A tale of two Kohlis – Virat and Taruwar

U-19 World Cup star with Virat Kohli in 2008, Taruwar dropped down the pecking order due to inconsistent performances but the love for cricket keeps him going.

Taruwar Kohli with the man-of-the-match award, which he won in the 2008 Under-19 World Cup quarterfinal against England.   -  Getty Images

The India U-19 side that won the World Cup in 2008 had two notable star players, known as TK and VK by their initials. One opened the batting, while the other led the group. Ten years after, the latter is the captain of the senior team. 

The rapid ascension of Virat Kohli perhaps erased the memory of the other Kohli — Taruwar. 

Virat smashed 235 runs in that tournament, Taruwar — with 218 runs and three consecutive fifties — wasn’t far behind. But he couldn’t peak at the right time. Inconsistent performances pushed him into the shadows.

The switch from Punjab to Mizoram — as an outstation player — in the ongoing domestic season has thrown a bit of hope. Taruwar has already scored three centuries, two in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and one in the Ranji Trophy.

The lull after World Cup win

Amid discussions on Mizoram cricket and Virat, the right-handed batsman looked at his formative years to point out the mistake that cost him greener pastures. “When I came back from the World Cup, one or two seasons were important to me. Somewhere I got too much into technique. I should have focused more about game plan and performing at that level. During World Cup, I was at my best. If I had practised more playing daily cricket, I could have done better. Getting too much into technique is what I regret,” he tells Sportstar in a telephonic interview from Jorhat.

Taruwar feels he lacked the psychological adjustment needed at the highest level. “Ranji is more about game plan. It is about coping with the bowler who is going on bowling in one particular area; adjusting shots according to the game. 

“It is not only about skill. There is a lot of mental adjustment. I understood and executed all of it two to three years after the World Cup. So I wasted the high time of mine. It is my only regret,” adds Taruwar, who is literally putting up a solo show for Mizoram — one among the six north-east teams introduced by the BCCI from this season.

Grooming team

Running short of partners and still not tasting a win is not a worry for Taruwar as he feels Mizoram is still a side in the making. “These guys are behind skill-wise. We all are trying to come together as a competitive unit. It is difficult for them as they have practised on concrete wickets back home. In the matches, what we are getting are green wickets, something or the other is happening on the wicket. They are not used to all these.

Read: India's U-19 stars who made it big

“Now, we are more of a grooming team. Maybe after one or two years, the competitiveness will be more,” says the 29-year-old.

Idolising Virat

When there is a Kohli in the name, it is difficult not to feel motivated by Virat. Though contemporaries, but Taruwar has no ego. He gladly accepts Virat as an idol now. “I honestly idolise him at this moment. The discipline that he has shown, food habits, work ethics – the transformation is amazing. His hunger for runs in every innings is something I learn from him,” Taruwar is all praise for his U-19 skipper. 

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Taruwar Kohli (second from right), Virat Kohli (top centre) pose for the team photo after winning India the 2008 Under-19 World Cup.   -  Getty Images

 

Besides the runs, the records and on-field aggression, what impressed Taruwar is Virat’s humility.

“No doubt, he has changed a lot. I think he wasn’t that hungry for success then, as he is now. He was always very passionate. There was a sense of arrogance about his own game. But now, it is all about discipline and being humble. We still message each other and he is humble enough to reply to me making time out of his busy schedule,” he says.

The motivational exchanges go back to the time when Taruwar had started doing the right things in Punjab. “In 2012-13, when I scored an unbeaten 300 (against Jharkhand). Virat had messaged me the day when I was not out on 130 at stumps. He said ‘chhodna nahi hai, shera’ (don’t let it go, tiger). That message really motivated me.”

Future plans

Knowing that Punjab wouldn’t pick him due to poor form, Taruwar is thankful to Mizoram for the opportunity. Now he is keen to score at least 1,500 runs.

“I knew I wouldn’t be getting enough chances this season as I had not performed to my potential. I have been playing for nine to 10 years but I couldn’t perform at my best for Punjab. I have a triple hundred for Punjab too, yes, but I should have scored more runs.

“Getting into IPL will be a goal as well. I will be looking to score more runs. This group is easier compared to the others. As a batsman, I must score around 1,500 runs. There hasn’t been any IPL trial talk yet,” he confirms.

Virat, an international star, has earned the sobriquet ‘King Kohli’. Taruwar may have lost out on his best years but an IPL gig can’t be ruled out.