Fleming: Kohli could soon be an all time great

Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming praised Virat Kohli's technique and said he could reach the level of Tendulkar, Ponting and Lara.

Stephen-Fleming, New Zealand, Virat Kohli

Stephen Fleming also said that India will start as favourites against New Zealand in the upcoming test series.   -  K Bhagya Prakash

Stephen Fleming believes that India will start as favourite in the upcoming series against New Zealand.

“The New Zealand side generally takes a while to adjust to foreign conditions. If the Tests are played on traditional Indian wickets — which I think they should, as I’m not a fan of neutral wickets — it will be tough for them to handle the likes of Virat Kohli and R. Ashwin. However, if guys like Ross Taylor and (skipper) Kane Williamson lead the way and the young guys adjust quickly, there is enough there to make it a competitive series,” Fleming, who is here as ambassador of 'Education New Zealand', said on Thursday.

Even if the Kiwis hit the ground running, they could well be stopped by Kohli, whose appetite for runs remains insatiable. Asked how he would have tackled the Kohli threat if he was captain, Fleming replied. “You must put Kohli under pressure by bowling long, accurate spells. But you cannot focus solely on Kohli, and forget about other in-form players like Ajinkya Rahane and Ashwin. This will be a mistake. It is similar to the past when certain teams used to concentrate just on Sachin Tendulkar, only to be stung by the likes of V.V.S Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag.”

The first of three Tests begins at Kanpur on September 22. New Zealand has visited India on 10 occasions, but is yet to record a Test series victory.

The former New Zealand captain stated that Kohli could soon be rated as an all-time great. “He is getting there. He hasn’t yet reached the level of Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara, but that is only because they had such long careers. From a skill point of view, yes, Kohli is in that bracket. There are also batsmen like Williamson, Steve Smith, Joe Root and A.B. de Villiers who play a great brand of exciting cricket,” he said.

As for talk surrounding a two-tier structure in Test cricket — with seven teams in the top tier and five in the bottom — Fleming explained that the system could be put to better use in ODIs. “You don’t want to tinker with Test cricket. ODI cricket, however, lacks relevance at times. It is very difficult to get excited about bilateral ODI series. Tournaments like the Champions Trophy and World Cup get big attention only because it is has some meaning. Relevance is key,” he said.