When Virat Kohli walked in with a cap to face 140+ kph deliveries
Virat Kohli's former U19 opponent, South Africa's Obus Pienaar, recalls when he walked in to face 140+ kph deliveries with just a cap.
Virat Kohli has always been known to do things that take the opposition completely by surprise. Like the six he flicked down the ground from a waist-high length against Haris Rauf in the 19th over of India's chase against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup on Sunday.
Kohli's former U19 opponent, South African Obus Pienaar, who played against him in the 2008 World Cup, was watching the match in Mumbai, where he is currently part of a training camp. Watching Kohli in full flow, he was reminded of how the Indian batter had amazed the South African team when they had first laid eyes on him.
"We saw Virat Kohli for the first time during a tri-series in South Africa, which also had Bangladesh, in 2007. Wayne Parnell was bowling at over 140kph and the Indian openers had just been dismantled. Kohli, surprising everybody, entered with just a cap on his head," Pienaar told The Bridge.
That the 19-year-old Kohli did not need a helmet to face up to South Africa U19's fastest bowler on a spicy wicket threw the home team off their game.
"I have very vivid memories of Kohli from that time, most of them not very good for us. His hunger for runs, for wins, his work ethic on the field was a testament to his immense mental strength. He did not work on his physical fitness as much then, that came in later," Pienaar added.
Wayne Parnell and Virat Kohli will go up against each other once again in the T20 World Cup this coming Sunday. Kohli, this time, will probably wear a helmet. But just like 15 years ago, the South African team will be intimidated when he walks out into the middle to bat.
The 32-year-old Pienaar, who never made it into the senior South African side, is currently part of the Major League Cricket ecosystem in the United States of America, where he brushes shoulders with some Indians who also never made it to the senior level of international cricket like Unmukt Chand.
"There is a lot of bonding between the players of the international community in the USA. I get to learn techniques from different parts of the world - like how to play spin bowling better. There's a lot of money in USA cricket at the moment and there is a big Asian community which makes the sport popular," he said.