Anyone who has seen Virat Kohli's rise and rise as an international cricketer will bear testimony to the fact he has undergone a 180-degree change in his temperament.
His talent was never a doubt — an Under-19 captain with runs aplenty in domestic cricket — but his temperament both on and off the field were often the cause of much criticism. Be it his aggressive milestone celebrations or his reactions to jeering crowds, Kohli was never one to shy away from wearing his heart on his sleeve.
But in the years since, Kohli has not only mellowed down but become an increasingly mature cricketer, both as batsmen and as captain in the longest format. Gone are the days where his middle fingers and swear words divided cricket watchers, even as they praised his stroke-making, now it is his captaincy decisions that cause more debate.
And it is this change in personality that is best reflected in his freewheeling interview with former England captain Michael Vaughan.
The interview, published in The Telegraph, was taken just hours after Kohli lead India to an emphatic win at Visakhapatnam, scoring 248 runs. In a Test that was won by 246 runs, the importance of the captain's performance cannot be highlighted enough.
From being star-struck around Sachin Tendulkar to feeling like Superman and dealing with the cricket craze in India, a different side of Kohli shines through the candid chat.
Here are some interesting excerpts from the interview that show us just how far Virat Kohli has come.
On improving his fitness
No one in heir right mind would call Virat Kohli unfit; his running between the wickets is second to none right now. However, it took him extreme effort to reach this level of athleticism. From a healthy-eating, alcohol-drinking youngster to this lead-mean machine, the story of the transformation is remarkable.
My training was horrible, I ate so bad, I was up until late, I was having a drink or two regularly. It was a horrible mindset... It was 11 or 12kgs heavier than I am now, I was really chubby. I changed everything from the next morning from what I eat to how I train. I was in the gym for an hour-and-a-half every day. Working really hard, off gluten, off wheat, no cold drinks, no desserts, nothing. It was tough. For the first two months I felt I wanted to eat the bed sheet when I went to sleep because I was so hungry. I was craving taste. I was craving delicious food. But then I saw the results.
On drinking with Sachin Tendulkar
Kohli shared some very interesting experiences he had with Tendulkar, his idol. From being tongue-tied around him as a youngster to being hesitant to drink with him as a teammate. But the relationship between them has grown wonderfully, and the mutual admiration is there for all to see. The cricket great has helped him cope up with failure and him technical tips which has made him the player he is today.
My earliest memories are of watching Sachin bat. Watching his passion for the game, he was very different to everyone else and I would try to copy what he did... You cannot express your feeling when you see the person who is the reason why you started playing the game and you wanted to become like him and then he just walks up. Those five seconds were the worst I swear... It is a very Indian thing in front of your seniors you do not want to admit you drink or go to parties. Guys were very strict about it when I was growing up. He asked me for a drink. I said I don’t drink. He persisted. I said I don’t drink. Eventually I said I will have four ice cubes. From then on it was pretty easy.
On dealing with the cricket fandom in India
Indians are a cricket crazy lot and their passion can go to extremes – from flower garlands to burning effigies. And Kohli has seen both sides of the fandom in India. He admits he tried to fight it and first, but learned to accept and even appreciate the pressure.
You fight it for a while. You think why me? There are 10 more people in the team why do I have to go through this? There was so much persistence from the fans letting them know what they wanted from me. I stood on the boundary and all they say is they want a century from me. But then I realised that over a period of time you set those benchmarks and those standards for yourself. It is part of being a cricketer in India. It is part of the package that people love you. If you run away from it, it is going to haunt you, pressurise you and pull you down.
On being Superman
While on current form, Kohli can definitely be equated to a superhero, his comparison of a fan encounter to being the god from Krypton, seems fair. After all, how many times have we wondered about just where Kohli gets his superhuman chasing ability from?
I came out of security in the airport and there was this one guy who came up to me. I told security to calm down. He stood next to me and said ‘show me your hands’. I held them out and he touched them and it was as if a flow of current went through his body. I said ‘bloody hell’. I was so embarrassed. I think he thought I was Superman or something.
Read the full interview here