He has a “rigorous three years” lined up, and Virat Kohli feels taking periodic breaks during the hectic schedule has helped him continue to play all formats of the game, at the international level and the IPL, regularly.
Kohli is one of the busiest cricketers in the international circuit and has often stressed on workload management of the India players, especially the ones playing across formats. The India captain, who was last rested for the Bangladesh T20Is in November 2019 following the World Cup and the series against West Indies and South Africa, also highlighted the added pressure of “being captain”.
“I think it’s been eight or nine years that I have been playing almost 300 days a year with the travelling and practice sessions,” Kohli said ahead of the first Test against New Zealand. “And the intensity is right up there all the time. So it does take a toll on you. I am not saying it’s not something the players are not thinking about. We do choose to take a lot more breaks individually even though the schedule might not allow you to. You are going to see a lot of that in the future from many players. Not just myself, especially from the guys who are playing all three formats. It’s not that easy.
“Then being captain and having intensity in practice sessions and discussing the game, so it does take a toll on you. So periodic breaks for me seems to work pretty okay. At a time when the body doesn’t respond as well, maybe when I am 34-35, you might have a different conversation at that stage. But, for the next two-three years, I have no issues at all. I can keep going on with the same intensity and I also understand that the team wants a lot of my contribution so that we can ease into another transition phase that we faced some five-six years ago. So the mindset is on the larger picture, and from that point, I am preparing myself for a rigorous three years from now.”
Following back-to-back home series against South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Australia, India arrived in New Zealand for a different challenge of having to play away against a strong opposition, in all three formats. The side’s approach and attitude hasn’t changed, according to Kohli.
“They are intense and very, very fit guys, and they can keep going all day and test your patience, really skilled with what they do as both bowlers and batsmen and obviously brilliant fielders as well. So they don’t give you a lot within the game to sort of bank on or pounce on”
“It [the approach] is not different at all,” he said. “It’s international cricket. Every team needs to be treated in the same manner. Basically, what we do is focus on our strengths. It doesn’t matter how much patience the opposition has.
“I think in New Zealand it’s all about cricket discipline and what the team brings on to the field. They are intense and very, very fit guys, and they can keep going all day and test your patience, really skilled with what they do as both bowlers and batsmen and obviously brilliant fielders as well. So they don’t give you a lot within the game to sort of bank on or pounce on. You need to be wary of the chances that come on the way, and be focussed enough to capitalise on those. So I think it takes a lot more concentration on the field rather than dealing with things off the field in New Zealand.”
India’s opening pair will be a new one, with Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal likely to step out at the top after Shubman Gill, the third option, finished with two low scores. It is expected to be a challenge, especially against the new ball, but Kohli doesn’t want anyone to be under unnecessary pressure.
“Look, these guys [Shaw and Agarwal] have no baggage,” Kohli said. “These guys are not desperate to perform here in any manner or they don’t have any nerves in wanting to do well overseas because they haven’t done well in the past or something like that. I think with a clear head, as Mayank played in Australia, hopefully Prithvi can do the same in New Zealand and Mayank can carry forward that as well.
“A bunch of new guys, they play with a lot of fearlessness and something that can motivate the whole team and give us the starts that we want and not be intimidated by the opposition in any manner.”