'Kohli told me don’t treat me like a cricketer and work with me like an individual athlete.'
Virat Kohli's passion for fitness is well-known. But beyond that personal spectrum, it has also sparked a revolution in Indian cricket as the players embraced a new culture of fitness.
While Kohli is the face of that trend-setting move, Basu Shanker, the strength and conditioning coach of Royal Challengers Bangalore, has been a silent catalyst.
Basu gave some insights into the fitness world of Kohli and how it impacted other cricketers.
"The onus of this change (passion for fitness) is on Virat. I have been seeing him since 2009. In 2014, he said he has a stiff back and can you do something about it? It was only for six weeks and we could not do much then. But in 2015, he said you should do a bigger role. So, I told him we will make a template for you and I will have to make drastic changes to the training that you are doing now. He asked a lot of technical questions and after several conversations back and forth, he said: ‘Ok let’s start,’" Basu said on RCB Podcast Season 2.
However, even Basu, who has worked with several athletes across disciplines, was blown away by the commitment of Kohli towards fitness.
"Virat has seen me training Deepika Pallikal (India squash player and the wife of Dinesh Karthik) and that time she was in the top 10. So, Kohli told me don’t treat me like a cricketer and work with me like an individual athlete. So, I told him you will have to train like an Olympic athlete and I used to quote Novak Djokovic to him then. I am not tired of telling this but I have never ever seen a guy like Virat Kohli. He can do the simple, most boring things of life every day and it does not matter whether he is performing or not (on the field). But that zeal and extraordinary passion towards excellence is mind boggling. It helped me put across my syllabus to him," said Basu.
Basu, who also worked with Team India, said once Kohli, the then India and RCB captain, was convinced of following the fitness pattern, it was easy for him to get the message across to other players, and cited the example of Dinesh Karthik.
"People are always caught up with visual fitness, they look at you (an athlete) and they say oh yes, he looks so fit. But athletic fitness is very different. Yes, Virat is very fit and he looks (fit) too, the cosmetics, and he is blessed that way. He is extremely powerful. It is the same thing with Dinesh Karthik…his resilience and robustness on the cricket field is unbelievable. I mean, he's the Ryan Giggs of cricket. He’s never been injured much and hardly loses any time on the field. So, once the captain is brought into the theory the rest was easier. My theory is that once you hit one, you hit five, once you hit five you’ll hit 50 and once you hit 50, you hit the nation," he further added.