The 2008 ICC U-19 World Cup in Malaysia produced some exceptional talents, many of whom are today mainstays in their national team. At the time, Australia's Steven Smith was a promising newcomer, and today he captains his national team across all formats.
Pakistan produced the precocious fast bowler Mohammad Amir, who – after several ups and downs – today is a crucial part of his country's national team. The Sri Lankan U-19 team gave a break to Dinesh Chandimal, one of the dependable batsmen of the senior team. New Zealand's then U-19 skipper Kane Williamson now is the national team's full-time captain and plays alongside his U-19 teammate Tim Southee, who spearheads the fast bowling attack.
The winners of the 2008 edition India, meanwhile, produced some of the most prolific cricketers of the current era, including their skipper Virat Kohli, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and Manish Pandey. Of these three, Kohli is by far the most accomplished and talented, or so say the legends of the cricketing world.
FULL-TIME CAPTAINCY BEGINS
On January 4, 2017, India's ODI and T20I captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to step down, paving way for Kohli – who also leads the Test team – to take over.
Kohli had taken over the reins of the Test team back in December 2014, when Dhoni announced his retirement from the longer version. Under Kohli's stewardship, India has won 14 of the 22 Tests it has played so far. He had also led the ODI team on a few occasions, whenever Dhoni was rested and proved his mettle on every occasion. The team's performance under Kohli was impressive at all times and he was, thus, the unanimous choice among selectors to be captain; it was only logical for him to succeed Dhoni.
On January 15 in Pune, Kohli finally took the field against England as the full-time captain of the Indian cricket team, with Dhoni playing along with him. After winning the toss, Kohli let England bat and they ended up putting 350 on the scoreboard. India's three frontline bowlers – Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav – gave away plenty of runs.
At the outset, it seemed like Kohli's first game as full-time captain won't be a memorable one. England seemed to have put a dent in his plans. India's innings didn't go all that well either. With its openers faltering, and Dhoni and comeback man Yuvraj Singh getting out cheaply, India found itself at 63-4, staring at a likely defeat. With Kedar Jadhav arriving at the crease, Kohli had a monumental task ahead of him.
LEADING FROM THE FRONT
This is not the first time India found itself stranded while chasing a huge score. Even during the five-match Test series against England last month, which India won convincingly 4-0, Kohli was often the main batsman to keep the scoreboard ticking, reducing the pressure on his teammates and getting on the nerves of the English players.
The Delhi-lad scored the mammoth 655 runs in the series, including a ton in second Test and a career-best 235 in the fourth. With him by their side, Indian batsman had a reliable partner who gave them the freedom to play their shots. In the first Test, the only one which ended in a draw, after opener Murali Vijay got out scoring 126 Kohli calmly played second fiddle to Cheteshwar Pujara, who went on to hit a vital tonne himself.
The skipper hit a tonne in the first innings of the second Test and followed it up by 81 in the second. Kohli scored a useful 60 while Ravindra Jadeja took centre stage with 90 runs in the first innings of the third Test. India crushed England by an innings and 36 runs in the fourth Test, as the skipper hit a magnificent double ton.
Though Karun Nair, playing his debut series, stole the show magnificent triple hundred in the fifth Test at Chennai, Kohli's contribution with the bat over the series was a treat for everyone to watch. By scoring a plethora of runs throughout the series, he gave his detractors no fodder whatsoever. The tag of being a 'limited-overs' specialist is now gone and Kohli now has the unique distinction of being the only batsman in the history of cricket to average over 50 in all three formats.
His approach to captaincy is something that Indian cricket lovers have not seen for a while. With his aggressive tactics with respect to field placement and bowling changes, Kohli is aiming to make the team a force to reckon with.
His mentor Dhoni was quite aggressive himself, no doubt. But Kohli is aggressive inside and out. Unlike Dhoni, who is revered across cricketing spheres for his stoic disposition on the field, 28-year-old Virat Kohli is an animal waiting to devour his opponents. He has found himself on the receiving end due to this behaviour – often in the form of warnings from match referees and fines by the authorities. Even as captain of the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League, Kohli's aggression was more than visible and it helped him get the best out of his teammates.
During his time as the Test captain, he has shown the same tendencies, both in domestic and overseas games. His series in Sri Lanka gave people the first glimpse of his leadership abilities, as he led the team to a series victory, winning two and losing one in the three-match series. His temperament and antics on the field were sometimes a matter of worry, but the results he produced absolved him of all follies. In the series in West Indies, India gave a dominating performance, lifting the four-match series 2-0. Kohli's record as captain in overseas games has been impressive.
His record in domestic games, meanwhile, has been magnificent. Of the 12 games he has captained, Indian have gone on to win 10 and drawn two. India's whitewashing of England in the just-concluded series has been the highlight of his captaincy stint so far.
When it comes to showing faith in his teammates, especially newcomers, Kohli gets full marks. Giving Test caps to impressive youngsters such as Jayant Yadav and Karun Nair, Kohli has shown that he is willing to take risks and wants to push the envelope by getting more young blood into the team – something that his predecessor did quite well.
THRIVING UNDER PRESSURE
At 63-4, a win for India seemed highly unlikely. But as he has done numerous times in the past, Kohli went on to score a ton in the first ODI against England in Pune and stitched the match-winning partnership of 200 runs with Kedar Jadhav. After Kohli's dismissal, the diminutive Jadhav continued his rampage of fours and sixes and gave English bowlers a terrible pain in the neck. He was finally dismissed for 120, but the job was done. Hardik Pandya and Ravichandran Ashwin hit the winning runs in the highest successful run-chase in an ODI by any team against England.
At the end of the game, Jadhav gave full credit to Kohli for supporting him during the run chase, saying: "Whenever you bat with Virat, it helps you. Because the bowlers' focus would be on him. How to get him out, how to control him, so that's an advantage."
With the era of Kohli upon us, one would have plenty of expectations from the young skipper. However, it is to be remembered that Dhoni, as Kohli himself put it, "will always be the person who guided me initially and gave me opportunities. He gave me ample time and space to grow as a cricketer, saved me from getting dropped from the team many a times."