'When you are expected to be strong', Virat Kohli recounts word of encouragement from MS Dhoni
Virat Kohli recalled the time when MS Dhoni reached out to him and helped him overcome a period of sustained struggle with the bat in hand and also on the mental front.
The Indian batting great, who had admitted to feeling bogged down by the rigours of the game last year until a break did him wonders, recounted how a word of encouragement from his legendary former India skipper played a big role in reviving him.
Speaking on the RCB Podcast Season 2, Virat Kohli summed up his longstanding friendship and bond with Dhoni by stressing on one of their conversations in a strenuous phase for him.
The great wicketkeeper-batter told his ex India teammate to be comfortable with the grind and don't try to force himself out of mental troubles that also held his wings back with the bat in hand.
How Dhoni's word resolved Kohli's mental strife
"He reached out to me and you can rarely get in touch with him," Kohli says in the podcast organised by the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), his IPL franchise. "If I call him on any random day, 99 percent he will not pick up (the phone), because he just does not look at the phone."
"So, for him to reach out to me...twice it has happened now and one of the things that he'd mentioned in the message while reaching out to me was that: 'when you are expected to be strong and looked at as a strong individual people forget to ask how are you doing?'"
Kohli said he could understand where Dhoni came from as he realised it was the pressure of expectations to do well and the perception he carried of him as a perennially confident individual which stopped him from accepting and opening up on his mental health troubles.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian batting legend had publicly called for empathy towards players and for them to be encouraged to freely express when they need breaks from the game, which had been confined to mentally exhausting bio-bubbles. But he himself didn't take one until the build-up to the Asia Cup 2022.
Kohli missed the tours of Zimbabwe and West Indies, which opened up good six weeks for him to relax and spent time with his young family so that he could recharge and refresh himself. That helped immensely, as a century at the back end of the Asia Cup in Dubai acted as a prelude to a very fruitful men's T20 World Cup for him in Australia.
"So, it (Dhoni's words) hit home for me because I have always been looked at as someone who is very confident, mentally very strong, who can endure any circumstances and find a way and show us the way," Kohli said.
"Sometimes, what you realise is that at any given point of time in life as a human being you need to take a couple of steps backwards, understand how you are doing, how your wellbeing is placed. So, there are not many places, for the people who have played the game for a long period, as strong individuals, they can go and explain in a way that the other person can understand."
"That's why I mentioned this particular incident because MS Dhoni knows exactly what is going on, he understands it because he has been there himself," he added.