Handcrafted book summary of Driven: The Virat Kohli Story


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                           Driven: the Virat Kohli story

                                         Vijay Lokapally

Bloomsbury India

216 pages; Average reading time 3 hours 36 min

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The dream begins

West Delhi has produced a steady stream of cricketers for the Indian team with competition for a spot bringing out the best in youngsters from this not so privileged part of Delhi. The most notable player to have come from West Delhi was Sehwag who succeeded without any financial or institutional aid, through sheer grit and talent.

On 30 May 1998, ten-year-old Virat Kohli walked into Raj Kumar’s West Delhi Cricket Academy (WDCA) with his father Prem, to begin his cricketing journey. Over a few weeks, Raj Kumar noticed subtle things about Virat convincing him that Virat was destined for bigger things. The Delhi District Cricket Association had its own ways of functioning and things were not easy for young Virat. He missed the selection into an under-14 selection for reasons that went beyond cricket, but with sheer grit and performance made it to the Delhi under-15 team.

Building the foundation

Virat began his cricket journey in a 2002 Polly Umrigar Trophy match against Himachal Pradesh, scoring 15 runs. His first 50 came at Feroze Shah Kotla with a 70 against Haryana in the next Polly Umrigar match. While he had earlier lost out on being selected for the Under-14 team, Virat was now appointed captain of the Delhi under-15 team for the 2003-04 season. He took to captaincy smoothly and his maiden century came in the next match against Jammu and Kashmir. In the semi-final of the Under-15 championship, he scored 228 putting Delhi in the final against Mumbai. Delhi became Under-15 champions with Virat scoring a half century in first innings.

With Delhi having last won the Ranji Trophy in 1992, the selectors were keen to infuse new talent into the Delhi team. Virat Kohli made his first class debut in November 2006 against Tamilnadu. In the next match against Uttar Pradesh, Virat scored 42 runs, impressing with his footwork and fearless shots. Thereafter, in a match against the formidable Karnataka, Delhi was reduced to 103 for 5 in response to Karnataka’s 446, with Virat and Bisht at the crease with 40 and 28 respectively. That night, 19 December 2006, Virat’s father, Prem Kohli, passed away after suffering a cerebral attack. Virat’s life changed forever.

 What does it take to do this?

When Virat called coach Raj Kumar that fateful night to seek his advice, he advised him to ‘go and bat as your team needs you’, Virat too wanted to pay the ultimate tribute to his father by playing the next day. The next morning, Virat informed Delhi captain Mithun Manhas about his situation, who immediately asked him to go back home. However, Virat was adamant to play. His batting partner at the crease that morning, Bisht, said that a normally lively chatty character like Virat was expressionless as he went about his batting that day. Both of them batted well and he won many hearts that day.

Karnataka coach Venkatesh Prasad says that he found what Virat did that day to be fantastic and outstanding. Bisht made 156 and Virat missed his century by ten runs to a poor decision, and they failed to take a first innings lead. He broke down in the dressing room and left for the crematorium. That day Virat grew from a boy into a man

Named captain of the under-19 team for the World Cup at Kuala Lumpur, Virat had promised to lift the title before heading out. He requested his coach Raj Kumar to come and watch the final. To Raj Kumar’s delight, ably led by Virat, the Indian team won the Under-19 World Cup and Virat dedicated the win to his late father. In the 2008 Emerging Players Tournament in Australia, Virat stood at the ninth spot with an aggregate of 204 runs.

The wind beneath the wings

September 5th 2014, Teacher’s Day, became an unforgettable one for Raj Kumar as Virat’s brother Vikas stood at his door early in the morning. Raj Kumar knew that Virat was away shooting for a sponsor in the USA. Vikas stepped in, dialed a number and handed the phone to Raj Kumar. Virat said ‘Happy Teacher’s day Sir’ as Vikas thrust a key into his hands. At the gate, he found a new Skoda Rapid awaiting him. Raj Kumar was touched more by the gesture rather than the gift itself at Virat’s love and respect towards him.

Raj Kumar insists that Virat was born to play cricket and to lead. His biggest challenge was to keep his ward calm, as he was extremely restless. Though the flick was Virat’s favourite knock, Raj Kumar did not like Virat playing it, as there was always an element of risk involved. He asked Virat to play the shot to mid-on instead of middle stump and Virat worked hard to get it right. In addition, the cover drive was Virat’s strength and he loved playing it, but was advised to avoid it as he used to get out on that shot.

Virat credits his success to Raj Kumar, calling him the best coach ever saying that it is very important to have a mentor to whom you can talk and discuss things out. Befittingly, Raj Kumar was bestowed with the Dronacharya Award in 2016.

One Day, you will show your mettle.

Virat’s One Day International debut came on 18 August 2008 as an opener. Not used to this position, Virat could only manage 12 runs as India lost the match. His first century took 13 matches when he scored against Sri Lanka in 2009. The 2011 World Cup was important for India, as it had made an ignominious exit in the previous edition (2007). Virat’s World Cup debut in 2011 was sensational as he scored a century against Bangladesh, while on the other side, Sehwag scored 175.

In the semi-final against Pakistan, Virat scored just 9 runs, but India went on to the final. In the final against Sri Lanka, Gambhir made 97 and Dhoni 91 and this paved the way for an Indian victory. Virat carried his hero Tendulkar on his shoulders.

In the 2015 edition of the World Cup in Australia, Virat failed to strike form and India could not retain the World Cup.  He however returned to Australia with scores of 91, 59, 117, 106 and 8 establishing his credentials as a world-class batsman. Though India lost the series, Virat won many fans and admirers.

Are you ready for the Test?

Test cricket was fast losing its sheen and cricket administrators found it hard to attract crowds to the stadium. The question on selectors’ minds was Is Virat ready to play test cricket. Virat’s test debut happened thanks to Yashpal Sharma as he was convinced Virat had it in him to make it in tests and pushed through in the selection committee meeting saying that age was on Virat’s side, and even if he fails in test cricket, he will have time to come back.

Virat’s test debut happened in West Indies in 2011 with 15 runs and though India won the test, Virat had a lot to mull over. He failed to score in the second test and only managed scores of 27 and 30 in the next ones.

Playing in Australia has been seen as a benchmark for judging all round abilities of a batsman with the bounce and pace of its pitches proving to be unnerving. While Laxman was loved for his flair, Virat was admired for his aggressive style and batting together, they complemented each other. Laxman states that the biggest challenge faced by batsmen in Australia was to judge the length, giving batsmen little time to decide on whether to play or not.

Laxman and Virat followed the footsteps of Sunil Gavaskar in judging the new ball well. Virat’s composure and confidence coupled with a fearless attitude and impeccable timing added to his success in Australia. Virat’s knocks at Perth and Adelaide in 2012 proved he was in the big league of batsmen. In 2014, Virat kept amassing runs as Australians watched clueless. During this tour, when Dhoni decided to announce his retirement from test cricket, Virat took on the mantle of India’s test cricket captain and scored 146 and 46 in the Sydney test.

He dared to chase a target of 349 and then settled for a draw, announcing the change in the attitude with which India would play its tests henceforth.

Can failure be far behind?

Though Virat was earlier called brash, arrogant,undisciplined and aggressive, he had never shown disrespect to the game or his seniors. Nevertheless, his philosophy for playing the game was simply ‘You give me. I give it back’.

Sehwag states that he has not seen any batsman so hungry for runs and that is an attitude Virat imbibed from Sehwag himself. Virat’s rise in the stature did not stop his learning process and he firmly learnt his lesson of not giving his wicket away. His approach was to build an innings, but grab every opportunity that bowlers provided to dominate.

Virat failed in England in 2014 as he could not read the ball well. Virat’s temperament has been compared to that of Dravid. Dravid would shut himself off to his environment and negative thoughts while batting. Virat quickly put that England tour behind him. The tour also helped him become a more patient player who was willing to wait for the ball, and a lot more respectful towards his opponents.

 Passed the Test with flying colours

Test cricket is the ultimate challenge for most cricketers and it requires endurance and temperament to stick it out, especially in foreign conditions. Virat’s maiden test century came at Adelaide under extremely testing circumstances as Australia won the match.

Virat was constantly sledged by the Aussie players and taunted by the spectators, and recalls an incident with Ben Hilfenhaus when just one run short of his century. He gave it back to Ben. In Sydney there was another incident involving the spectators. Virat recalls that the spectators were drunk and abusive.

Facing the pace of South Africa in South Africa is a daunting task. In 2013, up against South Africa, Virat responded with a 119 at Johannesburg.  Against the scorching pace battery of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, Virat’s century stood out, making him the Man of the Match. On his first visit to New Zealand, he scored a hundred at Wellington. He was placed at 9th spot in ICC rankings post this series where he aggregated 214 runs in four innings.

Next Virat scored 115 and 141 at Adelaide batting as a stand-in captain for Dhoni with help from Sachin. He aggregated 256, the best by any player as captain. His 169 at Melbourne came even as Dhoni shockingly announced his farewell from Test cricket. That was how Virat became the captain in the final test and he excelled with a century.

Cricket or entertainment?

T20 was introduced in 2007 to inspire crowds with instant result oriented matches.  While there were those who rued the loss of purist cricket, fans lapped it up due to the high entertainment quotient. Administrators were happy as they laughed all the way to the bank and a new crop of players was born.

It was proposed to have a T20 World Cup and players like Sachin and Dravid opted out giving a chance to younger players to come in and claim their place. The huge fan following only increased when Dhoni and his team won the inaugural edition at Johannesburg.

Lalit Modi, came up with the brilliant idea of Indian Premier League (IPL) this time. IPL was meant to be a complete cricketing entertainment package and became an instant hit. Virat was part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team and he learnt a lot playing alongside Ponting, Dravid and Kallis.

Virat’s first IPL season in 2008 was insignificant with 165 from 12 innings and 38 as his highest score as Rajasthan Royals (RR) won the inaugural edition. In the next edition held in South Africa in 2009, RCB lost in the finals and Virat’s aggregate stood at 246, something that he was not very proud of. IPL success continued to elude Virat.

The third edition saw RCB come third, but Virat bettered his aggregate to 307. In the next edition of IPL in 2011, Virat scored 557 runs to redeem himself.  In the 2016 IPL edition, Virat played commandingly, supported by AB De Villers, thus turning the fortunes of RCB around, but the crown eluded Virat’s team and they lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad in the final.

The new leader

Right from his Ranji days, Virat has been able to take his team along with him. His presence changed Delhi’s dressing room and others watched how he observed, learnt and experimented. He was highly competitive, but he never showed off his star status or rebuked any youngster in public. Virat has stayed focused on his fitness right from his early days. There was a time when Raj Kumar worried for his ward thinking that the fame and the distractions will lead him astray. Raj Kumar was even tipped by a senior player to reign in Virat so that he remained on course.

Virat leads India with a rare distinction of having a century in his first test as captain against Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies. He is the true brand ambassador for the gentleman’s game in all formats.

Cricket has seen many leaders like Worrel, Richie Benaud, Imran Khan, Mike Brearley, Pataudi, Gavaskar, Kapil and Dhoni. Each of them had their own different styles and Virat has imbibed from them all. Virat has similar streaks of captaincy with the capability to inspire and motivate his team. He is a highly involved captain, always in the thick of the action.

Moreover, his policy as a captain is to not ask anything of his team members that he himself would not do. Virat never shies to shoulder responsibility or think for the team and wants to be known as a player’s captain. Under Virat’s astute leadership, Indian cricket is hopeful of scaling new heights.

You give me. I give it back.

Cricket has a rich history with legendary players like Bradman, Sobers, Gavaskar, Kapil, and many more making it the gentleman’s game that it is. Each one of them showed distinct characteristics like courage, dignity, stoic resistance, pure entertainment, magic of spin bowling and aggressive batting. Cricket though has changed dramatically from the days of Bradman to emerge as a fiercely demanding and highly commercial game.

There were many in the earlier generation who did not play for money, but for the love of the game. They were paid a pittance compared to what cricketers today make.

In present times, Virat has emerged as a youth icon and a role model. He plays to win and that’s what makes him a hero. His intentions on the field are very clear and he goes about his work meticulously. He does not believe in taking anything lying down as displayed by the 2012 middle finger wagged at the Australian crowds. He also had a run-in with Gambhir in an IPL match. Their coaches were appalled, but were sure that the players would soon bury the differences.

A role model for a new India

Virat fiercely stands up for what he thinks is right, standing up for his girlfriend Anushka Sharma when she was trolled by the social media when Virat failed at the crease. He put a very strong Instagram post in support of her, speaking plainly in shaming the people who trolled her saying that she had always motivated him and that people should respect her.

Off the field too, Virat bats for gender equality and safety of senior citizens. His two unfulfilled desires due to his cricketing commitments are to visit the Taj Mahal and the Vaishno Devi shrine. As a cricketer, Virat is tough to please, with a passion unrelenting and an insatiable appetite for runs.  He is a man of strong character constantly evolving his game and putting a high value on his wicket. His shots pack a punch and he is good at picking gaps.

Fully knowing his responsibility as a youth icon, Virat also interacts with his fans and promotes other sports like Kabaddi, football, hockey and futsal. From a young student of nine taking lessons from his coach Raj Kumar, he has now traversed the distance to where others take their lessons from him.

Virat played alongside Tendulkar in his farewell test at the Wankhede and gifted Sachin a thread that Virat wore on his wrist- it was a good luck charm that Virat’s father had given to him.

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