Dav Whatmore, who coached Sri Lanka and India U19s to world cup victories, said he did not expect Virat Kohli to become the best player in the world when he had trained him in 2008.
The Australian veteran was the coach when India, led by a 19-year-old Kohli, defeated South Africa in the 2008 final to lift the world cup.
“The short answer is no. I did not expect Virat to become the player he is today,” Whatmore said.
“Only a couple of years later I knew this boy was going to get somewhere.”
The 66-year-old, who was also the director of India’s National Cricket Academy prior to the U19 role, said Kohli’s success was down to his decision to lose weight.
“I, for one, know how easy it is to put on weight. But to take it off requires a lot of discipline. And when an individual shows that they have the discipline to do that, you know that person has a really good chance of achieving certain goals.”
Whatmore recalled that Kohli was not up to his mark in the 2008 U19 world cup, although he demonstrated good leadership.
“Virat could have made more runs in that series. But he certainly did not lack any confidence. He had the acumen and the smartness of a leader. And he certainly led by example. He was the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. He used to sweat out for two and a half hours. He also didn’t mind getting bruises as he dived and hit the ground. But, from a skill point of view, he wasn’t the best.
“Today Virat is showing his mental strength for all of us to see. But that doesn’t happen overnight. You got to be driven to do that.”
Whatmore, who recently completed 30 years as a cricket coach, has had successful stints with Sri Lanka [with whom he won the 1996 world cup], Pakistan, Bangladesh and Lancashire. He is set to take charge of Indian domestic cricket team Baroda, once the lockdown is lifted.
He believes it would be easier for international players to return from the lockdown if cricket bodies schedule shorter formats first.
“You need to be a little careful, particularly with the fast bowlers. Make sure that you’re not doing too much physical work. T20 will require a little bit less [effort]. The Indian cricket team looks like they’ll be preparing to play a shorter format and so the amount of workload will be lessened.”
However, England are set to play West Indies in a Test match series when international cricket returns after the lockdown.
“If you’re looking to play the longer version, that’s going to take a little bit of time. But I don’t believe that international players lose these skills overnight. They may not have touched the bat or ball for a couple of months, but it doesn’t take long at all. It doesn’t leave you very easily. I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to pick that up fairly quickly.