'I am a huge fan of Virat': West Indies legend all praise for star India batter

Kohli cracked a world record-equalling 49th century on his 35th birthday recently

Virat Kohli India batter Virat Kohli | Salil Bera

Virat Kohli is a "credit" to the game of cricket, said West Indies legend Vivian Richards on Thursday, lauding the Indian maestro's ability to emerge unscathed from the most difficult situations thanks to his incredible mental strength.

Kohli cracked a world record-equalling 49th century on his 35th birthday recently to join Sachin Tendulkar and is currently second on the run-getters list with 543 runs in eight games in the ongoing World Cup in India.

Kohli went without a century for nearly three years, starting November 2019, and even took a break from the sport to recharge his batteries before coming back to slam his maiden T20I ton against Afghanistan in 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."

During the 1,021 days he went without a century, critics started doubting whether Kohli's golden days were behind him.

But the amazing form he has shown in the World Cup here has given the confidence that India can go all the way to lift the prestigious trophy after the 2011 success under MS Dhoni.

Richards said that Kohli had once again proved that form is temporary and class is permanent, and credited the support staff and the team management for helping him come of of the hole.

"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.

"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 also singled out young Shubman Gill for high praise, saying he is someone "who bats with style" and "is one among a whole host of players who have all the big shots".

Richards added that with the kind of "mindset" the Indian players were competing in the World Cup, they could go "all the way playing like this" to win the trophy.

"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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