The independent voice of cricket

Indian Premier League 2023

Kevin Pietersen: The Covid-19 pandemic hurt Virat Kohli – but people were foolish not to back him

Betway ambassador Kevin Pietersen talks to Virat Kohli
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant effect on Virat Kohli’s fortunes, but he was always likely to get back to his best, according to Kevin Pietersen.

Kohli’s form has been one of the hottest topics of discussion in cricketing circles over the past few years, with the India great going nearly three years without an international century between late 2019 and 2022.

That coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, which put a halt to all cricket in early 2020. Kohli made 29 international hundreds from the start of 2017 to the end of 2019 before tailing off dramatically. Pietersen suggested that the lack of crowds during the pandemic prevented Kohli from expressing himself.


“Virat, I’ve known for a very long time. The way that he plays the game, so passionate, so abrasive, so emotional,” he said, speaking to Betway. “I think Covid hurt him. I said it to him: ‘Just chill, dude, it’s Covid, you’re an entertainer. You cannot play with three people and their dog watching you play cricket.’ To see him get that 75th hundred… People were foolish not to back him and not to support him.”

Kohli has added a maiden T20I hundred and three ODI centuries in recent months, and finally broke his century-less streak in Test cricket with a score of 186 in the decider against Australia, securing India a 2-1 win. However, he is yet to return to his best in the Indian Premier League, averaging just over 30 and striking at under 120 since the start of the 2020 edition. Pietersen explained how the IPL is up there with the most high-pressured competitions in cricket, comparing it to football’s UEFA Champions League.

“All the best players know, they block out their two months of the year, that’s when they’re going to go and do their service,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure. I remember speaking to De Villiers and Kohli about this three or four years ago. They say it’s like the Champions League. These guys are turning up knowing this is not just a free ride to go and earn a quick buck. They really have to perform.”

The IPL begins on March 31, with Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore still vying for their maiden title.

Have Your Say

Become a Wisden member

  • Exclusive offers and competitions
  • Money-can’t-buy experiences
  • Join the Wisden community
  • Sign up for free
Latest magazine

Get the magazine

12 Issues for just £39.99