Virat Kohli made only 134 runs from 10 innings at an average of 13.4 in the tour of England in 2014. Four years later, he was the top scorer with 593 runs from 10 innings at an average of 59.3 in India’s tour of England.
What caused the turnaround? Kohli opened up about the technical details and the help from Sachin Tendulkar, Ravi Shastri and Duncan Fletcher in a chat with Mayank Agarwal uploaded on bcci.tv.
“My hip position was an issue in that tour (2014)," he explained. “It was a thing of not adjusting to conditions and wanting to do what I wanted to do and being rigid about it. Being rigid about anything doesn’t get you anywhere. I realised it pretty quickly. It was a long and painful realisation but I realised it. The one thing that stood out was my right hip, when it opens or closes too much, as batsmen we know we’re in trouble. So keeping that hip position nice and side-on and balanced in a way that we can play through off and on side with equal control was very important.
“Basically I was too worried about the ball that would come in. That’s why I was opening up too early and the ball that would go away was getting me. I just couldn’t get past that confusion. When I came back, I saw footage. Even my forward stride wasn’t as confident as it should have been. I just relied on my hands, and in this day and age bowlers find out pretty quickly and start targeting you.
“I came back and spoke to Sachin paaji as well. In Bombay I did a few sessions with him. I told him I’m working on my hip position and he made me realise the importance of a big forward stride against fast bowlers as well. The moment I started doing that with my hip alignment, things started lining up nicely and eventually the Australia tour happened."
The team director then and current India coach Ravi Shastri asked Kohli to stand outside the crease, while then coach Duncan Fletcher asked Kohli to widen his stance.
“After the 2014 Test series, he called me and Shikhar (Dhawan) to his room and asked for a bat as well. Because he has such a keen understanding of the game, little things that you can do that make huge differences. From a lower order player to opening for India, averaging 40+ and scoring 100s in almost every country, you have to have a very good understanding of your game and the game in general. His understanding of the game is very sharp," Kohli said.
“He told me something which I started practising after, which is standing outside the crease. He explained the mindset behind it, you should be in control over the space you’re playing in and not give the bowlers so many opportunity to get you out. So many dismissals get ruled out when you’re standing outside the crease, and you’re more in control. I started practising that in Australia and the results were unbelievable.
“I made my stance bigger, which was a conversation I had with Duncan Fletcher the coach then. He also had an amazing understanding of the game, loved working with him too. The forward press and giving me the balance from where I could play with confidence off the frontfoot.
“He also asked me whether I’d be comfortable taking on the short ball from the same base, which I was. Ravi bhai also asked me one thing - ‘are you scared of the short ball. I said I’m not scared of the short ball. I don’t mind getting hurt but I just don’t want to get out. He said, fair enough to stand out of the crease.
“Actually, before the 2018 England tour as well, I was practising something different but in the first net session we had, he asked me why I’m not standing outside the crease. I totally forgot. It was all about playing in the difficult conditions and playing with control, and went back into the nets. It was chalk and cheese, I was so much more in control even in the tour game. And from there on, it helped me through the series."