India captain Virat Kohli has opened up on his struggles with depression, saying he “felt like the loneliest guy in the world” in 2014.
Kohli has since established himself as one of the greatest batsmen in the game, but it was a different story when India visited England for a five-match Test series, five ODIs and a Twenty20 seven years ago.
England won the Test series 3-1 and although India recovered to win the ODI series, Kohli cut a dejected figure throughout as he struggled for runs.
Kohli was bowled for two ducks and scored fewer than 10 runs on four other occasions across the Test series, while he fell for another duck in the ODI series.
“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,” Kohli, speaking exclusively to the Not Just Cricket Podcast, said.
“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 and move forward, and just open yourself up for change, accept that there are things that are going wrong.
"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."
Liam Plunkett celebrates dismissing Virat Kohli | England v India, Second Test in 2014
Image credit: Getty Images
Kohli has bounced back from that difficult Tour to become India's leading cricketer and the highest-paid player in the world.
He is currently locking horns with England again, this time on home soil, with the four-Test series poised at 1-1.
“For me, it was a revelation personally, that you could feel that lonely, even though you’re a part of a big group,” Kohli continued.
“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?’
Kohli is hoping that by opening up about his experiences, that other cricketers will be able to get help.
“A lot of people suffered with that feeling for longer periods of time, having seen a lot of people through the sport that we play,” he said.
“In the team environment, day after day on tour, maybe it carries on for month, maybe it carries on for a whole cricket season where people are not able to get out of it.
"The only alternative left after then is ‘the guy didn’t do well, if he doesn’t do well for six more months, okay fine he’s out of the team, get a new guy’.
“But that doesn’t solve the issue. I think that’s a very serious condition that should be dealt with absolute detail and very carefully, and I strongly feel the need for professional help there to be very honest.
“Otherwise, you’re just left to figure things out on your own and more-so you’re expected to toughen up and just get over it. Sometimes people are not able to.”