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Virat on the prowl

The Delhi batsman will be eager to make amends for his poor showing on debut in West Indies. Amol Karhadkar reports.Mixed match

india Updated: Nov 20, 2011 02:52 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Virat-Kohli-left-and-Ishant-Sharma-share-a-laugh-during-a-practice-session-in-New-Delhi
Virat-Kohli-left-and-Ishant-Sharma-share-a-laugh-during-a-practice-session-in-New-Delhi

This summer, when Virat Kohli flew to the Caribbean Islands for his first Test series, little did he know someone called Fidel Edwards would spoil the party and send him packing home. The fiery slinger rattled him with pace and bounce, pushing the talented batsman out of contention for the England Test series.

Now, when the West Indies are touring India, Kohli looks likely to get an opportunity to make amends for a start he would rather forget. Back in the mix, he could well get the chance to take the speedster on at home and reverse that record.

The youngster has emerged as a clear favourite over hometown hero Rohit Sharma for the No 6 slot in the last Test against West Indies, which starts at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday.

While senior Delhi dazzlers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir relaxed at home on Saturday morning, Kohli had landed and requested the Mumbai Cricket Association officials for a net session. Kohli spent an hour at the outdoor nets of the MCA's facility at the Bandra-Kurla Complex. While he was preparing himself for a likely first Test appearance in India, Sachin Tendulkar was training at the indoor nets.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/201111/20-11-pg21a.jpg

RAPID RISE
Kohli, it seems, is on the perfect pathway to success. Though Rohit Sharma has replaced Yuvraj Singh in the squad for the third Test, Kohli should be the first choice. Not just because he has been a part of the squad since the series began in his hometown a fortnight ago, but also because he has emerged as the most improved Indian cricketer in 2011.

From a brash teenager who was on the verge of wasting his talent, especially during the high after leading the victorious Under-19 World Cup team and then being lured by the IPL glitz, to a responsible batsman, Kohli, who turned 23 last week, has come a long way over the last four years. His talent was never in question. What was lacking was the hunger to succeed and the commitment required for that.

But once he was made to realise his shortcomings by the likes of Royal Challengers Bangalore coach Ray Jennings and former India skippers Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid, Kohli emerged a completely different player.

“After the success of the U-19 World Cup, we directly went to the IPL and I was a bit overawed by the atmosphere and went off the track a bit. It was upto me to get things in order and I need to put things right if I want to play for India,” Kohli said at an awards function on Saturday.

NATURAL PROGRESSION
After stamping his authority in India's World Cup triumph, Kohli was waiting to be given a long rope in Tests. Though he couldn't make the most of the opportunities he got in the West Indies, he has emerged as the No 1 candidate for the only vacant slot in the batting order.

“It has always been my dream to play Test cricket for India. I did not do well the first time but I want to make it count this time around,” Kohli said.

In fact, some experts are surprised Kohli and Rohit are yet to get a steady run in Tests.

“Kohli is definitely ready for Test cricket,” former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar, who blooded the youngster into the national team as the chairman of selectors, says.

“So is Rohit, actually. Both have proven it quite frequently that they have the wherewithal to succeed in Test cricket.”