Virat Kohli is open to the idea of taking a break from cricket to "rejuvenate" himself mentally and get himself out of the lean patch he has been going through of late. At the same time, Kohli said he was going through the "happiest phase" of his life and he was "batting well" despite struggling for consistent starts across formats. Winning the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup were his two main goals for 2022, he said.
Kohli, 33, last scored a century in any format in November 2019 and currently averages 21.45 in the ongoing IPL - his lowest in the tournament since 2008, when he averaged 15. His strike rate of 113.46 this season is also well below his overall IPL strike rate of 129.26 and his lowest in the tournament since 2012, when it was 111.65.
While there have been many voices raising concerns over Kohli's batting struggles, it was former India head coach Ravi Shastri who first said the former India captain was "overcooked" and suggested he go on a break.
Kohli said he had heard Shastri's words and agreed that a break was a "healthy" option for him especially as he has been moving around on cricket's conveyor belt for more than a decade, including a significant amount of time as a captain.
Kohli said he would "definitely discuss" it with the Indian team management, including head coach Rahul Dravid.
"It's not a lot of people who mentioned it (taking a break)," Kohli told Star Sports in an interview. "There is one person precisely who has mentioned it which is Ravi bhai and that's because he has seen from close quarters over the last six-seven years the reality of the situation that I have been in. The amount of cricket that I have played and the ups and downs and the toll that it takes on you to play three formats of the game plus the IPL for 10-11 years non-stop with the seven years of captaincy in between..."
Last year after Ben Stokes became the first high-profile cricketer to take an indefinite break to recoup from the pressure of operating inside a biosecure environment thrust on cricket due the pandemic, Kohli supported the England allrounder's decision calling it "refreshing" and "necessary".
Kohli said a break, if he took that option, could allow him a "mental reset", which was needed to perform at the highest level. "It is definitely a thing that one needs to consider because you don't want to do something which you are not a part of 100% and I have always believed in that in my life. So to take a break and when to take a break is obviously something that I need to take a call on, but it is only a healthy decision for anyone to take some time off and just rejuvenate yourself mentally and physically. Not so much physically because physical fitness you keep up with through the course of playing cricket all the time, but it is a mental kind of reset that you need, and you want to be excited for what you are doing. You don't want to feel like you have been forcing yourself into any situation.
"So I don't think there is anything wrong in that. It's a very healthy thing to think of especially with the amount of cricket that we play nowadays and the amount of cricket that I have played in the last 10-11 years as I mentioned. It's only a thing of creating a balance and finding that balance which is right for you as an individual moving forward and I'll definitely discuss this with all the people involved - Rahul bhai, the Indian team management, everyone to chart out whatever is best for myself and for the team definitely."
"Want to learn from current phase"
Kohli said his struggles in the IPL are dissimilar to 2014 - when his technique was exposed by James Anderson on the tour of England, which he finished with an average of 13.40 in 10 innings - as there is no pattern to his dismissals. He has been caught at different positions seven times, bowled twice, lbw once and even run out twice. The only thing that tells a story is his low scores: he has been dismissed for under 10 runs on six occasions so far, including three golden ducks.
"I am not looking to put this phase behind me, to be honest," Kohli said. "What happened in England was a pattern so something that I could work on, something that I had to overcome. Right now, there is nothing that you can point out saying there is a problem here. So that for me is an easier thing to process because I know that I'm batting well and at times when I start feeling that rhythm back then I know I am batting well, which wasn't the case in England [where] I didn't feel like I was batting well at all. So I had to work hard on one thing that I could be exposed to again and again which I overcame. Right now, that's not the case. I know where my game stands and you cannot come this far in your international career without having the ability to counter the situations and counter conditions and counter different kinds of bowling.
"So this phase for me is the easier phase to process but I don't want to put this behind me. I want to learn from it and understand that what are the core values that I have as a sports person and as a human being. As long as I'm ticking those boxes... I know these are ups and downs and when I come out of this phase I know how consistent I can be. I know how motivated I will be once the scores start coming to make sure it's one after the another. I know that I have that drive in me to go back to back to back, which motivates me more as I mentioned in contributing towards my team's cause and making my team win. So these things drive me and propel me way more than the setbacks that I have.
"I am very aware of what's going on and I am absolutely, as I said, at ease with myself. And very, very confident about the fact that I will keep getting more and more balanced as a human being. Eventually that's what I want to get out of all these experiences because there is so much life beyond this that we don't understand the value, the true value of finding this balance.
"I am not sitting in a position where I am desperate to prove anything to anyone. For me God's been so kind and I'm only grateful for everything that has been blessed upon me for over so many years. So much love I am getting from people, so many wishes. It is showing me another side of things that I probably haven't experienced first-hand before because I was so lost in what I was doing all the time. So I'm feeling more grateful and more grounded with the fact that I have been able to have all these experiences as a normal person."
"I care for my own well-being way more than I would have in the past"
Kohli also stressed that he will not be bogged down by his performance on the field because he has started to value his "well-being" more.
"My experiences are sacred to me - whatever I have experienced in this phase or in the past as well. One thing that I can vouch for is that I have never valued myself more as a person. Because I'm experiencing now that there is a big sense of identity that is created by the world for you, which is far more different, so far away from the reality of you as a human being. So I am experiencing now that I value myself and I care for my own well-being way more than I would have in the past. And actually, contrary to a lot of belief or a lot of perceptions as I mentioned on the outside, I'm actually in the happiest phase of my life.
"I am not finding any self-worth or value on what I do on the field. I'm way past that phase. This is a phase of evolution for me. Not to say that I don't have the same drive, my drive will never die down. The day my drive goes away I will not be playing this game, but to understand that some things are not controllable. The only controllables you have are the things that you can work towards which is working hard on the field and in life as well. And from that point of view, I feel more balanced that I have ever been.
"And I am happy with who I am and how I am leading my life. If I start valuing myself with my [on-field] achievements then these achievements are not going to be possible after a stage where I stop playing the game anyways, so where will I get that validation from? So I have started to value myself way more as a person and I'm not finding any source of encouragement or disappointment by what happens on the field. In the heat of the moment, in that moment, because you are a competitive sportsman and it is your profession, it is something that you prepare very well for, you feel disappointed when you are not able to contribute to the team's cause as much as much as you want to.
"[But] this is not about myself. This is about the fact that I have not contributed to my team's cause as much as I would have wanted to, or I pride myself on."
"Want to win India the Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup"
Despite the turbulent run of form, Kohli found time to joke about his batting struggles during a separate chat on Star Sports with former India team-mate Harbhajan Singh. "Jos Buttler came to me, after the Rajasthan Royals match and said, 'I want to ask you something', and I told him that you're wearing the orange cap what do you want to ask me, I am not able to make runs - and we had a laugh about it," Kohli told Harbhajan.
Asked by Harbhajan what his goals were after the IPL, Kohli said he was focused on making India win two big titles this year.
"I want to win India the Asia Cup and the [T20] World Cup; that's the motivation," he said. "I have to move forward maintaining a balance, get some rest, some rejuvenation, once I'm in the mindset then there's no looking back and [it's] great fun. My main aim is to help India win the Asia Cup and the World Cup and for that I am ready to do anything for the team."