Virat Kohli, who had a lean patch in the just concluded Indian Premier League, has a supporter in Mohammad Azharuddin, who feels the star batter will come good in England. Image Credit: Courtesy: BCCI

Dubai: Former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin is confident that Virat Kohli will regain his batting prowess in England and feels the beleaguered superstar is a victim of his own high standards.

“When Kohli gets a 50, it seems he has failed, of course, he has not done much this year. Everybody, even the best, goes through a bad phase in their careers. Kohli has been playing a lot of cricket and now that he has got a little break, hopefully, he will come back to form in England,” said Azhar, in support of Kohli, after inaugurating his Camp with the Champ talent hunt programme in Dubai on Tuesday.

Former Indian skipper Kohli has been under immense pressure after failing to get a century in more than 100 innings. And the superstar is in elite company. Modern day legends of the game, Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar, have also endured similar dip in form and Azhar, the wristy wizard, could not find his magic during his illustrious career during a prolonged slump. Former Australian captain Steve Smith, who is also considered one of the best in today’s cricket, is not able to reproduce the same form that catapulted him to the top.

“There’s nothing wrong with Kohli’s technique, sometimes you need a bit of luck also. One big score or a century will bring the aggression back and he will be a different player.”

Mohammad Azharuddin with other officials during the inauguration of Camp with the Champ in Dubai on Tuesday. Image Credit: Supplied

Azhar, who has been one of India’s longest-serving skippers, hailed Hardik Pandya’s matured performance in the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL).

“Pandya is a good talent and as an all-rounder of repute, it is important that he bowls his overs. He completely changed the game with his three wickets in four overs in the final against Rajasthan. He has the ability and has done well for India, but he was not able to be with the team consistently due to the injury,” Azhar, who captained India in 47 Tests and 174 ODIs.

Injuries are part and parcel of modern day cricket and Azhar feels that a number of factors — individual body composition, frequent matches, softer grounds, equipment and the training methods, contribute to players frequently getting sidelined.

Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya takes a return to catch to dismiss Shimron Hetmyer in the IPL final. The Gujarat skipper claimed three wickets to set the platform for his team's triumph. Image Credit: Courtesy: BCCI

“Every athlete has a different body. With so many games being played you have to know your body very well. Players are also doing a lot of gym work. Those days we never did any, while it is very important now. They over-do it. Running and doing physical exercises and lot of fielding drills will make you more fitter than in the gym. I started going to the only after I stopped playing cricket,” said Azhar, the same languid style he walks on to a cricket field.

Qualities to become a champion

Launched by Sports Spirit Federation, Camp with the Champ, the sport’s first reality show and supported by Positive Spirit of Dubai Police, will follow Azharuddin as he trains 100 youngsters at the ICC Academy in Dubai, sharing with them his invaluable insight and expertise. The inaugural camp will run from June 10-12, with the first season of the reality show scheduled to air in early July. A total of four seasons of Camp with the Champ have been confirmed, according to the organisers, who added that other cricketing heroes are being invited to join Azharuddin on this journey of discovery for future seasons.

From each camp, one lucky student will also be selected to train with the Bangla Tigers team at the next edition of the Abu Dhabi T10. A cash prize of Dh10,000 and a scholarship where one lucky player will also be awarded a chance to share the dressing room with international players in the Bangla Tigers AD T10 team.

According to Azhar, skill and the determination to work hard are the two qualities to become a champion.

“The most important is to have the skill. Once you have the skill, then you can improve on the game and the results will come,” he said, adding, “Even if you have the skill, if you don’t put the skill to practice then you will not achieve anything. You should be prepared to practice obsessively, day in and day out.”

Jos Buttler has been the biggest beneficiary in this IPL, scoring four centuries in a total of 863 runs this season. Image Credit: Courtesy: BCCI

Azhar, who has worn many hats including cricket administrator and a former Member of Parliament, feels IPL has done a world of good to teams and players across the world.

Test cricket is the ultimate

“All countries are benefiting from the IPL, especially it benefited Jos Buttler, who was sidelined from the team. His exploits in IPL should not be taken as a yardstick and brand him as a white-ball player. He has got tremendous talent and could be a very good Test player for England, which he has proven in the past.”

Azhar’s love for the longest format is evident and considers the Test as the real test for a cricketer, who should use the opportunity arising out of the Twenty20 leagues to cement the place in Test side. “I don’t think Test cricket will ever die down,” he said despite lending his support to T10 leagues in Olympic Games. “The fans in England want to see Test and the purists will always want to see Test matches. Any player would be wanted to be known as a Test player and lots of kids should also feel that way. The ultimate goal is to play Test,” he concluded.