When Virat Kohli held 200 catches the night before a Test match
In his book Coaching Beyond: My Days With Indian Cricket, R Sridhar wrote at lengths about – among other aspects – Virat Kohli’s enviable work ethic.
During his seven-year stint as the fielding coach of the India men’s side, Sridhar had the opportunity to interact closely with the international cricketers. Naturally, he has been witness to many an incident.
India were hosting England for four Tests in early 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the BCCI to schedule the matches across two venues. In the Chennai leg of the series, England went one-up with a 227-run win before India drew level with a 317-run hammering.
The teams then moved to Ahmedabad, where an enormous new stadium – the largest in the world in terms of public seating – awaited its first Test match after renovation. India were yet to qualify for the World Test Championship final.
The Test match would be played under lights, which posed a problem for the fielders due to the bright orange backdrop of the stands. “Much debate had been generated by how the colour of the seats, many of which would be unoccupied due to the restrictions necessitated by the pandemic, could offer a difficult backdrop against which to sight the pink ball,” elaborated Sridhar.
There was only one way to counter this problem: more catching practice.
“Virat knew he could not control anything else beyond being ready for the unexpected,” Sridhar recollected. “So, he tugged me aside for a fielding session in twilight under a not-so-ideal backdrop of orange chairs that dotted the stands.”
Kohli held nearly 200 catches – no typo there – on the night before the Test match. It certainly had an impact on Shubman Gill, who had been watching his captain from a distance until he got tired.
Kohli smiled at Gill: “I am giving you 10 years in age, young man. The least you can do is take a few catches yourself.” Gill joined in.
Kohli practised catching, Gill in tow, until the manager had to tell him that the rest of the squad was ready for the team bus, which would leave for the hotel in 10 minutes.