How did he deal with it? In Dubai, Kohli tried to provide answers, and stressed that he was in a good place.
“Me being in a bad space is neither good for the team nor for me. I think no one should run away from this, if someone is feeling negative or low, taking a break isn’t a bad thing”
“Let me tell you one thing: when I left Test captaincy, I got a message from only one person, with whom I had played previously; that was MS Dhoni,” Kohli said. “Many people have my number. On TV, people give lots of suggestions, people have a lot to say. But none of the people who had my number sent me a message.
“That respect [with Dhoni], that connection you have with someone, when it is genuine, it shows like this, because there is no insecurity with either of us. Neither does he [Dhoni] need anything from me, nor do I need anything from him. Neither of us suffers from insecurity. I can only say: if I want to say something to someone, I reach out to that person individually if I want to help.
“I mean, if you give the suggestions in front of the world, it has no value for me. If it is for my improvement, you can talk with me one-on-one, (tell me) that I genuinely want you to do well. I live life with a lot of honesty, so I can see through such things. I am not saying that it doesn’t matter to me, but you see the real thing. I can only say that. When you play for such a long time, when you play with honesty, the only one who looks out for you is the almighty. Until I play, until I am worthy of playing, I will play this way.”
Prior to the Asia Cup, in an interview with Star Sports, Kohli elaborated about his struggles. He touched upon how an obsession over his professional identity had led to him losing perspective as a human being. He subsequently took time off, during which he switched off completely from the game, not even doing something as spontaneous as lifting a cricket bat.
“I didn’t think I’d go a month without touching my bat, but the situation became such that I had to take a break,” he said. “More mentally than physically. Then you realize when you beat again after a month why you started playing the game. That [realisation] is lost at times, the way people look at you, cheer for you when you’re at the ground, at such times you can lose that realisation.
“That drive and purity for the game, that joy dissipates. It was important to rediscover that again for me. When I’m happy in my space, then I know what I can do for the team. Me being in a bad space is neither good for the team nor for me. I think no one should run away from this, if someone is feeling negative or low, taking a break isn’t a bad thing.
“And I hope people will derive strength from that and address whatever they are feeling. We’re all human, everyone can feel this way. But to recognize that and care about it is important. If you ignore it, you will get more frustrated . This is something I realized and I got a lot of help. I’m happy, I’m excited and having fun playing cricket again, which was the most important thing for me.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo