Colombo: Gary Kirsten first took Virat Kohli under his wing when the 20-year-old Delhiite became an international cricketer in an ODI against Sri Lanka in Dambulla four years ago.
Over the next three years, he was to nurture the brash youngster into a disciplined, run-hungry machine that has gone on to destroy each and every bowling attack he has faced.
And then Kirsten took his leave, going back to South Africa before taking up their national coaching job.
Their paths will cross again on Tuesday, with Kirsten plotting Kohli’s downfall, and the batsman trying to keep his golden run going. And the senior man admits his bowlers will have to do something special to get Kohli’s wicket.
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“He is a great player and we have always known that. He is probably one of the stand-out batsmen in the world at the moment and we all know what he is capable of doing,” said Kirsten. “He is one of those X-factor cricketers that other teams want to get out, because he is not going to get out himself. He doesn’t throw his wicket away. I am pleased for Virat, he has worked hard on his game and he is showing that he is one of the premier batsmen in the world at the moment.”
In this calendar year alone, Kohli has averaged 62.62 in Tests, 73.28 in ODIs and 53.42 in T20s, picking up the ICC ODI Player of the Year award along the way. In 31 innings across the formats, he has just two single-digit scores, and four under 20.
It’s that sort of form that led fellow top-order batsman and Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez to pay the ultimate compliment to Kohli after his awesome 78 not out helped India beat the arch-rivals.
“ I think he is in the best form of his life,” said Hafeez. “I haven’t seen anyone in the form that he is in at the moment. He is carrying on with his good form, it’s a great thing for him as a batsman.”
That’s exactly what Kohli had said he would like to do in his only interaction with the media on this tour after the Afghanistan game, where he had scored 50.
“I have heard words like purple patch once earlier also when I was scoring runs. I am not thinking too much and that has helped. For me, individual milestones are not important. The target is to score heavily so that I can help my team win more and more matches,” he had said.