Speaking to CricketNext, Rajkumar says that while athletes and pundits across the world admire Kohli’s work ethics and fitness regime, the coach just admires the sacrifices that the Delhi boy has made in order to reach the pinnacle.
“Kohli once told me, if I don’t set the benchmark as captain, who else will? Even as the world looks on in wonder, I know the boy behind the man. He used to gorge on butter chicken, rolls and all sorts of fast food. But today, it finds no place in his diet.
“In fact, he is so particular about his diet, that even when he comes over to my place, he won’t have packaged juices. You either give him fresh fruit juice or you don’t. Carbs are a strict no-no and there are no binge days in his routine anymore,” he revealed.
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But for Rajkumar, more than the diet and the fitness regime, it is the dedication with which Kohli sticks to the routine that the coach is proud of.
“See, it is easy to do these things for a short or particular span of time. But to make it a constant routine and life style is what makes me proud. The kind of sacrifices he has made at this young age is something that even we can’t at our age.
"It takes a lot of devotion and focus to restructure your lifestyle to this extent. He has cut down on carbs and doesn’t even have rotis now. It is either grilled or boiled food for him. Even his coffee is without sugar and definitely no packaged juices for him," he said.
Asked about the transition from another talented youngster to this mean run-machine, Rajkumar doesn’t want to credit himself alone. The coach feels that credit should also be given to the trainers who work with Kohli in the Indian team.
“I would be lying if I take all the credit for this. Yes, I did suggest working out for a couple of hours and maintaining discipline, but credit also goes to the trainers in the team as they made him further believe the importance of physical fitness and its direct effect on the game.
“In the last two or three years, he has taken fitness and his eating habits to a different level. He takes it so seriously that he got a gym built in his new house. He has this belief that fitness is very important if you have to succeed in international cricket. And his only goal in life is to keep raising the bar,” he said.
Rajkumar feels that the fitness regime is one of the major reasons for the success that Kohli has achieved in recent times.
“Talent was never a problem with Kohli, but then, the effect of the gruelling fitness regime is that he has more stamina and can keep picking the singles and doubles and turn the singles into doubles. He doesn’t tire down and hence the need to play risky shots go out of the equation. Whatever be his work schedule or travel scene, he always finds time to hit the gym,” he signed off.
(The interview was first published in January 2017)
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First Published: November 5, 2017, 8:10 AM IST