Virat Kohli beat off the challenge of some top cricketers of the world to win the ‘CEAT international cricketer of the year’ 2011-12 award here on Friday. Kohli pipped South African batsman Hashim Amla, Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka, Australian captain Michael Clarke and Pakistani spinner Saeed Ajmal to get the award.

Receiving the award on behalf of the youngster, former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram said Kohli could go on to lead India.

“He is a special player. He has solid technique and is one of the best fielders in the world. He should be groomed to captain the country in T20s. He is the best choice,” said Akram.

The inaugural ‘CEAT Indian youngster of the year’ went to Unmukt Chand, who led the Indian team to victory in the under-19 World Cup. Accepting the award from legendary opening batsman Sunil Gavaskar, Unmukt, who is an opener himself, said he was encouraged by the recognition.

“We had worked hard for the World Cup. This is my second award. It gives a lot of encouragement.”

When Gavaskar asked Unmukt the meaning of his first name, the 19-year-old replied, “A Hindi poem reads like ‘Hum panchchi unmukt gagan ke’, meaning ‘beyond boundaries’. On that day (the U-19 World Cup final), I really acted according to my name (in hitting lot of sixes).”

Gavaskar said confident youngsters like Unmukt could do well for India in future.

Team of the year

Pakistan, which gave some fine performances in the 2011-12 season, bagged the ‘team of the year’ award. Akram received the honour on behalf of the team.

Zaheer Abbas was given the ‘lifetime achievement award’. Under India-Pakistan special awards, former Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq (best batsman-ODI), Sunil Gavaskar (best batsman-Test), Kapil Dev (best bowler-Test) and Wasim Akram (best bowler-ODI) were honoured.

Virender Sehwag and Saeed Anwar were given the ‘CEAT audience choice awards’.

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