ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s all-format cricket captain Babar Azam spoke about the mutual respect he had for former Indian skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday, saying it was a “proud moment” for him to hear that the former Indian skipper had praised him.
Cricket analysts and commentators count both Azam and Kohli among the best batters in modern-day cricket, while fans in cricket-mad India and Pakistan have always indulged in heated debates over who is the better batter of the two.
In April 2021, Azam ended Kohli’s 41-month reign over the ODI batting charts by becoming the top-ranked batter in the format. The Pakistani captain has held on to the spot ever since and despite the famed India-Pakistan rivalry, both cricketers have always treagted each other with respect. Speaking to Indian channel Star Sports last year, Kohli had said he had always received respect and admiration from Azam, describing him as “probably the top batsman in the world across formats.”
“It feels really good when someone passes such comments about you,” Azam told Star Sports in a video message. “And the way Virat Kohli has given these comments about me, it is a proud moment for me and it felt really good.”
Azam recalled meeting Kohli in 2019 for the first time, saying the former Indian skipper was at his peak as a batter back then and still is.
“I wanted to take something from his game, I learnt a lot from him,” Azam said. “He gave a detailed explanation to all my questions. That helped me.
“When you do such things for each other, it feels really good.”
Azam and Kohli both have impressive ODI careers to their name. Azam, whose recent knock was a match-winning 151 against Nepal, averages 59.47 in ODIs with 5,353 runs to his name. He has 19 ODI hundreds, the second most for Pakistan in the format.
Kohli has 12,898 runs at an average of 57.32 in ODIs. He has 46 ODI hundreds to his name, which is the second most in the format’s history.
Kohli and Azam will be face to face as opponents once again on Saturday in Kandy, Sri Lanka when traditional rivals Pakistan and India will lock horns for an Asia Cup 2023 fixture. The two neighbors, who have fought three wars since gaining independence from British colonial India in 1947, only play each other at international tournaments.