Mumbai: Not many are aware of the role played by Ray Jennings and Anil Kumble in the fruition of Virat Kohli. The Delhi lad always had his share of detractors. Ever since his debut in 2008, his off-field behaviour and attitude were scrutinised. Despite emerging as India's best batsman on the tour of Australia, a former cricketer said, "Virat has all the tools to achieve greatness. But his attitude is a worry."
It's not been easy for Kohli to impress all. In 2010, during the third edition of the Indian Premier League, Royal Challengers Bangalore coach Jennings and captain Kumble pulled up Kohli for what can be described as a subtle dressing down.
Kohli was told to mend his ways, control his aggression and fulfill his enormous potential. "I've had a relationship with him since he was 18. I congratulated him for beating us (South Africa) at the U-19 World Cup in Malaysia. I told people that this guy would not only captain India, but become the best batsman in the world one day," Jennings told Mid-Day.
"Few years later, Anil (Kumble) and I noticed a trend in him during IPL season-3. He's an explosive character and always fired up. Sometimes that can lead to his downfall. Anil and myself are old enough to understand that sort of confidence was his strength as well as a weakness. We asked him to control his anger and focus his energy in the right direction. It's not about sitting down and telling him what to do at a meeting. I've been fortunate to work with him since 2007. I've seen the growth of Kohli," added Jennings.
Jennings was closely following Kohli's multiple brushes with controversy Down Under. He was even told about episodes that escaped media coverage. "I was talking to him regularly when he was in Australia. I kept reminding him that he was going to be the best. He would tell me, 'Ray, these things are bothering me,' referring to unnecessary media spotlight he was getting. What people need to understand is that he's a very different personality to Sachin Tendulkar.
"We have to start accepting that Kohli is Kohli. Sachin might have been gentler in his younger days. People always wanted to know more about Tendulkar. But Kohli is more expressive. Kohli too respects people like Sachin, but he occasionally flips up. I don't hold that against him. He's not arrogant.
"Kohli should be allowed to develop. With people like Kumble around, we will help him along the way. I would hate to see him end up like how others in India want him to end up. When he gets on the field, he wants to win badly. Kohli will be a a mentor to people one day, and that maturity will be on display soon enough."
Jennings admits to be 'scared' of Kohli's drive to be the best: "I can never get him out of the nets. It's scary how much success he wants. These youngsters want things quickly. It's almost like he doesn't want others to succeed. That's an amazing quality. He wants to be the best. Those are aspects that can be looked at as faults by others, but are strengths that will make him a top cricketer."