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NEW DELHI: Former India captain Sourav Ganguly believes that Virat Kohli can be clubbed in the same pedigree as the famed batting quarter of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. Kohli has been at the forefront of the Indian team’s revival following two straight losses in the Test series, starting with scores of 54 and 41 on a treacherous Wanderers wicket in the final Test which India won, followed by innings of 112, 46* and 160* to help India gain a 3-0 lead in the best-of-six-ODI contest.
In his column for TOI, Ganguly highlighted Kohli’s energy and intensity in every innings as remarkable. “It has been a superb performance from India. To see them 3-0 up in a six-match ODI series in South Africa, especially after losing the Test series, speaks volumes of the character shown by Virat Kohli and his boys,” wrote Ganguly, who played 311 ODIs and 113 Tests. “I have been fortunate enough to play with and against the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Ricky Ponting, and Brian Lara, and this man is right up there with all of them. What stands out for me is not just his amazing control and his ability to adjust but also the energy and intensity he brings to his batting in each and every innings.”
“To get to 34 ODI centuries so quickly in his career is just out of the world. The fact that no other Indian batsman has touched a three-figure mark so far on this tour and only one South African has got a century shows what quality of batsmanship Kohli has displayed on this trip. And we still have a while to go!,” he added.
Ganguly, who led India to the final of the 2003 ICC World Cup in South Africa, also heaped praise on the wrist-spinning pair of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, who like Kohli have had a profound impact for India. “What has been equally commendable is the way Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav have bowled. To get 21 out of 30 wickets [sic: 28] in three matches says much, not just about the number but also about the psychological effect the spin duo is having on the South African batting line-up. What is even more satisfying is that this performance has come on pitches that have not offered much turn,” he wrote.
“The dismissal of South Africa captain, Aiden Markram, was a perfect example of the fact that the Proteas are not watching the revolution of the ball and lost the mental battle against the two spinners. One couldn’t help but notice the smile on Kuldeep’s face when he went pass the bat of Andile Phehlukwayo in the later stages of the game.”
AB de Villiers has not featured in the series on account of a finger injury, but reports indicate that he will return for the must-win fourth ODI on Saturday in Johannesburg. According to Ganguly, de Villiers needs to emulate his Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate Kohli if the hosts have any chance of preventing India from wrapping up their first ODI series win on South African soil this weekend.
“There are three more games left in the series and the good news for South Africa is that AB de Villiers will be back, but his mere presence will not help the fortunes of his side. He has to do a Kohli for his team to turn its fortunes around. The South Africans have had some selection issues which have surprised many. Morne Morkel being left out on Wednesday raised some eyebrows, and he is a must in the next three games for them,” wrote Ganguly. “Also, if Khaya Zondo and Phehlukwayo have to play for South Africa, they will have to raise their game more than what has been on display till now in the series. One has to deserve a place in an international side and at present that is not happening for them.”