Having seen both of them at their best in two different generations of the game, former Pakistani spinner Saqlain Mushtaq has said that Indian Captain Virat Kohli is quite close to the greatest ever Sachin Tendulkar in terms of his record already and the sheer ability that he possesses.
Saqlain, who was one of Pakistan's best ever finger-spinners and is currently a spin consultant for England, was quoted telling PTI as, “As a batsman, Sachin was a very big player. I cannot compare (two eras) but today Virat is the only one who comes close,”
“We were talking amongst the English support staff about how he played at Trent Bridge. In this third Test alone, Jimmy Anderson beat his outside edge 40 times, and yet he played the next ball with so much confidence." added Saqlain, "Virat plays ball by ball, run by run and session by session. He has a tremendous hunger for runs and victory. When you have someone hungry like that, he can do anything to satisfy his hunger.”
Saqlain also showered praise on Virat Kohli for the way he has looked in the ongoing series against England. Virat has scored gritty as well as dominating 440 runs in 6 innings at an average of 73.33 in the series which his side currently leg behind 2-1.
“The way Virat is scoring runs, it is ominous for England. During the first Test, I saw a signboard that said it is ‘England versus Virat Kohli’. If you take him out of the equation, it will be very easy for England." said Saqlain, "If you see from a coaching point of view, it is because of him the others have scored runs whilst batting with him. Having a world class batsman like Virat in your team certainly boosts the entire batting line-up,”
Saqlain couldn't help but talk about Ravichandran Ashwin, who has looked the best that he has ever been outside Asia in this series. Ashwin came into this series with a lot of criticism but he responded with a magnificent 7/121 at Edgbaston.
“Today, he is a world-class spinner. I remember four or five years ago, I spoke that he is a good bowler but not yet a world-class bowler. Back then, I saw potential in him. But it was important for him to play outside India, perform and learn, and only then he would be a ready bowler." said Saqlain appreciating Ashwin, “I think that has happened, and we can see that in the way Ashwin has bowled in this series. The way he is controlling the ball at present, its shape coming out of hand, pace and trajectory shaping up, setting up and trapping left-handed batsmen."
“When I talk to young spinners, I tell them they have to trap different batsmen in different ways. When Ashwin is bowling, you can see he has different plans for different batsmen, and he is working them out. For someone like me who lives in the world of spin, it is enthralling to watch,” he concluded.
(Inputs from PTI)