'This Lad Doesn't Allow The Game To Drift' - WV Raman's U-19 Assessment Of Kohli > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - 'This lad doesn't allow the game to drift' - WV Raman's U-19 assessment of Kohli

WV Raman, Kohli's Under-19 coach in 2008, discusses his early feedback to the BCCI on the current India captain

WV Raman, Kohli's Under-19 coach in 2008, discusses his early feedback to the BCCI on the current India captain

Last month, after the annual update of the International Cricket Council, India extended their hold over the No. 1 Test rankings to a phenomenal fifth consecutive year. Already, Virat Kohli is numerically the country's most successful skipper in the longer format, his 36 victories from 60 games translating to a success percentage of 60.

Kohli, the Test captain since January 2015, has a chance to add to his glittering CV when his side locks horns with New Zealand in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship in Southampton from June 18. If there is one glaring lacuna in Kohli's otherwise outstanding captaincy chart, it is the lack of any global silverware. India themselves haven't won an ICC event since the 2013 Champions Trophy which, given their otherwise stellar standing across formats, must hurt the think-tank.

The talismanic right-hander doesn't necessarily need success at the WTC final to vindicate his leadership credentials, asserts WV Raman. The former India opener has been associated with women's cricket for the last two and a half years until making way for Ramesh Powar last month. It must be borne in mind, though, that long before he took charge of India Women, he had been coach of the India Under-19 men's team on more than one occasion, apart from performing similar roles with the Tamil Nadu and Bengal senior state sides.

"It's like adding a few spots of diamond to the crown," says Raman, who was the coach when Kohli led the Under-19 team for the first time, on the tour of South Africa in January 2008 before the World Cup.

Raman chuckles when you ask him if the skipper desperately needs a W at Southampton for the sake of his legacy. "What purpose those diamonds serve, I don't know, but you do see a lot of diamonds being embedded on the crown, don't you? In case India don't win the title now, does it mean all the victories previously count for nothing?

"However, Virat will be pumped up to win because he is a competitive guy. Moreover, he has a team that has fought against the odds to earn its spot in the final, and has the wherewithal to win the WTC. Victory will be an historic event in the annals of world cricket."

Kohli led the team to the aforementioned Under-19 World Cup crown in Kuala Lumpur in March 2008, and made his senior India debut five months thereafter. His career has skyrocketed since, and that must delight Raman, who had been glowing in his assessment of Kohli at the conclusion of the multi-format South Africa tour, more than 13 years previously.

In his report to the Board of Control for Cricket in India after the 2008 tour, which has been accessed by Cricbuzz, Raman had this to say of Kohli the batsman: "Virat Kohli is a technically correct and orthodox batsman who can play shots all round the wicket. He is good both off the front as well as the back foot and his judgement of line and length against pace and spin alike is commendable. He does not commit himself before the ball is delivered and hence the sound judgement. He is also a clean and good striker of the cricket ball. He also possesses a sound temperament and reads the situation well. He can work the ball around and when required he is equally adept at hitting explosive shots. He did the job of a floater exceedingly well in the tri-series and this boy can be looked upon as a very bright prospect for the future."

Virat Kohli is statistically India's most successful Test skipper

The tri-series involved the Under-19 sides of the hosts and Bangladesh. India clinched the title with a 137-run drubbing of their Asian neighbours in the final, then won the subsequent two-match 'Test' series against the Proteas 1-0. Raman's views on Kohli's captaincy at the conclusion of the African safari are equally revealing.

"As a captain, this lad does not allow the game to drift and has the confidence in his boys and looks to utilize the resources he has in his disposal in the best manner possible," Raman wrote. "He also takes on the responsibility to bowl a few overs when things are a bit tight which once again is a good quality. He communicates well with the players and is also receptive to views from his teammates. This young man has the qualities to become a good captain at the higher level as well provided he keeps his current qualities intact."

All these years later, Raman reflects on what about the most dominant all-format batsman of this generation caught his eye at the time. "At that age, everything is new to you in the sense that you invent yourself when you go out and play," he begins. "You get a measure of how good you are at the international level, not only in comparison with your colleagues but also in terms of the boys from the other countries. Here you had this guy who was nominated as the captain, but he was different in the sense that whenever there was a crisis situation -- he's not much of a bowler, let's face it, neither now nor then -- he would still take the ball and bowl if he felt the bowlers might succumb to the pressure or if he felt the pressure was getting to the bowlers. That is something very rare -- a boy at the Under-19 level wanting to be there in the front, take the lead and do things.

"He was not shirking responsibility. It is easy for anybody to say I did my bit, my job as a captain is only to use the bowlers I have. But here he was, not bothered about being subjected to flak if things went wrong when he bowled. That means you had a boy who was not only able to detect what was going on in the minds of his teammates, but he was also willing to take that onus and not think about the repercussions he might face if things went wrong."

Kohli had a decent rather than great tour with the bat in terms of runs scored (280 runs in eight innings across formats), but Raman has seldom been impressed by sheer volume. "Yeah, to be honest, I have never been one who went by numbers," he insists. "The quality of Virat of wanting to go out and say 'Here I am, I am the boss and I am going to take charge of proceedings', that kind of attitude was there in him even then. That is again something you don't see in every boy. Yes, some may not be demonstrative, they might just do it on the field, but he would make it very obvious. In fact, I would go to the extent of saying he would prefer a scrap or two on the field, which I thought was probably something that triggered him to do better."

Kohli wasn't shy of taking the ball even in crisis situation, Raman reveals

Another striking trait, Raman reveals, was the belief the captain had in his men. "He would show a lot of faith in his teammates, that's one more plus," he reminisces. "I distinctly remember, in the tri-series final against Bangladesh, we were four down for nothing (56). (Manish) Pandey and (Saurabh) Tiwary were gradually building a partnership. I had not seen most of these boys before, so I asked Virat what he thought. He said, 'Don't worry sir, these two boys will take us home'. As it turned out, the two added 148, we posted 260 and scored a comfortable victory. That's another thing you would obviously get impressed by, if you have a boy at that level who is absolutely confident about his own teammates."

Raman isn't a proponent of captaining by proxy. He didn't enjoy coaches trying to lead from the outside during his playing days, a philosophy that remained unaltered when he himself entered the realm of coaching. As such, he let Kohli be his own man for the most part. "I've always felt less is more in terms of telling things," Raman reasons. "One, I wanted the boys to find out for themselves, evolve, learn, discover themselves. And two, you don't want to add to whatever little anxieties they have by trying to tell them a lot more things to be mindful of. They will work it out. Even at that stage, the Indian Under-19 boys especially were fairly experienced because some of them had already played for their states. I'd rather try and get rid of the clutter cleared in their minds rather than add to anything that's going on. You don't want to get into that, but you are there for them if they need you, and they know that. It's only their knowledge which will tell them to do things and to not do things. I felt that as a coach, I should step in only when I had to."

Raman offers an interesting take when you query him if Kohli has exceeded his expectations of nearly a decade and a half back. "Things were expected of him," he answers, somewhat cryptically. "As to exactly what levels he would reach, that's something I never thought of. Unlike say a (VVS) Laxman. For some reason, when I saw him bat just for a few deliveries in the first session of nets in a South Zone game where he made his (Duleep Trophy) debut, I said unless this boy gives up playing the game, he would go on to play at least 70 Test matches. I don't even know why I zoomed in on that number 70, God only knows that.

"But let's face it, in an indirect way, I did envision this boy (Kohli) playing a lot of Tests and being successful, because I had put it down on paper that he would go on to lead the senior side. Which means you don't play just five Tests and go on to lead the Indian team. At no point in time has that happened. We've never had a Lee Germon kind of situation (the wicketkeeper led New Zealand on his Test debut in 1995) in India. In an implied or indirect way, I did go on to say that he would play quite a lot of cricket for India.

"Virat has always been an instinctive leader. He wants things to happen the moment he thinks they have to happen. That is why you see him so demonstrative. It's not as if he likes to have a go at his teammates. He is not made that way. As a batsman, if he picks a bowler and picks an area, he is able to execute and get things done. I think he wants anything and everything to happen along those lines. Not everybody is going to do that, it's not going to happen every time a cricketer sets off to do something. I think that's why you could get the impression that he is remonstrating sometimes. He is not, that is his nature. That probably comes with a deep-rooted desire to excel each and every time. In fact, in his case, I'd think each and every ball."