x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Kohli has come of age

The India batsman Virat Kohli is one of a few U19s to make the international grade at senior level.

Virat Kohli has glitches in his batting technique, but he seems to belong to the Indian team.
Virat Kohli has glitches in his batting technique, but he seems to belong to the Indian team.

Ravneet Ricky, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Ajay Ratra, Shalabh Srivastava, Niraj Patel and Malintha Gajanayake. Not household names, yet they were among the 22 that played in the Under 19 World Cup final at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) in Colombo in January 2000.

Only Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif, who captained India to victory in Sri Lanka, went on to have decent international careers. Neither, however, went on to have a genuine tilt at greatness.

Eight years later, Virat Kohli was the captain as India's U19s beat South Africa to finish top of the pile once again. Nearly three years on, only he, Ravindra Jadeja and South Africa's Wayne Parnell have made any sort of impact at international level.

Young players who were special in a certain environment faded from view once they were exposed to the harsh realities of first-class cricket.

For the Indians, greeted with a ticker-tape parade on their return, there were other distractions to deal with. Agents cropped up from nowhere, as did hangers-on.

Indian Premier League contracts, not the most lucrative ones but enough to buy a fancy car or two, followed and it was no surprise that a few of them appeared to lose their way.

Kohli admitted as much in an interview a year later. "After the Under 19 World Cup win we did get a bit carried away," he said. "There is a lot of stuff that can divert one's attention. Personally, it hasn't really been a problem for me. When it is clear what is important then you know what to focus on. I want to play for India."

Sometimes, one match can make or mar a career. Kohli made his one-day international debut for India in August 2008 against Sri Lanka. Two days later, Subramaniam Badrinath, eight years older, also won his first cap.

In October, both were picked to play for the Board President's XI in a tour game against the Australians. With Rahul Dravid going through the leanest patch of his career, it was an audition for a middle-order place, against a line-up boasting Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark and Peter Siddle.

Badrinath made two and 14. Kohli made 105 from 146 balls. Johnson had him in trouble a few times, but the confidence with which he played his shots was especially eye-catching.

While Badrinath seemed a nervous wreck, Kohli batted like he belonged in such august company.

After 35 one-day games for India, he averages 44.46. Last week's century against Australia was his third and, with Suresh Raina now part of the Test side, most reckon that he is next in line.

Glitches remain, but still a week short of his 22nd birthday, he is young enough to work on them.

"Kohli is making life difficult for himself on responsive pitches by just having one kind of foot movement for all lengths," said Sanjay Manjrekar, the former India batsman turned commentator, in a detailed analysis for Cricinfo.

"Whatever the length of the ball, the position of his feet is the same.

"He gets into a sort of criss-cross position, where the front foot is across from the back foot - and not well down the pitch, as it should be.

"Kohli could be advised to have a look at Rahul Dravid, because they have some similarities.

"Dravid too looks to get on the front foot, but when the ball is pitched up, he makes an extra effort to get down to the pitch of it," he added.

The best advice he has received though was from Ray Jennings, his coach at the Bangalore Royal Challengers. Concerned that some of the youngsters had taken their eyes off the ball, Jennings laid down the law in South Africa last year. "I sat them down and told them that they had done nothing in the game," he said. "No one's going to remember you for what you did as an Under-19."

Kohli, who made 90 for Delhi a few hours after his father's death, before heading home for the cremation, has understood that better than most.


Test rankings



Player Team Points

1 S Tendulkar Ind 891

2 K Sangakkara SL 874

3 V Sehwag Ind 819

4 S Chanderpaul WI 807

= M Jayawardene SL 807

6 J Kallis SA 791

7 G Smith SA 787

8 VVS Laxman Ind 767

9 R Taylor NZ 766

10 AB de Villiers SA 762


Player Team Points

1 D Steyn SA 887

2 G Swann Eng 858

3 M Asif Pak 753

4 Zaheer Ind 744

= J Anderson Eng 744

6 M Morkel SA 739

7 M Johnson Aus 735

8 Harbhajan Ind 679

9 D Bollinger Aus 659

10 M Aamer Pak 658