Indian captain Virat Kohli has revealed he struggled with depression on tour in England which reduced him to the “loneliest guy in the world.”
Cricket deity Kohli, revered by 1.3 billion people in his homeland, carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders every time he walks out to bat.
But in a lacerating interview, speaking exclusively to the Not Just Cricket podcast, he lays bare the burden of failure on the 2014 tour where he managed just 134 runs in five Tests against England.
Kohli was so tortured by his loss of form that he struggled to sleep and, when he did manage to drift off, he didn’t want to wake up in the morning.
He turned to another king among Indian cricket royalty, Sachin Tendulkar, for help on overcoming the negativity which infiltrated his mind.
Kohli, speaking exclusively to the Not Just Cricket Podcast said: “It’s not a great feeling when you wake up knowing that you won’t be able to score any runs, and I think all batsmen have felt that at some stage or the other, where you’re not in control of anything at all.
“And I just couldn’t understand at all how to get over it. I think that when you look back at a very difficult phase, you realise that you had to go through that phase fully to be able to understand what’s wrong and rectify it.
“But that was a phase where I literally couldn’t do anything to overturn what I was going through and it was tough. I felt like I was the loneliest guy in the world.
“And that’s what happens, you can really push yourself into a downward spiral, where you feel like you’re going further down with each day that passes.
“But when things turn around, you feel that maybe I was being too harsh on myself, I was putting myself down way more than what was required for me to change.
“So now I understand with years passing by, that there’s a line that needs to be drawn and beyond that line, if you’re going downwards, it’s absolutely not required.
“For me, it was a revelation personally, that you could feel that lonely, even though you’re a part of a big group.
“I wouldn’t say I didn’t have people that I could speak to, but not having a professional to speak to who could understand what I was going through completely, I think is a huge factor.
“And I think I would like to see a change, someone that you can go to at any stage, have a conversation around, ‘ Listen, this is what I’m feeling, I’m finding it hard to even go to sleep, I feel like I don’t even want to wake up in the morning, I have no confidence in myself, what do I do?’ It was tough.”
Tendulkar, who never scored a Test hundred at Lord’s despite his undisputed place among cricket’s all-time greats, came to the rescue in a reassuring pep-talk.
Koholi said: “I did have a chat to Sachin about the mental side off things as well, and the thing he told me if you’re going through a strong negative feeling, if that’s coming into your system regularly, it’s best to let it pass.
“If you start fighting that feeling, it grows stronger. So that’s the advice that I took on board, and my mindset really opened up from then on.”
Kohli, 32, has gone on to stockpile 7,463 runs in 89 Tests at an average of 52.92.