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NEW DELHI: Former Pakistan captain and maverick batsman of the 80s Javed Miandad has hailed India skipper Virat Kohli as a “genius who is the best batsman in the world”. On Wednesday, Kohli scored his 34th ODI century – an unbeaten 160 – to set up India’s 124-run win over South Africa in Cape Town, which has left the No 1 ranked ODI team up 3-0 in the six-match series.
In an interview to Pakpassion.net, Miandad singled out Kohli’s technical prowess and ability to rescue India from difficult situations and steer them to victories as the hallmark of a “great” batsman – traits which saw Miandad earn cult status in world cricket during his playing days (16,213 runs in 357 international games).
“In Virat Kohli’s case his batting method is what allows him to score runs not just once but almost every time he comes in to bat. If a batsman’s technique is bad, he can put some runs on the board once in a while, but he will not be able to do that consistently which is exactly true in Kohli’s case. To me the mark of a great batsman, like Kohli is the fact that he can vary his technique by quickly understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the bowlers. Kohli is a genius who is the best batsman in the world,” said Miandad, who scored 7381 runs at an average of 41.70 in 233 ODIs.
Miandad also spoke of the recent ICC Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, which was won by the Indian U-19 team led by Prithvi Shaw and coached by Rahul Dravid. India U-19s were unbeaten all tournament, and in the semi-finals decimated Pakistan U-19s by 203 runs. Just two Pakistan players made it to double-digits as the innings folded for just 69 in 29.3 overs.
Miandad, never one to hold back his views on the state of Pakistan cricket, felt the Pakistan U-19 team was fortunate to have made the knockouts of the junior World Cup but that it would be unfair to judge them by this tournament, given the lack of support in the country.
“The loss to India in the ICC Under-19 World Cup was by a big margin of 203 runs which is hard to take but if truth be told, our team was lucky to have progressed that far given the inexperience of our players. Of course, victory and defeat are part of any sport, but we need to accept that there was a huge difference in terms of skills between both teams. India is a huge country with a bigger population than Pakistan, yet our players are able to challenge India in cricket which tells me that we have the potential, but we simply do not have the system that can support and get the best out of that potential,” said the 60-year-old who captained Pakistan in 34 Tests and 62 ODIs.
“From the lack of good training facilities to sub-standard wickets, the problems that our youngsters face in playing cricket are just indescribable. We have children starting to play cricket in side streets instead of learning their game in proper grounds. When people understand how our kids learn their cricket, then they will understand the reason for our current cricketing issues. I am sorry, but the present-day authorities due to their unprofessional behaviour have destroyed the system that used to produce teams which could beat the top teams of the world like the West Indies at a time when they were unbeatable.”
However, Miandad – whose last-ball six off Chetan Sharma in an ODI at Sharjah in 1986 remains an unforgettable moment in India-Pakistan sporting history – did not feel that having a coach of Dravid’s pedigree would have had a huge impact on India U-19s.
“Having a coach like Rahul Dravid sounds very exciting but I have never been a great supporter of big name coaches at such a level. At this level, it more about guidance than someone teaching you the basics of the game as that should have been done at the earlier stages of a player’s development,” said Miandad, who also coached the senior Pakistan team. “In sports, teams lose and get relegated in leagues, but the blame is never put on coaches alone. The fact is that if your raw material i.e. the quality of the players for the team is questionable then how can one expect a coach to fix that and make them a winning unit?”
Pakistan are ranked No 1 in T20Is, sixth in ODIs and seventh in Tests.