Virat Kohli will be remembered as much as a batter as also someone who took fitness to a different level. He pushed the boundaries and transformed himself beyond recognition so much that it created an unheard, unseen benchmark in Indian cricket. He did all this while performing regularly with the bat, scoring centuries, winning matches, leading the side and breaking records for fun.
A glance at Kohli’s training session could leave one gasping for breath. His energy levels, intensity, dedication and constant zeal to push the limits even in a practice session is unmatchable. After playing international cricket for nearly 15 years, he still maintains the same intensity levels. The question naturally arises, how? How does he do it? Apart from having personal traits like immense self-belief and the drive to be the best in the business, Kohli has also received great support from professionals. Basu Shanker, the strength and conditioning coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore, is one of them. Basu, in fact, has been a silent catalyst to the Kohli fitness revolution.
While speaking on RCB Podcast Season 2, Basu gave some insights into the fitness world of Kohli and how it impacted other cricketers.
“The onus of this change (passion for fitness) is on Virat. I have been seeing him since 2009. In 2014, he said he has a stiff back and can you do something about it? It was only for six weeks and we could not do much then. But in 2015, he said you should do a bigger role. So, I told him we will make a template for you and I will have to make drastic changes to the training that you are doing now. He asked a lot of technical questions and after several conversations back and forth, he said: ‘Ok let’s start,’ said Basu.
However, even Basu, who has worked with several athletes across disciplines, was blown away by the commitment of Kohli towards fitness.
“Virat has seen me training Deepika Pallikal (India squash player and the wife of Dinesh Karthik) and that time she was in the top 10. So, Kohli told me ‘don’t treat me like a cricketer and work with me like an individual athlete’. So, I told him you will have to train like an Olympic athlete and I used to quote Novak Djokovic to him then. I am not tired of telling this but I have never ever seen a guy like Virat Kohli. He can do the simple, most boring things of life every day and it does not matter whether he is performing or not (on the field). But that zeal and extraordinary passion towards excellence is mind boggling. It helped me put across my syllabus to him,” said Basu.
Basu, who also worked with Team India, said once Kohli, the then India and RCB captain, was convinced of following the fitness pattern, it was easy for him to get the message across to other players, and cited the example of Dinesh Karthik.
“People are always caught up with visual fitness, they look at you (an athlete) and they say oh yes, he looks so fit. But athletic fitness is very different. Yes, Virat is very fit and he looks (fit) too, the cosmetics, and he is blessed that way. He is extremely powerful. It is the same thing with Dinesh Karthik…his resilience and robustness on the cricket field is unbelievable. I mean, he’s the Ryan Giggs of cricket. He’s never been injured much and hardly loses any time on the field. So, once the captain is brought into the theory the rest was easier. My theory is that once you hit one, you hit five, once you hit five you’ll hit 50 and once you hit 50, you hit the nation,” he further added.