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MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten were reluctant to select Virat Kohli, says Vengsarkar

Utkarsh Bhatla

MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli Credits: Hindustan Times

Dilip Vengsarkar’s tenure as the chief selector of India proved to be a short one, with him getting replaced after just two years in the position.

Vengsarkar has now spoken about the reason why he is tenure was cut short, and how Virat Kohli’s selection played a huge part in it.

There was an emerging players tournament in Australia for which only U-23 players were being selected, and with India having won the U-19 World cup that year, it was only obvious that Virat Kohli made it to the Indian squad.

“There was an Emerging Players tour to Australia. The selection committee decided to include only U-23 players for this tour. That year, we had won the U-19 World Cup as well and Virat Kohli was captain of that team. We included him in the Emerging Players team. I had gone to Brisbane to see those matches.” Vengsarkar said.

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Kohli had played a brilliant innings against West Indies, scoring 123 while opening the batting for India, an innings that convinced Vengsarkar that Kohli had to be drafted into the Indian XI, as soon as possible.

“Virat opened the innings against West Indies who had a few Test cricketers in their ranks, but we had none and in that match, Virat scored 123 not out. I felt that we should play this guy in the Indian team,” Vengsarkar said.

With an ODI series against Sri Lanka lined up, Vengsarkar, who was the chief selector at that point felt that it was the correct time to draft Kohli into the Indian side.

However, Vengsarkar revealed that both MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten did not want Kohli to be selected as they hadn’t seen much of him. Also, getting Kohli in would have meant dropping Badrinath, who had made a mark for himself in the domestic circuit.

“I felt this was an ideal situation to include Kohli in the squad. Although the other four selectors agreed with my decision, Gary Kirsten (coach) and MS Dhoni(skipper) were reluctant as they had not seen much of Kohli. I told them that I have seen him and we have to include him in the team. I knew that they were keen on keeping S Badrinath in the team because he was a Chennai Super Kings player. If Kohli would have come in, Badrinath would have been dropped,” Vengsarkar recalled

Ultimately, Vengsarkar got his way and Kohli made it to the team, but N Srinivasan, who was the BCCI treasurer at that point did not like Vengsarkar’s selection, as Srinivasan wanted Badrinath to play instead of Kohli.

That was the final nail in the coffin as far as Vengsarkar’s career as the chief selector was concerned.

“He asked me on what basis Badrinath was axed, and I explained that I had been on the Emerging Players tour to Australia where I saw Virat, who is an exceptional player and that is why he is in the team. He (Srinivasan) argued that Badrinath has scored over 800 runs for Tamil Nadu. I told him that he will get his chance. He then asked, ‘When will he get his chance? He is already 29 now’. I told him he will get his chance but I can’t tell you when. The very next day, he (Srinivasan) took Srikkanth to Sharad Pawar, who was the (BCCI) president then and that was the end of my selection tenure,” Vengsarkar concluded.

Vengsarkar’s account presents a very bad and dark side of Indian cricket, where personal bias amongst the authorities could make or break someone’s career and affect Indian cricket as a whole.

A lot of Kohli’s in the past might have had to give up on their career, because of not being selected due to someone in power who wanted a player of their choice to be drafted in.

BCCI should ensure that the final decision always rests with selectors and that not other BCCI authority should be allowed to interfere with player selection decisions.

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