Renowned Sports psychologist Rudi Webster compares Virat Kohli's resolve with Garfield Sobers

Aug 05, 2018, 10:00 IST | Noel D'Souza

Renowned sports psychologist Dr Rudi Webster likens Team India skipper's Edgbaston ton to West Indies legend Sir Garfield Sobers' style; says the star's motivation works in his favour

Renowned Sports psychologist Rudi Webster compares Virat Kohli's resolve with Garfield Sobers
India skipper Virat Kohli plays a cover drive on Day Two of the first Test v England at Edgbaston, Birmingham on Thursday. Pic/Getty Images

Virat Kohli. These two words, or maybe, even one of them, have easily become a lifeline for the Indian team. The wily willow wielder has bailed his team out of precarious situations so many times that it's hard to keep track of that growing number. A similar situation arose during Day Two of the first Test against England at Edgbaston on Thursday.

Walking in at 54 for two, Kohli continued to see the back of his partners as India went from 50 for none to 100-5 in the space of 16.2 overs. However, it was Kohli's steely resolve behind all that aggression that powered him to score a masterly 149, a knock that single-handedly pulled India out of the woods and enabled the visitors to bring down their first innings deficit to 13 runs.

Kohli's knock ranks amongst one of the finest tons by an Indian batsman on English soil. In fact, his innings reminded acclaimed Grenada-based sports psychologist, Dr Rudi Webster of the great West Indies legend, Sir Garfield Sobers. "What Kohli did brought back memories of what Sobers used to do with the West Indies team when he was at his peak.

Remember, he used to bat at No. 6. Quite often, he would carry his bat through with the tailenders and make big scores. He did it over and over again. The fact that Kohli is able to do that really separates him from a lot of the other players," Webster, a former manager of the West Indies team, largely praised for his role in the dominant Windies side of the 1980s under Clive Lloyd, told mid-day over the phone on Friday.

Sir Garfield Sobers
Sir Garfield Sobers

Analysing Kohli's monumental knock in Birmingham, Webster said: "If you look at that innings, he absorbed all the pressure that was put on him. The English will tell you he had a bit of luck, everybody does, but the good thing about champions is that they know when pressure is being put on them, and they know how to deal with it. But then, they also know when and how to put pressure on the opposition."

While blazing to his 22nd Test ton, Kohli got a couple of reprieves early in his innings when he was dropped on 21 and 51. Was there an element of doubt that cropped up at that time? "There must have been the odd doubt in his mind, but he must have been so mentally prepared and I am sure that he has visualised batting in England and against James Anderson over and over, long before he got to England. It's quite natural to be a little nervous, but the way he controls himself and the game, told me that he was in total control most of the time.

"One of the things that really impressed me was the way he built his innings. Sobers always used to say that he rated people the way they started and built their innings. And the way Kohli built his innings, absorbed the pressure and later, put pressure on the Englishmen, who folded up after that, is a sign of a great champion. This is exactly what Sobers used to do. All of that is mental stuff. It has nothing to do with technique or physical ability," Webster said.

Kohli's 149 also ensured he took a giant stride towards exorcising the ghosts of 2014, his last tour of England, when he returned with scores of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0, 7, 6 and 20 in five Tests, averaging 13.40 in his 10 innings. "That was a very interesting period. He went into what many people would call a slump. He didn't look like a good player at all.

The English pundits and analysts got stuck into him about his technique. This is what they all do when somebody goes into a slump. They attribute 90 per cent of it to his technical problems. I am surprised that some of the senior players did not talk to him and try to help him, not with his technical thing, but from his whole approach and attitude to batting, to try and work on his confidence and self-belief. Obviously, that did not happen," Webster explained.

From 2014 till today is a long way, and Kohli has seemed to get better by the second. Webster, who has also worked with the Indian team in 2006, felt the swashbuckling batsman has learnt from his mistakes which proves that he's a class apart. "Kohli has a fantastic capacity to learn, and he learns very quickly. A good player makes mistakes, learns from them and never repeats them. The other players make mistakes and keep repeating them at regular intervals," he said.

It's not only about Kohli's willingness to learn, Webster reckoned, but also his growing levels of motivation to do well, that seem to have no end. "Ability just tells you what you are capable of; it does not mean you will do it. Motivation on the other hand, tells why you will do it and how likely you are to do it. And motivation is a better predictor of future performance and ability. Kohli was very highly motivated for this England tour," he said.

It's going to be a gruelling test for India in England with volatile conditions in store. Webster, a fast bowler, who claimed 272 wickets for Warwickshire, gave an insight into the conditions: "You always have to adjust. In the first half of the season, the wickets are not as good, the ball moves around a lot more, but when you come to August and September, it's not as bad as early on and most players adjust to those conditions fairly quickly," he said.

But if the Indian batsmen fail to put up a good show on the day, their lifeline, a run-machine, combined with cutting edge mental skills, is ready to possibly bail them out another time.

"Sobers used to say that a great player can identify the challenge in the situation that he is facing or is about to face and then tailors his skills, strategy and mental approach to fit those challenges and overcomes them. As soon as you get over that, another set comes in and you go through the same process. This is what great players do better than all the others. They adapt to these changes much more quickly and that is what Kohli is doing," Webster said. Quite rightly so, doc!

Dr Webster explains what is a slump

Experts say that a slump may be started by some technical factor, but in the end, it is a breakdown of the mental functioning. In other words, your concentration and your confidence, self-belief and all that sort of stuff is a thing that perpetuates to trump.

Webster analyses Kohli's game

Unlike a lot, players and coaches, who try to build the players' game from outside in, in other words, they develop the technique and physical skills, and just allow the mental skills to develop by themselves, you will find the champion starts from the inside. They develop those mental skills very early such as the ability to concentrate and cope with pressure and self-control and then they move outwards. That is the difference between people like Kohli, and other batsmen in the side who probably have skills that are almost as good as Kohli's.

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