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Despite Virat Kohli Averaging 40+ In U-19 World Cup And Emerging Players Tournament, MS Dhoni And Gary Kirsten Were Against His India Debut

Gurpreet Singh

Despite Virat Kohli Averaging 40+ In U-19 World Cup And Emerging Players Tournament, MS Dhoni And Gary Kirsten Were Against His India Debut

Indian cricket has been fortunate enough to have had captains who’ve played life-changing roles in making legends out of players as a result of common ability to take risky yet crucial decisions. Be it Sourav Ganguly promoting the likes of MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag up the batting order during his tenure, or Dhoni making Rohit Sharma open the innings during Champions Trophy 2013, these decisions have worked wonders not only for the players concerned but also for the Indian team in the larger scheme of things.

However, in quite a rare incident, Dhoni had once failed to gauge the potential of another promising player – the one and only Virat Kohli. As things would later pan out over the years, Dhoni went on to play a total of 285 international matches across formats (75 under him) with Kohli also in the Playing XI.

Having said that, despite playing a pivotal role throughout Kohli’s illustrious career as well, the man was against his selection ahead of his debut tour with the senior team.

MS Dhoni And Gary Kirsten Were Against Virat Kohli’s India Debut

Not only Dhoni, but then-head coach Gary Kirsten was also against Kohli’s maiden call-up to the Indian team for a five-match ODI series in Sri Lanka half-a-decade ago. The former captain’s inclusion in the squad would’ve not been possible had it not been for the adamant insistence of the then chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar.

The 1983 World Cup-winner had kept a close eye on Kohli in 2008 – a year where he led India Under-19 to a World Cup victory only to follow it with a match-winning century against New Zealand during the Emerging Players Tournament 2008 in Brisbane.

En route a 249-run target, Kohli had scored 120* while opening the batting alongside Shikhar Dhawan and paved the way for the team’s 7-wicket victory. Readers must note that the opposition was a strong unit comprising present and future international players such as Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Corey Anderson, BJ Watling etc.

Fortunately much for Kohli, Vengsarkar was present at the venue and was way too impressed with the way the former had approached his knock in a successful run-chase. What followed was Vengsarkar willing to fast-track Kohli right away into the national side at the cost of other top domestic performers.

“I felt the ODI leg of the Sri Lanka tour was an ideal situation to include him [Virat Kohli] in the squad. The other four selectors told me, ‘Dilip bhai [brother], we will do whatever you say. There is no problem at all.’ But Gary Kirsten and [MS] Dhoni were reluctant because they said they hadn’t seen Kohli before. I told them, ‘You haven’t seen him but I have. This boy needs to play’,” Vengsarkar disclosed while speaking at an event in 2018 as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.

Ironically, the decision which continues to bring laurels to Indian cricket came at a huge cost for Vengsarkar. As then BCCI treasurer N. Srinivasan and Dhoni wanted to select Tamil Nadu batter Subramaniam Badrinath ahead of Kohli, Vengsarkar had alleged that him giving an opportunity to Kohli had become the reason for his axing from the chief selector post.

It is worth of a mention that Badrinath wasn’t only a consistent performer in domestic cricket at the time but also a part of Srinivasan-owned and Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings during the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League earlier the very same year.

Virat Kohli Had Averaged 40+ In U-19 World Cup And Emerging Players Tournament

Kohli had skippered India to a title triumph by defeating South Africa in the final of ICC Under-19 World Cup 2008. Across the six innings in the tournament, he had scored 235 runs at an average of 47 including a 74-ball century against West Indies.

During the Emerging Players Tournament four months later in July 2008, Kohli’s 206 runs across six innings had come at an average of 41.20 with the help of a century and half-century. Apart from the above mentioned ton, he had scored a half-century against South Africa Emerging Players.

India Emerging Players had failed to make it through to the grand finale, with New Zealand Emerging Players lifting the title by defeating Australian Institute of Sports by 3 wickets.

About the author

Gurpreet Singh

Gurpreet Singh


Gurpreet Singh is a Cricket writer at The Sportsrush. His platonic relationship with sports had always been there since childhood, but Cricket managed to strike a special, intimate nerve of his heart. Although his initial dream of playing the sport at the highest level couldn't come to fruition, Gurpreet did represent the state of Jharkhand at the under-14 level. However, almost like taking a pledge to never let the undying passion for Cricket fade away even a tad, he made sure to continue the love relationship by assigning the field of journalism as an indirect Cupid. He thus, first finished his bachelor's in journalism and then pursued the PG Diploma course in English journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC). Soon after and since 2019, he has been working at The Sportsrush. Apart from sports, he takes keen interest in politics, and in understanding women and gender-related issues.

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