Gary Kirsten takes credit for playing a role in Virat Kohli’s transformation into a world-class player.
The former India coach and Proteas legend was recently appointed as batting coach for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the IPL side skippered by Kohli.
Kirsten spoke about his interactions with Kohli in the early stages of his career and praised the India superstar.
‘It is great to be working with Virat again because he started when I was the coach. We had a lot of conversations early in his career about how he needs to set up his game,’ Kirsten told Wisden India.
‘We knew he was going to be a great player, it was just a question of when he was going to get there. How he needed to play to be able to achieve the consistency in his game.
‘A lot of those conversations have in many ways given him some of the thinking around how he needs to build his game. That has been fun.
‘To come back and start working with him again, to see how he is going, we are just kind of building that relationship again. I am really enjoying it.’
Kohli made his international debut for Kirsten’s ODI side against Sri Lanka in August 2008 as a 19-year-old. Kirsten spoke about what it was like to witness a raw talent like Kohli emerge onto the scene.
‘Any guy with half a cricket eye would have known that he was going to be a great player. His hunger for runs, his ball-striking ability – we are talking 2008; he hit the ball to all parts of the ground, he had natural power,’ said Kirsten.
‘He had all the makings of a great player in terms of ball-striking ability and talent. And then, the determination to go with it. The hunger to be great. It was all there.
‘That’s one of the easier recruitments you could make, that was not going to be difficult to work out. I wouldn’t be [the] only one who would have seen that, I think everyone would have seen that.’
Ten years on and the now 29-year-old has transformed himself into one of the best players in the world.
Since becoming skipper of his national side across formats, Kohli has risen to No 2 on the Test rankings, No 1 on the ODI standings and eighth on the T20I rankings.
In 2017 he scored 1,464 ODI runs at 76.84 and 1, 059 Test runs at 75.64.
‘We know what he is now and what he looks like. It has been an amazing natural progression. Importantly for him now, as he moves into this next phase – he has gone from the prodigious talent to the high performer,’ added Kirsten.
‘The challenge now is to maintain that for a long period of time, to grow his leadership base, and he is doing that because I think it is an ongoing process.
‘He seems to be in a space where he is really willing to take on the learning that needs to be taken, like we all need to in whatever phase we are in our lives. Take the learning on board to get even better.’
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