“He (Virat Kohli) is very similar to Sourav Ganguly as well. A guy who backs his youngsters really, really well,” Irfan said while speaking on Star Sports Cricket Connected show.
“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’,” he added.
Meanwhile, the former all-rounder also expressed his opinion on how it can be ensured that the Indian stars of the next generation stay focussed and deliver to their potential when they play for the senior team.
“We have seen so many U-19 India players who vanish after playing the U-19 World Cup. They don’t end up fulfilling their potential at the international level which they might have. Also, we have so many cricketers playing the U-19 World Cup and then going on to play for India.
“In between, there is a bridge which is first-class cricket. 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 U-19.
“At the U-19, you need to make sure that you strive to get better as a cricketer. The competition level isn’t the same at the U-19 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,” he added.
Speaking on the same show, former England spinner Graeme Swann said among the emerging Indian players, one who has impressed him the most is young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant.
“I absolutely adore the way he (Pant) plays his cricket. Irfan’s so right. Because he has someone backing him,” said Swann.
“You remember in the Test series when he came to England and first ball or second ball at Trent Bridge, he hit the spin bowler back over his head for six. I thought at that moment that this guy would be something special in Test cricket, because he is a youngster and yet he backs his game.
“He’s got the team around him who backs up,” he added.