Batting legend Sachin Tendulkar on Wednesday paid glowing tributes to star batter Virat Kohli on his 100th Test, saying apart from his "terrific" on-field achievement, his real success has been the ability to inspire a whole generation of cricketers.
Kohli, a former skipper, is set to play his landmark 100th Test when India play Sri Lanka in the first game of the two-game series at Mohali beginning on Friday.
"What a terrific achievement. I remember first time I heard about you was when we were in Australia in 2007-08," Tendulkar told BCCI.tv, recalling when Kohli was first noticed in the Indian dressing room.
"You guys were playing U-19 WC in Malaysia and there were certain players in the team who were discussing about you, this is one player to watch out for, acchi batting kar leta hai. (he bats well).
"After that we played cricket together for India and not for long but whatever time we spent together, it was evident that you were keen on learning things. You kept working on your game and continued getting better."
Considered one of the greatest batter of all time, Kohli, 33, has scored 7962 runs including 27 hundreds and 28 fifties in 99 Tests at an average of 50.39. He is also a prolific white-ball batter, having scored 12,311 runs with 43 centuries in 260 ODIs and 3,296 runs in 97 T20s.
"Its been fantastic to watch you over the years. Numbers will have their roles and but your real strength is being able to motivate the whole generation," said the 48-year-old Tendulkar, who himself has played 200 Tests for India.
"That's been your real strength and your immense contribution to Indian cricket. That is something which I would say is your real success. Wish you many more happy cricketing years, go out and do well." One of the fittest cricketer in the world, Kohli has inspired many with his fitness regime.
"To grasp things quickly was your strength and it continued that way. In 2011, we were in Canberra, and I remember there was a Thai restaurant over there and we used to go there, for meals and walk back to hotel.
"After one such meal as we were walking back to hotel you said, Paaji bahot ho gaya, fitness pe dhyan dena hai (we need to focus on fitness). I have to say you have left no stone unturned as far fitness is concerned, and numbers are there for everyone to see.
"That one particular evening I remember, you said that and achieved your goal." Kohli's 100th Test will be open to spectators with the BCCI allowing crowd at 50 per cent stadium capacity.
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