India skipper Virat Kohli says he has learnt to deal with aspirations of a cricket-mad country but making right decisions consistently on a cricket field is a gradual process.
Ready to lead India as captain in an ODI World Cup for the first time, a billion people want their skipper to score a hundred every time he walks out to bat.
Kohli has had the distinction of scoring centuries in India’s opening games in the 2011 (vs Bangladesh) and the 2015 (vs Pakistan) editions. Ask him if he could complete coveted hat-trick against South Africa in India’s World cup opener on Wednesday, Kohli said dealing with such expectations is now part and parcel of his life.
“Look, when you perform and you perform for a long time, expectations are always there and I sort of understood how to go along with the expectations. You don’t go out there to prove anything to anyone, which is a fact, but you have to accept that expectations are going to be there,” Kohli said ahead of India’s opening game.
Just like Sunil Gavaskar or Sachin Tendulkar, who devised their own mechanism to deal with insane demands, Kohli has also embraced it in his own little way.
“When I walk out to bat, come down the stairs, people will say we need a hundred and all those kind of things will happen. For me, that’s just a part of the process now.
“It’s not something that I don’t want to hear, or something that I think people should not tell me because when you do well, people obviously want to see you do well again and again because they want to see the team win.”
He didn’t speak about the kind of legacy he would like to leave behind but believes that his progress in a leadership role has been a gradual one.
“The errors you would make when you are not that aware of game situations. They will slowly start to taper off as you play more and more cricket. So I think what happens also is when you have experienced people in your team who have also grown with you as cricketers, eventually you all start making good decisions.”
Owning up mistakes and taking corrective measures is something that he has learnt gradually.
“No one can make all good decisions or right decisions all the time, so important is to try and make the right decision, but own up to your mistakes and accept the errors as well, which I think with time everyone sort of understands that process well, which also is happening to me slowly,” he said.
There are usual butterflies before any big event but he doesn’t feel anything different on a day before India’s World Cup campaign sets rolling.
“Honestly, for me, I have this feeling before every game that I play honestly and I can’t differentiate. Yes, if you just say the word ‘World Cup’, it brings a different kind of feeling to your mind and heart.
“In 2011 or 2015, I had similar kind of butterflies in my stomach. Even when you walk into play in a Test match and you walk in at 10-2 you have the same butterflies in the stomach, so that is a very consistent factor. When that starts going down, you know what comes next (indicating about retirement).
“I’m glad it is going on and I’m feeling excited, anticipation and a bit of nerves as well which is always good for any sportsman to have, so it’s pretty similar to the past.
The format of this edition of the World Cup is the toughest , he reckoned.
“Looking at the length of the tournament and the format of the tournament, yes, it will be tough for any captain, including myself, playing nine games. It’s a long tournament. You are playing every side once and you have to think on your feet and adapt very quickly.
“It’s not a bilateral (series). You are not playing a team twice, so you have to be precise. On that day make good decisions and stay ahead. So from that point of view yes, it will be a very, very challenging tournament.”