RAKESH Parikh still remembers the day when a selection committee was called to pick team for India under-19 World Cup in 2008 and most of the selectors were in double mind whether to go with Uttar Pradesh’s opener Tanmay Srivastava, who had captained Indian junior team for three series, or go with Virat Kohli.
Tanmay and Kohli were termed as ‘Jai and Viru’ of the junior team and many felt that the left-handed batsman from UP will be once again given the charge to lead India in the under-19 World Cup in Malaysia.
However, the junior selectors, a panel that included Parikh, had something else in store. They picked Kohli to lead the junior squad and it was not a decision taken in haste. Selectors knew that this stubborn and aggressive Delhi boy was not only the matchwinner in the team but also had the leadership qualities.
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Seven years down the line, Kohli is leading the Indian side for Test series in Sri Lanka, his first big test as a captain, and this time Parikh will be travelling not as a selector but as the manager of the Indian team.
“When he (Kohli) met me he recalled how under 19 captaincy was the first turning point in his career. And most of the boys from that team went on to play for India but it was only Kohli, who has reached great heights because of his hunger and dedication,” Parikh says.
Parikh said that nobody, then, could predict that Kohli will reach such heights. With a spike cut, gel showered to his hair, Kohli seemed like any other adolescent teenager but it was his on-field traits, Parikh says, that differentiated him from others.
“We choose him because we all felt that iss ladke mein match winning qualities hai. He just never liked defeat and it showed in his batting too. He always liked to dominate which has not changed till date. Once during an under-19 league game, our bowlers were not able to get a breakthrough, and so he himself decided to bowl. Like a class topper, he never liked to come second. Also, if he didn’t like anything, he used to just tell it straight,” Parikh points out.
A former Baroda player himself, Parikh knows that testing times are ahead for Kohli. However, he is confident that Kohli’s never-say-die attitude will help him succeed.