Kohli recently marked his 35th birthday by securing his 49th century, equalling the world record alongside Sachin Tendulkar. Currently ranked second on the list of top run-getters, Kohli has amassed 543 runs in eight matches during the ongoing World Cup in India.
Notably, Kohli experienced a period of almost three years without scoring a century, commencing in November 2019. He took a break from the sport to rejuvenate himself and made a significant comeback, achieving his first T20I century against Afghanistan during the Asia Cup last year.
“Virat is a go-getter and what sets him apart is his mental strength. He will have backed himself throughout, and on the occasions in the past in which I have chatted with him and we have discussed things, his mental strength has always been evident.
“That has been key to pushing him through to how he is playing now. Very few players, or people, are built like that,” Richards told the ICC.
The West Indies great added, “Virat will have been through some tough times before this World Cup and some folks were even brave enough to call for his head.
“There have been a whole host of talented individuals on show but to top them all, you cannot look past Virat Kohli.
“I am a huge fan of Virat, I have been for a long time, and he continues to show why he has to go down as one of the all-time greats, right up there with the likes of the great Sachin.”
Over the 1,021 days without securing a century, critics began to question whether Kohli’s prime days in cricket were behind him. However, Kohli’s exceptional form displayed during the ongoing World Cup has rekindled the confidence that India could potentially claim the prestigious trophy, reminiscent of their victory in 2011 under the leadership of MS Dhoni.
Richards highlighted that Kohli’s recent performances exemplify the age-old adage that form may be temporary, but class is indeed permanent. Richards credited the support staff and the team management for their assistance in helping Kohli overcome the challenging period he had encountered.
“Credit must be given to the back room staff and everyone who backed him. So much was said about his form but he is back on top of his game. It is phenomenal to see an individual who has had his low points bouncing back and playing like this.
“They say form is temporary — and he has certainly proven that class is permanent. He looks so focused and he is a credit to the game of cricket.”
Following Kohli’s tremendous success, comparisons are bound to be drawn with Sir Viv, the showman of yesteryears. And, the West Indian legend says it’s because of the intensity they brought onto the field.
“Many people have made comparisons between the two of us over the years, partly because of our shared intensity on the field.
“I love Virat’s enthusiasm — even if he is fielding at long-on or long-off, when one of his bowlers hits the pad, he is appealing. He is always in the game and I like individuals like that.”
Richards offered glowing praise for the young talent Shubman Gill, describing him as a player who “bats with style” and highlighted his ability to execute various significant shots, placing him among a group of players equipped with a wide array of powerful strokes.
Richards expressed his admiration for the Indian team’s mindset during the World Cup, acknowledging their competitive spirit and indicating that playing with such determination could pave the way for them to potentially claim the trophy by maintaining that level of performance throughout the tournament.
“That absolutely should be their mindset and would be mine if I was in that dressing room — let’s go out with all guns blazing. That approach has worked so far and if that changes, things may go astray.”
He urged Rohit Sharma‘s side to stop entertaining negative thoughts that a bad game could be round the corner.
“I believe they (India) can go all the way unbeaten, which is really something to strive for. There may be some fears of ‘we have played so well so far, there may be a bad game around the corner in the semi-final’.
“They have to try and nullify those and banish any negative thoughts.”
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Afghanistan have made a huge statement
Richards also said Australia’s Glenn Maxwell playing that trailblazing innings might have denied Afghanistan victory, but they have made a “real statement” in the tournament.
“One of the highlights of this World Cup, for me, has been watching Afghanistan. If they get a score of over 250, the bowling class they have means they are in the game all the time.
“Although they were denied by an amazing Glenn Maxwell innings against Australia, they have made a real statement in recent weeks and their performances will be inspirational for those who play the game in Afghanistan.”
(With PTI inputs)