India and Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Virat Kohli admitted on Tuesday that the spot-fixing scandal in this year's Indian Premier League tarnished the country's image greatly.
Speaking to NDTV in an exclusive interview, the 24-year-old said that cricket in India had taken a severe hit because of three national players, representing Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, being accused of spot-fixing. "Indian cricket's image has taken a hit because of the IPL scandal. Very disheartening to hear that three Indian cricketers were involved in scandal," he said. S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were the main accused when Delhi Police alleged that they were involved in scrupulous activities before, during and after matches. The players since received varying bans from the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
While many questioned BCCI's ability to check the menace of spot-fixing, the spotlight was fixed firmly on the national players. Kohli however said that their subsequent triumph in England was a strong message. "Champions Trophy win was a reply to IPL scandal damaging Indian cricket's image. The way we played was a strong reply. (But) We don't really talk about these things (controversies off the field) in the dressing room. Our focus is always on playing good cricket," he said. The Indian team delivered strong performances in the tournament, held just 10 days after the final match of IPL. And Kohli was one of the highlights once again. (Also see: Kohli's new 'eyebrow cut')
Batting at No. 3, Kohli hit 176 in five innings at an average of 58.66. While he followed it up with credible knocks in West Indies and Zimbabwe as well, Kohli said that he wants to keep improving. "I have had many highs and lows in my cricketing journey. (But) I believe I'm on the right track as a cricketer." (Related: Kohli set to surpass MSD, Sachin in endorsement earnings)
Not having his hero - Sachin Tendulkar - for much longer though is a thought that scares the otherwise fearless young hero. "Thinking of Sachin not playing for India anymore is a very scary thought. His retirement will be a very tough for the entire country. I don't know what I will feel, I don't know what the country will feel and I don't know what he will feel. I may have tears in my eyes." he said and added that not having fellow Delhi seniors Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir is also disappointing. "(It is a) Weird feeling not to have Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir not playing for India."
While Sehwag and Gambhir were ignored for the side picked to face Australia next month, Kohli though will hope to continue to bat his usual self and pulverize opponents, regardless of their stature and the venue of the contests.