'Don't say one word to Virat Kohli...': De Villiers blasts critics for laying into 'India's hero' over strike-rate row | Crickit

'Don't say one word to Virat Kohli...': De Villiers blasts critics for laying into 'India's hero' over strike-rate row

ByAratrick Mondal
May 24, 2024 05:37 PM IST

AB de Villiers said the critics having a go at Virat Kohli was a “blessing in disguise” as it brought out the best in the RCB legend in IPL 2024.

Before the start of the 2024 Indian Premier League (IPL) season, a report had created quite a buzz in world cricket which indicated that Virat Kohli might not be picked for the Indian T20 World Cup team owing to his poor strike rate in the format. The modern-era great has long been criticised for his intent in T20s, especially against spinners and in the middle overs, and it continued this season as well, with the likes of batting legend Sunil Gavaskar questioning his approach in the format. However, Kohli did not just let his bat do the talking with some brilliant knocks and an improved approach against spinners, which included the use of slog sweep, he also had a bit of a back-and-forth with his critics.

AB de Villiers has his say on Virat Kohli's back-and-forth with his critics over strike rate
AB de Villiers has his say on Virat Kohli's back-and-forth with his critics over strike rate

For someone who has not just shared the dressing room with Kohli in IPL for Royal Challengers Bengaluru but also played a lot of international matches against him, AB de Villiers knows the consequences of poking the bear. And although he admitted that he "enjoyed" Kohli "making a statement", he lashed out at critics for laying into a "hero and role model of the country."

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"Yeah, I enjoyed that," De Villiers, an IPL expert on JioCinema, said in response to a query from Hindustan Times when asked about Kohli's interaction with his critics over his strike rate.

"I thought it was... really bad for someone like that for a hero and a role model of the country to get so much criticism around that. But the way I know him, I just knew and that's exactly what I mentioned on my show. I said, guys, you have no idea what happens to this guy when he catches criticism. The many years I've played against him, I used to tell the players in the team room, you do not say one word to Virat on the pitch because he will come out and he will score a big 100 if you try and chirp him," he added.

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The former South Africa captain, however, thanked Kohli's critics, saying that their words were a "blessing in disguise," and it brought out the aggressive side of batter that helped RCB through the course of their stunning IPL 2024 season.

"Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, getting a bit of criticism, because stuff like that motivates him so much," he added.

Kohli carved out a brilliant 2024 season in IPL, smashing 741 runs in 15 games at a strike rate of 154.69, however RCB, who scripted a six-match winning streak to make the final, succumbed in the Eliminator against Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday in Ahmedabad.

Too muck risk in Virat opening at T20 World Cup

Kohli's sensational run in IPL 2024 sparked discussions among veteran cricketers on whether the 35-year-old should open for India as well in the impending T20 World Cup that begins in about a week's time. The likes of Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting have also urged India to rethink their opening combination and make the most of Kohli's form. Rohit Sharma and Yashasvi Jaiswal are currently the potential opening pair for India, keeping the right-left combination in mind, but to accommodate Suryakumar Yadav at number three, Kohli could be asked to open at the expense of Jaiswal in the ICC event. However, De Villiers feels the former India captain opening is not a good idea.

"I feel he's a number three batsman and that's where he's most impactful. He's almost like the captain of the batting team everywhere he goes. He keeps the calmness and the composure within the batting unit," the South African great said.

"I know Virat himself really enjoys opening, which is great. You've got to respect that from a man who's played the game for many years. He understands his game really well and he understands what he wants out of the game as well.

"But if I was playing a TV game, Xbox, he would come in at number three in my team. I feel there's too much risk in those first couple of overs to go and ask Virat to take the game on, to hit the ball in the air. All I want him to do is to bat between overs 4 and 16-17, somewhere there.

"I feel that's where he's best in the world by a country mile and that's where he's most impactful," he asserted.

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