Doubter ABD turns Kohli admirer

07-04-2017
DH

While Kohli comes across as a passionate cricketer, who seldom reins in his emotions, de Villiers presents a picture of quiet energy on the field. Perhaps it was this difference in their nature that had the South African doubt Kohli’s potential as a future captain. The Protean, however, is now happy to have been proved wrong. 

“I think it has been an amazing journey to watch him grow as a leader,” de Villiers said. “I think, at the start, when people mentioned to me he has leadership qualities and might become a captain one day, I doubted it. I thought he was very emotional. Always a great player, but I thought he was emotional with his reactions. I think he has found a way to deal with it. 

“He is still an emotional character, he loves winning, and is very passionate but he has found a way to really manage that and control that. I know he is a great asset for Indian cricket, he leads exceptionally well. He has shown he has skills with his captaincy and he has taken all the doubters and showed them he can conquer anything,” he explained. 

De Villiers feels Kohli’s new-found ability to control his emotions is something that the Indian captain has picked up from the South African ODI team skipper himself. 
“Something he has learnt from me is to control things a bit better; stay calm under pressure, and sometimes to hide the passion a little bit in order to make clear decisions and right decisions,” he said. “We have walked the same kind of road — I have played for 13 years, he has been around for nine or 10. I think he is on the same kind of road, realising it is not all about passion and energy all the time. You have to step back sometimes and make some clear decisions. I think he really is close to achieving that and that is maybe something he has seen from me.”
De Villiers was most impressed with Kohli’s captaincy during the bitterly-fought home Test series against Australia. 

Despite not scoring many runs, de Villiers felt Kohli didn’t allow his poor form affect his captaincy which was impressive. 

“He did not have the best of series with the bat in hand but what stood out for me was his leadership,” he stressed. 

“He led from the front. I think that’s the greatest test for a captain — when you don’t do well personally and how you come through as a captain. He came through with flying colours. They beat the Aussies and the way they controlled themselves by not going overboard with the celebrations... They looked the opposition in the eye. I think all of those things come from him. He has become a true leader and I am excited to see how he is going to grow in the next five years.”

Kohli has, on more than one occasion, claimed de Villiers to be the best batsman in the world but the prolific right-hander politely dismissed the suggestion while returning the compliment in equally glowing terms.

“I don’t think I can be the best batsman (because) I don’t play all formats,” he pointed out. 

“He is definitely the best player in the world. He has got competition in quite a few players like Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, and there are a lot of players — Quinton de Kock coming through — around the world. But I truly believe you can be the best player only if you play all formats in cricket. If you are in the top five in all three formats, that’s when you know you can really play the game.”

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