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‘This isn’t Candy Crush’ – Shoaib Akhtar hits out at criticism of ‘greatest player in the last ten years’ Virat Kohli

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Shoaib Akhtar is the latest cricketer to extend his support to Virat Kohli, who is in the midst of a poor run of form, with the Pakistan quick stating that a few inconsistent years should not tarnish the former India captain’s legacy.

Kohli, who has not scored an international hundred since November 2019, was out for a 25-ball 16 in the second ODI against England on Thursday, which further brought the spotlight on his extended slump in international cricket. He averages less than 25 in white-ball cricket in 2022 with a Test average of 31.42 in that time. However, the 33-year-old has been backed by many to regain his lost touch, with Babar Azam, Rohit Sharma and Kevin Pietersen all expressing their solidarity with him. Akhtar is the latest player to join the bandwagon, rallying behind Kohli to end his career with at least 100 hundreds across formats, whilst also hitting out at the critics who have questioned Kohli’s place in India’s XI.

Speaking on his YouTube channel, Akhtar expressed his surprise at people calling for Kohli’s omission from the side.

“Virat Kohli is the greatest player in the last ten years. One-and-a-half years have not gone well for him – he has not scored a hundred but has still made runs – and people have totally gone against him and have been criticising him. The media is insulting a great human being and a great player, and I can’t understand how anyone could think of dropping him.

“As a Pakistani, the reason I am supporting him is that he has 70 hundreds. This isn’t his aunt’s house, and this isn’t Candy Crush, where he could easily make 70 hundreds. Only a great player can make hundreds, a normal person cannot make so many tons.”

He also had some words of wisdom for the Royal Challengers Bangalore star, stating that he should forget fully the baggage of captaincy and play more freely, and focus on occupying the crease for a longer duration.

“My advice to Virat would be simple – he should forget that he ever was captain of India with all the limelight on him and just simply focus on his batting. His poor run and the criticism are happening so he can become an even bigger player. He has to emerge stronger out of this and make 30 more hundreds. I had predicted 110 international hundreds for him – please keep my respect, and score them. He is still very young and very fit. He should not be scared, but recollect, focus and compose himself and come back stronger.

“Runs will not come if he looks to attack. Stay at the crease, and score more runs. He is not giving time at the crease and is getting frustrated easily, he wants to hit and get out. He should look to play a hundred balls on the pitch. He should forget all the criticism, and leave social media. When I met Virat Kohli for the first time, he was a kid – he had passion, aggression and the desire to fight. That passion is still not lost, only his form has gone. His form will come back.”

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