Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar has claimed that he lost his job as chairman of selectors for picking Kohli over Tamil Nadu’s domestic heavyweight Subramaniam Badrinath in 2008, courtesy the then BCCI secretary N Srinivasan.
“There was an Emerging Players tournament in Australia (for) youngsters — four A-teams were there — India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand,” Vengsarkar recalled at a programme organised by the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh.
“Me and my colleagues decided that we will take the U-23 boys and at that time we had won the U-19 World Cup, Virat Kohli was the U-19 captain and I selected him in the team,” he added.
Vengsarkar claimed that Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten were sceptical about the selection. The straight-talking former batsman said he eventually fell out of favour with Srinivasan, something that cost him his job.
“He (Kohli) was technically sound and I thought he should be played. We were going to Sri Lanka and I felt that this is the ideal situation that he should be in the team. My four colleagues said ‘As you say Dilip Bhai’,” he said, referring to the other members of the selection panel.
“However, Gary and Dhoni were saying ‘No, we haven’t seen him and we will continue with the same team’. I told them ‘You haven’t seen him but I have seen and we have to take this boy’,” Vengsarkar said.
Even Kohli, in the past, has spoken publicly about how Vengsarkar landed in Australia during an A-team tournament and told the current India captain to open the innings. Kohli took up the challenge to score a hundred and was selected in the Indian team for the tour of Sri Lanka.
‘Colonel’, as he is fondly called, alleged that he sensed a general uneasiness with Kohli’s selection as Badrinath played IPL for Chennai Super Kings, which was then owned by erstwhile secretary Srinivasan.
“I knew there was South’s Badrinath, who was playing for N. Srinivasan’s CSK. When Kohli was preferred over Badrinath, Srinivasan was not happy. He got fed up as his player was kept out and he questioned me as to how I didn’t pick Badri? I replied that I had gone to watch the Emerging Tour in Australia and found this boy Kohli exceptional.
“So I have picked him in the team and Srinivasan reasoned that Badrinath had scored 800 runs for Tamil Nadu. I told him he will get a chance and an angry Srinivasan asked “when he will get a chance, he is 29-years-old? I replied: ‘Whenever the time comes’.”
Vengsarkar said soon after, he was replaced by Kris Srikkanth as chairman of selectors. “Srinivasan then made Srikkanth the chairman and I was sent home. That was the end of my career as a selector.”