I was better off not bowling to Virat Kohli, jests Shoaib Akhtar
What's the story?
Admitting that he was fortunate to not face the Pakistani speedster at his peak, Indian captain Virat Kohli has hailed Shoaib Akhtar's propensity to intimidate opposition batsmen with unbridled pace. In his official Twitter account, the former fast bowler responded to the star batsman's lavish praise by declaring that he was the one who was fortunate to not square off against the dynamic 29-year old.
"I’ve never faced Shoaib Akhtar but I’ve seen him in a game in Dambulla against Pakistan. I got out, (so) I couldn’t face him. But I saw him bowl and he looked very lethal even at the later stages of his career. At that time, I felt (that) batsmen would not have wanted to face him when he was at his peak", Kohli revealed in a chat show titled Breakfast with Champions.
In response, Akhtar tweeted, "I was better off not bowling at all when
#Kohli was batting.Jokes apart,he's a gr8 batsman & bowling agnst him wud have been a gr8 contest." [sic]
Later during a television show, the pacer enthused, "Virat Kohli is a great batsman and is a brilliant achiever. I have come across a number of Indian players and had a very friendly relationship with Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag. So it’s mutual admiration."
In the past...
Both Akhtar and Kohli played in the same match on only one occasion. During the fourth match of the 2010 Asia Cup at Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, India successfully chased down Pakistan's target in a thrilling encounter.
Coming into the crease after Akhtar had completed his first spell, Kohli was dismissed by off-spinner Saeed Ajmal for a 27-ball 18 and hence did not face the Pakistani pacer.
The heart of the matter
Widely regarded as one of the quickest bowlers to ever play the game, Akhtar ambushed numerous batsmen across the globe with his sheer pace. A slew of injuries prevented him from reaching his promised potential. Nevertheless, the speedster battled hard against his body and managed to pick up more than 400 international wickets across all three formats.
Apart from expressing his admiration for Akhtar who in turn asserted that their face-off would have made for a great contest, Kohli also exuded his commendation for Mohammad Irfan. Pointing to the left-arm pacer's astronomical height, the right-hander affirmed that he had found the Pakistani bowler's extra bounce to be a difficult challenge.
Parallels from history
This was not the first instance of Akhtar displaying his appreciation for Kohli's skills. Before the start of the 2016 World T20, the maverick pacer had asked the Indian run-machine to guide some of his Pakistani counterparts.
Although both Akhtar and Kohli insisted that they have been fortunate to not square off against each other, a face-off between the Pakistani pacer and the Indian batsman would have certainly made for compelling viewing.
At a time when politicians and vested interests are encouraging dim-witted keyboard warriors to cause rifts between the two nations, the mutual admiration shown by the two popular players is another example of cricket's power to bring India and Pakistan closer together.