pass. I also realised that I had far more responsibility towards the team, that people were looking up to me. I accepted that failures are going to be there and, if a country is used to winning, then defeats will come as a shock.
Did you feel the pressure more during the T20 Internationals and the ODIs against Pakistan?
You don’t look at a series as being against team X or team Y… Your preparations are the same, for you’ve always got to give yourself the best chance. If the previous series hasn’t been good, then you look to get better… Sulking won’t get you anywhere.
Going back to 2012, what did you learn the most over the 12 months?
That it’s important to be at one level emotionally… It’s important to be stable as a person. A sense of insecurity could creep in, something not unnatural, but you’ve got to take things on the chin. It’s important to have space for yourself, it’s important to be positive in the mind. In fact, that’s very important.
Did you grow both as a cricketer and as a person?
I did, yes… I became more confident, had more faith in my abilities… Responsibility teaches you things… You become more responsible when you see the opposition being wary of you.
The year also saw Team India getting much stick. Did that hurt you, as a regular member across the formats?
It’s not a good feeling when there’s criticism, but nobody has an issue with constructive criticism. Yes, as a team, we needed to step up… But I’d like to add that the dressing room remained calm. I’d like to treat it (last year) as a passing phase. For Indian cricket, 2013 is the year to move forward.
Are you in the habit of making new year resolutions?
(Laughs) Where’s the time? Also, what if you make resolutions and can’t fulfil them? It’s not a resolution, but I’d be happy to improve on my 2012 performances. Indeed, a 10 per cent improvement would please me.
[Virat ended the year at No.2, behind Michael Clarke, among batsmen with the most runs across the three formats. He totalled 2,186 runs.]
Has life changed drastically?
It has changed, but I probably didn’t realise it initially… Having said that, life could well change the other way if I don’t perform… I’d rather it stays this way!
You’re being tipped as the next India captain. Your thoughts?
Thinking of the captaincy would be a distraction… As I’ve told you, at this stage in my career, I can do without distractions. I’ll be satisfied if I can meet the expectations of the team.
Are you getting impatient to replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni?
Oh, no way. My teammates and I respect him… He’s groomed youngsters like me and, if the team has a bad year, how can you hold the captain alone responsible?
But you must have been delighted to hear Sunil Gavaskar declare that you’re ready for the top job…
Sure… Coming from Mr Gavaskar, it did feel good… That one comment (after the final Test against England) lifted my confidence… Made me more aware of my responsibilities as well.
Is there something you’ve learnt from Dhoni, where captaincy goes?
I’d love to have MS’ calmness and composure… I’ve never seen him stressed… He’s been so composed even in the most difficult of situations. While remaining an aggressive cricketer, I’d still like to have his calmness. It’s reassuring.
What goes into the making of an ideal captain?
I doubt if there’s one person who could be called the ideal captain… Everyone has his ways, but it’s important for a captain to create the right environment, to encourage the right atmosphere in the dressing room… Nurturing talent is an important part of any captain’s job, encouraging those with potential… Of course, a captain must be stable (emotionally).
How best could one describe Virat Kohli?
Oops! The best way… Someone hungry for runs, perhaps.
Does your mother, Saroj, still treat you like a kid?
Absolutely… For her, I’m just Virat, her son… I love going home, to my mother and my Beagle (Bruno). My mother helps me stay grounded, while few things are better than being welcomed home by your pet.
Do you have strong likes and fierce dislikes?
Oh, yeah… I dislike people who put on an act, people who are fake… I don’t like being in contact with people who want to meet you only for their own good… I have a close set of friends and am most comfortable being with them… For them, I’m their old friend, not the Virat who has achieved a few things.
I’m fond of cars, I’m a gaming freak… Then, I love Bruno.
But hasn’t your celebrity status kept you away from doing a few things?
At times you do feel that you’re missing some things, but a professional sportsman has to make sacrifices. At the end of the day, though, I’d rather be like this than in a position where I can just walk over to the nearest ice creamwallah every day!
You’ve quickly earned the label of the hottest ladies’ man…
(Laughs) Don’t think about such labels… People can call me what they want.
The final one… Sachin Tendulkar is through with ODIs… What’s it like not having him in the dressing room?
We miss him… Initially, it was a kind of weird feeling… Sachin brought about calmness… One could talk to him and relax… He was there for you.