Team India captain Virat Kohli is named the ICC Men’s ODI Cricketer of the Decade. Kohli, who remains the fastest to score 10000 ODI runs, has put in numerous sensational performances with the bat in the fifty-overs cricket in the last 10 years, making him one of the finest batsmen going around.
The Indian captain reflected on the honour in an interview.
Q) What does the excellence in the ODI format mean to you? What do you do to face the challenges of the ODI format differently?
A) Well, I am equally happy and honoured to get this award as well. ODI cricket is something that I took to very early. I came to the ODI team first and then, I made my Test debut a couple of years later. So, I got the understanding of my game pretty soon, pretty early. And as I mentioned before, my only intention and mindset was to make winning contributions for the team and I just tried to do every game that I play. I never focussed on stats and numbers along the journey at all and those things just become the by-product of what you do on the field and those for me, just end up being milestones that you cross on the way to the path to victory. So, that as I said, that perseverance has really helped me to adjust according to the situations in the ODI cricket in the last decade.
Q) How, according to you, has the batting in the ODI format evolved and where do you see this going ahead? The changes and evolutions that’s coming to batting, how do you see this going ahead into the next decade?
A) Well, a lot has changed since I started playing. The two-ball rule came in, the five players in the ring rule came in. I have played in the time when there were four fielders allowed in the ring or only four had to be kept in the inner ring after the powerplay was over. So, the scores used to be lower, the influence of the T20 cricket was not as severe on the ODI format in the early years. Now, we see the scores of 300-350 being normal and chased down pretty consistently which did not use to be the case in the past and I see the game heading in this direction for the next few years as well. But I think there has to be a method to the madness and it can’t become absolute, outright slogging. I think it’s always going to involve a lot of skill because it’s more than double the length of the T20 game in just one innings itself. So, you know it is a different challenge and I see the influence of T20 cricket continuing to be heavy on the ODI format in the coming years because the players are more fearless, they back their shots even more now than probably they used to in the past and this is the natural evolution of the game, moving forward.
Q) How did you end up being the chase master? What mindset do you need to go in to chase down the big total?
A) Well, it’s funny because as a child I used to watch the India games and if our team failed to chase a total in a few games, then I used to literally have this feeling in my heart that if I was there, I could have probably chased that total down and won the game the team because winning the game for India was so close to my heart and I used to feel that with a lot of passion. So, somewhere that feeling has always been inside me. It’s been in the back of my mind, in my subconscious awareness and it’s always been there and now when I am in those situations, I relish those situations rather than looking at it as pressure situations because the scoreboard tells you where the game is placed and you, as a batsman, have the opportunity to finish the game, remain not out in the end and make sure that that score is achieved for the team. And for me, there is no bigger excitement than that. So, I have been probably looked at chases or those situations in a different manner because of the excitement it gave me, rather the opportunity to finish and win the game for my country. So, yeah, that is where the mindset came from.
Q) So many lovely moments in your ODI career over a decade. A World Cup win, A Champions Trophy win, two World Cup semifinals, a Champions Trophy runner-up medal. But which knock of yours would you think was the best in the ODI cricket?
A) Oh, that is a very difficult question to answer. There are few that I hold very close to my heart. One is the Asia Cup knock against Pakistan in 2012 where I got 183. We were chasing a total there as well then. The other one that I really have relished is the World Cup final in 2011. I only scored 35 but it was very very crucial at that stage to get a partnership with Gautam Gambhir and we got a 90-run (83-run) partnership. And I would mention one more, which is, actually two more. In the Australia series in 2013 where we were chasing 364 (360 runs to win) in Jaipur and I got a hundred in 52 balls and then, in the same series where we were chasing 350 again in Nagpur, which is probably a much slower or a two-paced wicket compared to Jaipur and I got a hundred there in 61 balls or something. So those two knocks, I hold very dearly in my heart as well because both those knocks were when were 1-0 down and 2-1 down (in the series) and they came under pressure and in 2013, where I was just coming into my own. So, yeah, these are the few knocks that I can remember at the top of my head. But yeah, it’s been an honour for me to be able to make match-winning contributions for my country over the last few years.