India vs Australia: When MS Dhoni backed Virat Kohli who was on the verge of being dropped
Cricket commentator and former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar has recalled the time when Virat Kohli was on the verge of being dropped from Team India but was backed by then captain MS Dhoni.
Kohli, who made his One-Day International (ODI) debut in 2008, took three more years to finally play his maiden Test. Currently ranked World No. 2, along with New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, Kohli did not have the best of starts to his Test career. He only managed 76 runs from his first three Tests in 2011 and hence was not picked for India's tour of England. The Delhi cricketer returned to the Indian squad for their home series against the West Indies, where he registered two half-centuries in the only game he had featured in.
While Kohli received a green signal for India's tour of Australia 2011-12, his Down Under debut was not memorable. Then 23-year-old Kohli scored 11, 0, 23, and 9 in his four innings across the Tests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
Speaking on the Sony Sports Network ahead of India's maiden overseas pink ball Test, which will begin on Thursday at the Adelaide Oval, Manjrekar revealed that a young Kohli could have faced an axe from the Indian team during their 2011-12 Down Under tour had Dhoni not supported him. Kohli, who made his Test debut under the captaincy of Dhoni in the Caribbean, justified the faith in him by the skipper in the final two Tests of the 2011-12 tour. Kohli scored a 44 and 75 in Perth before registering his maiden Test hundred at the Adelaide Oval.
"Virat Kohli is Virat Kohli. He always finds ways to score runs. The hundred that he scored in the 2011-12 series, India lost it 0-4. They'd lost to England 0-4. And I think that was the only century scored by an Indian in that series. He was a young man who actually was on the verge of getting dropped after Sydney. Dhoni backed him; he played in Perth scored a 70 and then he got that hundred," Manjrekar told Sony Sports Network.
While India went on to lose the Test series 4-0 to Australia, Kohli's century was a big positive for the hosts. Kohli was also the only Indian batsman to score in triple-digits in the four-match Border-Gavaskar series. That was also the beginning of the love affair between Kohli and Adelaide Oval. In 2014, Kohli captained India in the first Test of the 2014-15 series, in the absence of Dhoni. The match was played in Adelaide and Kohli ended up hitting twin centuries as he ended the tour with as many as 692 runs, including four tons.
The upcoming 2020-21 Test series between India and Australia is set to kickstart on Thursday and the opening Test is scheduled to be played at the Adelaide Oval, which will also be India's maiden overseas pink ball Test. Team India will hope to see Kohli revive his romance with Adelaide Oval, where the Indian captain has scored 431 runs in three Tests at an average of 71.83.
"Now at Adelaide, a lot of Indian batsmen have got runs. It's a pitch closer to home. It's got pace but the bouncer comes around this high (Pointing to his chest). It's like an Indian pitch, but because it's day/night and there's going to be the pink ball, that changes things completely. The thing with Virat Kohli is that later, in 2014/15, he hit four hundreds," Manjrekar added.
The first Test will also be Kohli's final appearance on the ongoing Down Under tour as the 32-year-old has been granted paternity leave by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Kohli and his wife Anushka Sharma are expecting their first child in January.