Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar tosses the ball as teammate Virat Kohli(R) looks on during a training session at The Punjab Cricket Associaton (PCA) Stadium in Mohali on March 27, 2011.(AFP/Getty Images)
Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar tosses the ball as teammate Virat Kohli(R) looks on during a training session at The Punjab Cricket Associaton (PCA) Stadium in Mohali on March 27, 2011.(AFP/Getty Images)

Virat Kohli faces more expectations than Sachin Tendulkar did: Alec Stewart

The former England skipper and wicketkeeper feels rapid expansion of media and social media in a populous country like India has only put extra pressure on the India skipper and No 1 Test batsman
By N Ananthanarayanan | Hindustan Times, Southampton
UPDATED ON AUG 29, 2018 02:22 PM IST

Former England skipper Alec Stewart believes the pressure of expectations on Virat Kohli is far higher than it was on Sachin Tendulkar, praising his single-minded effort to help India rally to a great win in the third Test at Trent Bridge.

Stewart, Surrey’s director of cricket, had looked forward to the India skipper playing for his County before the Test series to get used to English conditions after failing on the 2014 series. Though Kohli dropped out due to a neck injury suffered in IPL 2018, it hasn’t made any difference.

His 149 and 51 in the first Test at Edgbaston still ended in a narrow defeat, but he struck 97 and 103 in the third Test at Trent Bridge to seal a great India win and narrow England’s series lead to 2-1 with two games left.

MAINTAIN MOMENTUM

“India are ranked No 1, and they put up a decisive show at Trent Bridge. Under Virat, India have become a very competitive and proud unit. India would have lost the series otherwise, and it was a very, very good performance all around. Kohli’s batting was exceptional. Virat is the best in the world and India’s bowling and catching was right,” Stewart said in an interview.

“At Lord’s, India got their selection wrong, and they corrected that. They must back it up now at the Ageas Bowl and not revert to what we have seen at Lord’s and Edgbaston,” he said.

Kohli’s turnaround in batting didn’t surprise Stewart, who played 133 Tests, scoring 8,463 runs with 15 centuries. He took 263 catches and effected 14 stumpings, 241 of those victims coming as keeper.

“I’m not surprised at all. He is world class; I am a massive fan of him. Top players will always find a way to succeed. I expected him to do well, whether he played for Surrey or not -- he has talent and mental strength to perform well.”

TOUGHER ON KOHLI

Much like the attention Sachin Tendulkar got worldwide, the focus of every English fan is on Kohli, to the extent the series is almost like England versus the India skipper. Stewart felt pressure has only grown.

“Both represent a country with 1.3 billion people and there will be massive expectations. But it’s a tribute to these people the way they deal with adulation; it’s more than just a game of cricket.

“It’s potentially harder on Kohli than Tendulkar because of the accessibility now -- TV, radio, social media, online, these days everyone has an opinion. The spotlight is even greater now.”

BACKING BAIRSTOW

Stewart backed England’s Jonny Bairstow, who is reluctant to give up keeping with the team management pushing him to play as a specialist batsman to bolster the weak area. Bairstow is likely to play only as a batsman in the fourth Test starting on Thursday due to a finger injury, but is keen to keep long term.

“I fully understand he doesn’t want to give up keeping, and expect him to carry on,” he said. “He wants to keep wickets as long as he performs to the right level. And his batting and keeping have improved, he has done very well in the last 18 months.

“If the selectors decide, it is down to them. I know Jonny wants to keep as well and his level is outstanding.”

GENUINE ALL-ROUNDER

Can giving up keeping make Bairstow anxious of possible failure as batsman?

“You want to perform and keep and bat to the best of your ability; that makes him a genuine all-rounder. When you have both skills, why would you not want to do both?”

Stewart was delighted that under him, Surrey have nurtured talent like all-rounder Sam Curran and batsman Ollie Pope, both picked by England. Batsman Rory Burns is next in line. However, Stewart dismissed questions on Alastair Cook, England’s all-time highest run-getter, due to his lean patch.

“He is a wonderful performer. If I had a say, he will be in my side till he decides to call it a day.”

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