Virat Kohli's guiding force

For Raj Kumar Sharma, every step that Virat Kohli takes to enhance his stature is a throwback to the day when he realised he had a "gem" who would make great strides in international cricket.

Virat Kohli with Raj Kumar Sharma.   -  Vijay Lokapally

Not a day passes when they don’t speak to each other, sharing each other’s concerns, building on their existing bond, looking to improve. For Raj Kumar Sharma, every step that Virat Kohli takes to enhance his stature is a throwback to the day when he realised he had a “gem” who would make great strides in international cricket.

“I’ve always wanted him to be a better Test cricketer than a champion of the limited overs brand,” said Sharma, reflecting on the success of his student. “I’m glad he has not disappointed me.”

Kohli’s double century against Bangladesh, his fourth in the last 12 Test matches, was a performance befitting the India captain’s form. But Sharma rates the 235 against England at Mumbai last December his best show. “It came against a good attack. He had walked in at a difficult situation and responded so well. They came hard at him, tried to bounce him out, but he left the ball initially and went after them. It was not an easy pitch to bat on,” said Sharma.

The only time Sharma was concerned about Kohli’s batting was in England in 2014. “I felt he was slightly low. He is a confident man otherwise. I almost flew to join him before the last two Tests. But I’m so happy he kept his focus in place and emerged a strong player thereafter. He is a rare batsman who never worries about what kind of pitch awaits him.”

Kohli, adjudged the Man of the Match at Hyderabad, is obsessed with visualising his role. He bowls to himself to understand the situation well. “He visualises where would they bowl, how would he react; all this comes from his involvement with the game. He is always one step ahead. After my warning, he has desisted from playing the cut and pull early in his innings.”

Sharma, who insists he is lucky to have such a humble pupil, said, “There are a few areas I want him to improve in. I’ll tell him privately, but one can expect him to adapt to the suggestions in quick time.” Kohli can’t afford not to listen. “My coach is the only person I fear,” Kohli, 28, had admitted recently.

In sublime form, Kohli must remove the upper cut shot from his repertoire. Sharma does not like him playing that shot. Ten days from now, Kohli will walk out for the toss with Australia captain Steve Smith at Pune, and Sharma is excited. “It’s going to be a big series. Virat will need to concentrate hard because the Aussies are good at disturbing you. But I know he is waiting for them.”

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