World Cup 2011 final: Young Kohli, ‘rockstar’ Yuvraj and superstitions

Ramji Srinivasan, former Strength and Conditioning coach of Team India, revealed the dressing room ambience and how he trained a young Kohli in 2011.

Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh running between the wickets during an ICC Cricket World Cup match in 2011.

Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh running between the wickets during an ICC Cricket World Cup match in 2011.   -  Getty Images

“After Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag got out while chasing 275, we had lost hope. We thought okay, thank you but Gauti [Gautam Gambhir] bailed us out.”

Ramji Srinivasan remembers every detail of the historic World Cup final where India beat Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai to clinch the title after 28 years.

The most anxious cricketer in the dressing room was Sachin Tendulkar. It was his last chance to have a crack at the Cup. “Ravichandran Ashwin, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla and I were sitting at the staircase and hoping for the best to happen. When we were heading towards victory, Sachin shouted out from the dressing room that we should not change our seats. He strictly told us not to move at all as we were occasionally getting up due to restlessness,” said Srinivasan, the former Strength and Conditioning coach of Team India.

Before the final, the team meeting did not last more than three minutes. “The skipper [Mahendra Singh Dhoni] said let’s enjoy the moment and give our best, Sachin also said the same thing adding that the moment will not come back.

“I was literally sweating from my palms. I am usually the first one to get into the ground, but it was a different feeling that day at Wankhede. You feel so small in front of thousands of people but MS blasted all his cylinders. He was like a racing car and Yuvraj Singh was a heavy metal rockstar," he said.

Training a younger Kohli

Virat Kohli is a fitness icon at present but back in the day, he was a chubby youngster from Delhi. He, however, had the fire in his belly. He wanted “special attention”. He followed all instructions and maintained the diet. By 2012, a complete transformation happened.

“I am a strong believer of individual schedule which we started way back, I had segregated training schedules between the batsmen, fast bowler, wicketkeeper and spinners. Each of them were given a schedule and a weekly log, whoever scores the highest points in the week. Sachin’s schedule was different from Sehwag's. Yuvraj, I remember, did a lot of sprint work.

“No soda, no cheese, no fried rice, no sweet; a complete control of diet. We were well ahead. You had to maintain a certain level of fat percentage. Every meal was calibrated,” he added.

Kohli did a lot of hybrid training.

READ | World Cup 2011 final: Suresh Raina breaks down India's run chase

“He would be the first one to come for training. He wanted to do things alone. He was absolutely fantastic. He did a lot of high altitude training also. I think he still does that. He has completely controlled his diet. He was working very hard during the World Cup and he was very clear what he wanted. I paid separate attention to Virat for 45 minutes to one hour when nobody was around, I would often tell him about Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and NBA players. It can act as a motivation for cricketers. That was Virat’s starting point,” he added.

Recalling a training drill in Sri Lanka in 2012, Srinivasan pointed how Kohli stood first. "Credit must also go to Duncan Fletcher [who took over as India coach after Gary Kirsten's tenure]. Duncan knew about Virat's commitment to fitness. I remember talking to Duncan about it in Dambulla where we had gone for a series. We had done a testing. Virat came first, closely followed by Ajinkya Rahane and Gautam Gambhir. Those guys were top three."

Man of the tournament Yuvraj battled through cancer. Not many in the team knew about his ailment, or the seriousness behind the illness. It was diagnosed way later. "He had consulted a doctor that time. We guided him to the best of our abilities, but he was a superstar. And for me, Virat and Suresh Raina were the future. The rest is history."

Yuvraj retired in 2019 after the Indian Premier League (IPL). Raina is currently out-of-favour but still an important player for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. And Kohli is the best ODI batsman at the moment.

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