'They had to chase 270. When I asked Virat to open, he said…': Ex-BCCI selector reveals when Kohli was 'ready' for India
Virat Kohli's numbers speak volumes of what he has achieved, both as a batter and as a captain but all this might not have been possible without the guidance and support of two very important members of Indian cricket – MS Dhoni and Dilip Vengsarkar.
From a young 19-year-old boy, who led India to a memorable Under-19 World Cup win, Virat Kohli has evolved into a legend of the game and one of the finest all-formats batter in the world. He has smashed a plethora of batting records and is on the way to cementing himself as one of the greatest of all time. Kohli's numbers speak volumes of what he has achieved, both as a batter and as a captain but it is important to note that all of this might not have been possible without the guidance and support of two very important members of Indian cricket – MS Dhoni and Dilip Vengsarkar.
While it was under Dhoni that Kohli made his India debut, Vengsarkar, the then-chairman of selectors spotted the youngster making waves in the domestic and India A circuit. Sure, a few months prior, Kohli led the Under-19 team to a World Cup triumph in Kuala Lumpur, but the stories of his legend had been already doing the rounds. Vengsarkar, who had been tracking Kohli since his younger days, has revealed an explosive story from 2008, dating to a match between India A and New Zealand A which saw Virat scoring a match-winning century.
"It is the vision of selectors. It's not that he scored a 100, but what I admired about him that when I asked him to open the innings, he said I will do it. India were chasing some 270 runs in New Zealand and they had some international fast bowler, a good attack. And we had picked a good emerging players' team. They were all Under-23 and we wanted to pick out of those players… that who is going to play for India later," Vengsarkar told former India cricketer WV Raman on the latter's YouTube channel.
There was a lot more to Kohli's innings than just the century that convinced Vengsarkar that Virat could now be tried at the international level. In August, as India travelled to Sri Lanka for an ODI series, Kohli debuted for India, opening the innings. In only his fourth game, Kohli scored a brilliant half-century and finished the series with 159 runs from five matches at an average of 31.80. It was just the beginning of what would prove to be an exceptional international career, and Indian cricket owes a thing or two to Vengsarkar for presenting it with the greatness of Kohli.
"Virat played so brilliantly. After scoring a 100, he made sure that India won the match. He scored 123 not out. That is when I realised that he had matured. And I had been watching him since his Under-16 days. Then Under-19 and then India. So I knew that this guy was ready and he needs to be picked. We were about to go to Sri Lanka to play One-Day series. It was the ideal opportunity to pick this youngster and groom him," added the former India captain.