Atul Wassan, the former India fast bowler who fought for Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma

Atul Wassan, the former India fast bowler who fought for Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma
Virat Kohli (right) and Ishant Sharma were picked by Atul Wassan to play for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy.

Dubai - Former India fast bowler says both made their Ranji Trophy debut in the same match and the rest is history

By Rituraj Borkakoty 

Published: Wed 19 Sep 2018, 9:43 PM

Last updated: Thu 20 Sep 2018, 8:07 PM

Long before the cricketing world came to know about an unstoppable force named Virat Kohli, former India fast bowler Atul Wassan was hell-bent on stopping the Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) from playing a game - a game that could have derailed a young Kohli's career.

Despite Kohli's remarkable consistency in under 19 cricket, Delhi selectors kept ignoring him for Ranji Trophy.

It was then that Wassan decided enough was enough.

"You know, Virat came from my academy. He first came to us when he was 11. I have seen him develop in his junior cricket days. I was the one who picked him and Ishant (Sharma) to play for Delhi," Wassan told Khaleej Times during an interview on Wednesday.

"The Delhi management wasn't keen to pick them because they were playing for India U19. But I fought for them and both made their Ranji debut in the same match. And the rest is history," he added.

Now Kohli's phenomenal rise in international cricket hasn't surprised Wassan. But the former Delhi Ranji pacer said things could have been different for the current Indian captain if he had not overcome distractions after becoming an India player. "There was a phase after he made India debut when he became a bit wayward, you know. We were worried that he might lose his way," Wassan said.

"His coach Raj Kumar Sharma is my very good friend. In fact, we started the academy together. So we spoke to Virat about his issues and he listened to us, you know.

"After that his focus has been amazing. Sometimes people think he is too aggressive on the field. But actually, he is just genuinely confident about his ability to manage everything. He wants to win every time he steps on the field."

Atul Wassan during the India-Pakistan match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium

Wassan is also happy with the way Ishant has reinvented himself. "I just sent him a message that it's the best I have seen him bowl. Last year I was the chairman of selectors for Delhi and he was available for us. These days he is playing only Test matches. He is not getting picked for IPL which is a big blow," Wassan said. "But Ishant took it in his stride and you can see that in the way he is bowling now. You know you can't play 80-85 Test matches for India if you are not good!"

With 18 wickets, Ishant was second on the wicket-takers list in the England Test series. And Wassan is confident that the 30-year-old fast bowler will deliver again when India travel to Australia.

"I think he will be very crucial in Australia because of his height and bounce. In the last two seasons, he has suddenly matured. He has got the second wind. And the results are there to be seen," Wassan said. Wassan credits the domestic structure for the rise of Indian pace bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav.

"It's the system. Now all top Ranji teams have got good fast bowlers. They also have the NCA camps. They have got injury management and you know all states have got personal trainers and that's why we are having a better crop of bowlers," he said.

"Now bowlers are maturing even before they come to the big stage. In IPL, they are rubbing shoulders with the best bowlers. So players are maturing very fast. The board is also spending a lot of money on them. If a bowler gets injured, he can go to NCA and get treated. All these things have played a role in India having five-six top bowlers now."

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