Book Review: Fire in the belly

The broad themes that emerge from the observations and analyses in the book, Driven: The Virat Kohli Story, are aggression and self-belief. These attributes, it seems, defined him throughout his career. They are also reflected in his leadership, which has been aptly highlighted.

Virat Kohli with Ashish Nehra. Going by the accounts of his peers and his coach, Kohli comes out as an inclusive captain. He has the class to respect his seniors and provide freedom to juniors. Nehra described him as a ‘caring captain’.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Driven

The Virat Kohli Story

By Vijay Lokapally

Bloomsbury

Rs. 399

In the current era of television and the internet, Virat Kohli’s rise as an international cricketer has been palpable. For a few years now, the multi-faceted cricketer’s name has been synonymous with success and power, as if he can do no wrong. However, what sets him apart from everyone else is that he is inexhaustible — as a player, as a leader, and as an icon.

In Driven, an aptly named book authored by eminent journalist Vijay Lokapally, Kohli’s path to seeming invincibility is illumined by revealing recollections of those who shaped his early cricket career and observations by a number of his peers, which include Delhi’s stalwarts Vijay Dahiya and Ashish Nehra. They all offer a singular, dominant inference — that Kohli had the fire in his belly that drove him to be the best.

 

His coach and mentor Raj Kumar Sharma has spoken of signals that offered clues to Kohli’s eventual success, such as his accurate throw from the deep as a nine-year old ‘that made heads turn’, his boundless energy during training and his impeccable conduct.

That he reveres his coach is evidenced not only by his obedience and discipline but also by a gesture nicely recollected in the book: on Teacher’s Day, Kohli surprised his coach by having his elder brother show up at his door and hand him keys to a new car!

The going was not all smooth for Kohli, however. He was left out of an Under-14 team due to non-cricketing reasons, an incident following which — as the book records — he was almost ‘lost to the world of cricket’.

Kohli’s character was put to the test when he lost his father in the middle of a Ranji Trophy match against Karnataka in December 2006. Despite the bereavement, he came out to bat and scored 90.

The broad themes that emerge from the observations and analyses in the book are aggression and self-belief. These attributes, it seems, defined him throughout his career. They are also reflected in his leadership, which has been aptly highlighted.

In Kohli’s first Test as captain, he informed his team-mates that India was ‘not playing for a draw’ against Australia at Adelaide Oval during the 2014-15 tour. He starred in a testing chase with an attacking century, but could not quite finish the game for India. When India toured Sri Lanka a few months later and lost the first Test of the tour, his post match assessment was revealing: “It was a case of us not playing fearless cricket — we were tentative.”

Going by the accounts of his peers and his coach, Kohli comes out as an inclusive captain. He has the class to respect his seniors and provide freedom to juniors. Nehra described him as a ‘caring captain’.

Amidst the consensus of admiration for him, the book has not overlooked the phase of his career when he went ‘haywire’. After India had won the Under-19 World Cup in 2008 under his captaincy, he seems to have lost focus. But as his coach, Sharma, mentions, “I always knew Virat was not the one to go astray.”

Sharma has been proved right. Although Kohli is still a ‘work in progress’, as the author has mentioned, ‘he has the firm assurance of rewriting every feat in the annals of the game’. This book is a better understanding of that phenomenon.