Virat Kohli recalls AB de Villiers' calming influence ahead of 2018 England tour
Feeling bundle of nerves about returning to England in the summer of 2018 after enduring the horrors of the series four years prior, Virat Kohli recalled talking to his great friend and South African legend AB de Villiers about his state of mind.
Kohli, who had collected just 134 runs across ten innings on the disastrous 2014 Test series in England, remembered speaking to De Villiers before he made the return tour to the country, a series marked as a toughest test of the player's ability to counter the swinging ball and overall greatness with the bat in hand.
Speaking on the RCB podcast, the then-India skipper said he was feeling overly anxious and had a few uncontrolled jitters about the prospect of refacing his England nemesis James Anderson, who had repeatedly gotten him out nicking behind the stumps, exposing a chink outside the off-stump.
Those nerves weren't helped by a targetted county stint with Surrey being cancelled last minute when it emerged that Virat Kohli is dealing with a neck injury. The Indian selectors and management were in no mood to take a risk with Kohli and decided to reserve his energies for the main series. But that got the batter personally feeling worried about his preparations.
When De Villiers calmed Kohli before the England trip
It is then De Villiers had a critical conversation with his Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) teammate. Bringing all his experience into play, the Proteas great told Virat Kohli not to overplay the challenge in his head and back his game to pay him rich dividends.
De Villiers reminded Kohli he is no longer the player who would err outside the off-stump consistently and comeback home without scoring big runs.
"I remember AB telling me at that time. I spoke to him that I am feeling a bit jittery because I am not able to go and play in the county. He said this is not 2014, and you are not the same player. You would be absolutely fine. I became very calm after that," Kohli said on the podcast.
De Villiers' prophecy came absolutely true as the Indian great had a character-defining comeback series in England, scoring two centuries in his overall tally of 593 runs in ten innings.
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Kohli stood out amongst the Indian ranks, finding a way to overcome his problems against late swing and seam movement to produce some of the most difficult runs made by an Indian batter in modern-day Test cricket.
The batter said the shift in his mindset was also key to his England revival, putting to rest the talk around his UK failures once and for all by understanding that he needed to respect the conditions a lot more and embrace the challenge without feeling burdened by self-expectations and the need to prove a point.
"When we went to England in 2014, I thought I needed to prove myself here that was wrong in the first place," he said. "Because I went there to prove something that I can play in these conditions and not go there to kind of make my team win, that wasn’t my focal point."
"My main aim was to I need to prove that I can play here. I was always under pressure. And once things went back I was not able to find a way to get out of that. It was a very bad phase."
"From 2014 to 2018, I did everything everywhere in the world and performed in every condition. But people just held on to one thing ‘Ohh but what about England’."
"That’s when I realised that probably I played cricket at a level of which I am certainly very proud of. I have won so many games for the team, but people are constantly looking at things which has not gone right," he added.