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Aspire to play Test cricket: Virat Kohli’s advice to Indian U-19 World Cup winners

Virat Kohli, who led India to the ICC U-19 World Cup title in 2008, called the latest triumph as the first step in the careers of the boys. The Indian cricket team skipper was already playing first class cricket when he won the age-group trophy, quite like current Indian U-19 cricket team captain Prithvi Shaw.

cricket Updated: Feb 09, 2018 16:40 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup,Indian U-19 cricket team,Virat Kohli
Indian U-19 cricket team captain Prithvi Shaw (centre) celebrates with teammates after winning the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on February 3.(AFP)

When India won the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup in 2012, captain Unmukt Chand was hailed as the next Virat Kohli by experts, and left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh was called the next Bishan Singh Bedi by former Australia cricket team captain Ian Chappell.

There were others too – batsmen Baba Aparajit, Hanuma Vihari and paceman Sandeep Sharma, who were referred to as future Indian cricket team stars. Their images, quotes and video footages were splashed across the media with captain Chand even getting a contract from a well-known publisher to write a book on his experiences. In short, they were celebrated as national heroes.

It is five and a half years since then and no one has yet made a splash even in first class cricket -- barring occasional good outings. In fact, Chand is now struggling to find a place in even the Delhi Ranji Trophy team, whereas Harmeet has drifted into oblivion.

So when Virat Kohli, who is also an U-19 world champion, called this U-19 triumph only the first step through a tweet last week, he didn’t seem out of place. When he won the World Cup in 2008, he was already playing first class cricket, a much higher grade of cricket, quite like captain Prithvi Shaw, among others, is doing.

On Wednesday, Kohli again put the World Cup victory in New Zealand into perspective.

“It is a big achievement to win the World Cup again, for the fourth time. It is a proud moment for team members and their families. There will be a couple of players who will come into limelight after the World Cup. But it is important that the strong foundation of first class cricket is not neglected,” said Kohli.

While the 2012 champion captain Unmukt had already played some outstanding knocks in Ranji Trophy, including a 151 on debut on a green top at the Roshanara Club grounds, well before he became the colts’ world champion, his performance has tapered since.

Kohli insisted that first-class cricket is, by far, the most important.

“I always thought after I returned with the U-19 World Cup that, first, I have to perform in first class cricket and on A tours abroad. So that people realise I can play at a higher level,” he said.

In a way, the U-19 World Cup triumph was just a little springy step sandwiched in the initial stages of Kohli’s first class career.

While praising the new bunch of players, Kohli though said they have to think of playing Test cricket.

“If your desire is to play Test cricket, then other formats will take care of themselves. Some players have a game, some don’t. But if they decide to change the game, then they won’t be able to adjust anywhere.”

Kohli was drafted into the India side immediately after winning the U-19 World Cup but couldn’t cope and was discarded. It was only later, after earning accolades in first class cricket for some time that he eventually got to become an India regular.

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 16:02 IST