Irfan Pathan, the former India all-rounder, has drawn similarities in the captaincy styles of Sourav Ganguly and Virat Kohli, explaining how Kohli, the current Indian skipper, unequivocally backs youngsters like Ganguly used to.
Speaking on Star Sports Cricket Connected, Pathan stressed on the importance of bridging the gap between India’s Under-19 team and the national setup by assessing their development at the first-class level and giving them the required push. It was something Ganguly, during his captaincy stint in the 2000s, was known for.
When asked if Kohli is the right man to guide the next batch, since he too graduated from the U19 setup, Pathan cited Kohli’s handling of the precocious talent of Rishabh Pant.
“Absolutely, and he [Kohli] is [the right man to assist the younger lot],” Pathan said. “He is very similar to Sourav Ganguly as well. A guy who backs his youngsters really, really well. Virat Kohli has that aura about him, that he goes out of his way to back the youngsters. We have seen that with Rishabh Pant, we have seen the press conferences, he goes to and says, ‘No, we need to back a guy like Rishabh Pant purely on his potential.”
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Pant, the 22-year-old wicketkeeper, grabbed eyeballs at the 2016 U19 World Cup, where his blistering batting style played a part in India’s run to the final. And, while he continues to be an exciting prospect in the IPL, Pant has, so far, struggled for consistency in international cricket, failing to build on his two Test centuries on overseas trips.
Pathan feels it’s imperative for a cricketer to expand their skill-set at the U19 level, coupling it with the right kind of mentality that prepares them for the rigours of top-flight cricket, given the level of competition amplifies significantly as one goes higher up.
“I think we need to make sure that you have the right mentality to reach at the bigger level, at the same time, making your game bigger, I think that’s the biggest challenge any cricketer faces who plays U19. At the U19, you need to make sure that you strive to get better as a cricketer.
“The competition level isn’t the same at the U19 level, first-class level, and at the international level. You need to keep changing your cricketing ability, but at the same time, your mentality as well which is very, very important.”