LONDON – India captain Virat Kohli leads his team into Sunday s Champions Trophy final against bitter rivals Pakistan with South African star AB de Villiers labelling him “the outstanding cricketer in the world”.
Kohli, 28, moved to the top of the One Day International batting rankings this week as three half-centuries in the tournament have taken his total runs in the 50-over format to 8,008 at an average of 54.07.
De Villiers characterised Kohli, who struck an unbeaten 76 in last Sunday s eight-wicket win over South Africa, as “being a consummate surgeon at the crease”.
“He has been blessed with wonderful natural talent but, as ever among high achievers, his talent is underpinned by a willingness to work hard,” wrote De Villiers in his column for the BBC on Saturday.
De Villiers, who endured a disappointing tournament in charge of the number one ranked side, says Kohli is also able to cope with the extreme pressure that comes with being captain of the Indian cricket team.
“Beyond the golden talent and the iron determination, Virat has learned how to cope with the pressures of his exalted position,” said De Villiers, who was dismissed for his first golden duck in ODI cricket in a loss to Pakistan last week.
He said India s batting order is decorated with many brilliant talents, but the Pakistan bowlers will realise the paramount importance of controlling Virat Kohli. “Virat has learned to live with these realities… and also to accept the burden of unrealistic expectation that he should score runs every time he reaches the crease, and that his team should win every time they take the field,” .
“If you drive into almost any city in India, you will see his face appear on every other billboard.
“Being the most marketable and possibly the most popular personality in a nation of 1.3bn people brings its own pressures: he simply cannot move without being begged for a selfie and his every move, word and even gesture is relentlessly reported in print, electronic and social media.
“Twitter whirred when he stuck out his tongue to celebrate a wicket against Bangladesh.
“Virat has learned to live with these realities.”
De Villiers, who has befriended Kohli through playing in the same Royal Challengers Bangalore team in the Indian Premier League, says the India skipper has mellowed down the years and the anger that sometimes surfaced has been replaced by a more jocular personality.
“Intense and serious in matches and at practice, he retains the invaluable ability to switch off from the game, relaxing, laughing and joking at every opportunity,” said 33-year-old De Villiers.
“He enjoys calling people by playful nicknames and he can find humour in almost every situation.”