Dilip Vengsarkar’s bouncer: Was axed as chief cricket selector for picking Virat Kohli in 2008
Dilip Vengsarkar, the former India skipper and chief selector, backed a 19-year-old Virat Kohli for the 2008 Sri Lanka tour, but claims he paid the price as it didn’t go down well with then skipper MS Dhoni and BCCI treasurer N Srinivasan.cricket Updated: Mar 08, 2018 18:57 IST
Former chairman of the India cricket selection committee, Dilip Vengsarkar, made shocking claim on Wednesday that he was sacked from his post in 2008 for picking a teenaged Virat Kohli over seasoned Tamil Nadu batsman S Badrinath in the squad for an ODI series of Sri Lanka. (INDIA vs BANGLADESH T20 LIVE)
The former India skipper and batting stalwart, acknowledged as the one who first backed Virat Kohli’s talent, said he paid the price as the decision upset then BCCI treasurer N Srinivasan.
Vengsarkar, who was speaking at a felicitation function of journalists in Mumbai, said MS Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten were not convinced about his backing a 19-year-old Kohli for the series in Sri Lanka.
Pushing for Badrinath
Vengsarkar said he was keen to reward Kohli for the manner in which he led the India under-19 team to World Cup glory in 2008. However, Dhoni and Srinivasan wanted Badrinath – the prolific batsman was then playing for Srinivasan’s IPL team Chennai Super Kings, captained by Dhoni. Though Vengsarkar stood by his plan, it led to his ouster well before his tenure ended, he said.
“I knew that they wanted to keep S Badrinath in the team for he was a Chennai Super Kings player. If Kohli was included, Badrinath had to be dropped. N Srinivasan was BCCI treasurer around that time. He was upset about Badrinath being dropped because he was their player.
Dhoni, Kirsten sceptical
“I felt it was the right time to include Kohli in the squad. Though the other four selectors backed my decision, Gary Kirsten and MS Dhoni opposed it as they had not seen much of Kohli. I told them I had seen him play and we have to take him in the team.”
Vengsarkar said he had followed Kohli’s performances for a long time and never had any doubt about giving him a chance.
“Me and my fellow selectors were in the process of picking U-23 players for India A in the four-nation Emerging Players Trophy in Brisbane. Around the same time, Virat Kohli led India under-19 to World Cup glory. I then picked Kohli for the four-nation tournament and went to Brisbane to watch him.
“He would open the batting at that time. He slammed a superb 123 against a New Zealand team which had a number of Test players. After seeing him bat in that fashion, I thought we should pick him for India. And since India was next to play Sri Lanka in a one-day series, I decided this was the right opportunity.”
Vengsarkar, 61, took over as chief selector in 2006, from ex-India stumper Kiran More. Vengsarkar’s team was also tasked to revamp the India team following the first-round elimination at the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, which also led to the exit of Greg Chappell as coach.
He said despite his listing Kohli’s credentials, Srinivasan took the matter to then BCCI president Sharad Pawar, which brought an end to his tenure, Vengsarkar added.
Virat Kohli played in all matches in that five-game series, which India won 3-2. Kohli aggregated 159 runs at an average of over 31 with one half-century – a match-winning 54 as opener in the fourth game.