Rajkumar Sharma, the coach of Indian Test captain Virat Kohli, treats the stylish right-hand batsman as his ‘son’ and if looked at from his eyes, Kohli has not changed a bit from the time he came to Sharma’s coaching camp at the age of 10.
Sharma remembers the time when questions were raised over the focus of Virat Kohli following his U-19 World Cup exploits and a subsequent IPL contract with the RCB.
Sharma points out that he, like any other parent, ensured that Virat didn’t get distracted and received the right guidance at that time.
Rajkumar Sharma will soon be conferred with the prestigious Dronacharya award. He recalls that time when Virat had predicted this award for him way back in 2013 when Kohli himself received Arjuna award.
"When Virat got the Arjuna Award in 2013, I was there at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and he told me then next time I would be receiving Droancharya and he would be applauding from the audience. Wish Virat did not have international commitments (he will be on his flight back from the US) and he would be have been there at Rashtrapati Bhavan on August 29," said Sharma.
"It's a huge honour which increases your responsibility to produce not one but many more Virats. I still remember the day when a 10-year-old Virat came to my coaching camp. Today as an Indian captain when he comes for a net session, I don't find any difference. He is still the same old little Virat for me. Nothing has changed for him," the 51-year-old former first-class cricketer said.
The 51-year-old's name has been sent to the Dronacharya awards committee on a number of occasions but he only got lucky this time. In fact, the Indian skipper called him from Port of Spain to congratulate him.
Sharma has played 9 Ranji Games as an off-spinner for Delhi.
But for Sharma, Virat has had a remarkable transformation where youngsters are now looking upto him not only as a cricketer but as a role model also.
"Maturity comes with age. There are a lot of things that a coach can't do. There is a process of self realization and the person knows what is right for him. Virat went through that process on his own and let me tell you I had no role in that process. The transformation from a teenager to responsible young man has happened because he knew what he needed to do," said Sharma.
"Even today when he is considered among the best batsmen in world cricket, he will intently listen when I speak to him about his feet movement or backlift. When you find that he is still ready to listen then you know that the head and the heart is in right place."
For Sharma, the focus is on producing the next batch of good competent cricketers who will catch the attention of the cricket lovers.
"My student Pulkit Narang, a spinner has already made his senior state debut. There is a 12-year-old boy called Ram Dev, in whom I see the spark that I saw in Virat years ago. Let's hope that they blossom into good solid cricketers," said Sharma.
(With PTI inputs)