India captain Virat Kohli is known for his aggressive demeanour, which has been viewed in a negative light by his critics. Well aware of the criticism, Kohli wants to emulate Roger Federer – someone who he considers a role model – and channelise his energies in a more fruitful way.
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The Indian Test captain admits to his follies during the early part of his career when his public display of emotions led to him being termed as arrogant. But the 26-year-old batting star has put that behind and his growing maturity has attracted as much attention as his performances. Small wonder then that he looks up to Federer, who turned around his career from being a teenaged brat who smashed racquets to a classy legend.
In fact, Federer’s presence in the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) team UAE Royals was the prime reason in Kohli becoming the co-owner of the franchise.
“I like how Federer plays,” Kohli, an admirer of the Swiss master, told Sport360 on the sidelines of the unveiling of the UAE Royals team for this season. “Obviously the physical effort is immense but he works very hard on the mental aspect too which I also believe in and want to strengthen.”
Kohli feels the composure Federer exhibits on court is something all young sportsmen, including himself, must incorporate in their game if they want to become better players.
“When he came in he was more expressive on court than he is now, he has learned to control that and actually use that energy into the way he plays and that’s why he is so successful. That’s a learning for me and all the young sportsmen around the world, not just tennis players,” he said.
Kohli believes he is in control of his aggressive demeanour now and insists it has nothing to do with the additional responsibilities of being a Test captain, putting it down to a natural process of maturity.
“It is not that I consciously made an effort to change because of captaincy,” he said.
“He was more expressive, he has learned to control that” – Kohli on Federer
“It is something that is coming naturally to me with time as I grow more into my career. I think a lot of things you learn along the way. You make a lot of mistakes when you are young when you have just come into the team, not able to find your feet and not sure of what you want to achieve. After a period of time when you feel more stable, you feel more clear headed and that’s when things start calming down. I think the same has happened to me.
“I don’t feel the need to be that expressive anymore. It is all about controlling my aggression or putting that energy into performances.”
Since his appointment as Test captain following the retirement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni during the Australia series, Kohli has led India in five Tests, won two, drawn two and lost one. It includes the series victory in Sri Lanka, a first in 22 years, which Kohli feels is “massive” for his young team and puts them in the right frame for the upcoming home series against world No1 South Africa.
“Winning is always something that really motivates the team more, boosts their confidence and I think from that perspective it was very important to have a series win, not just one odd Test match,” he said.
“It gives you the belief that we can win series against any team, anywhere in the world and that belief only comes when you are able to actually go out and do something like that. Now that we have tasted success away from home, we will take the learnings from that and repeat the same thing.”
South Africa have always posed a tough test for the Indians with the Proteas tasting series success in 2000 (2-0) and sharing the honours during their last visit in 2008 (1-1). In fact, India have not won a home series against the South Africans since 2005.
Kohli, who leads the run tally in the current squad with 2,794 runs in 37 Tests at an average of 45.06, offered a straight bat to the impending South African challenge, saying: “There is no need to differentiate any team from another, we’d like to prepare the same way and give them the same kind of respect.”