Former Indian captain and superstar batter Virat Kohli has said that Pakistan skipper Babar Azam is “probably the top batsman in the world right now across [all] formats”.

Speaking in an interview with Star Sports, Kohli said Azam was performing “so consistently and rightly so, he has amazing talent and I’ve always enjoyed watching him play”.

Recounting his history and first meeting with Azam at the 2019 cricket world cup, Kohli said he had seen a lot of “regard and respect” from Azam from “day one”. “That has not changed,” he added.

“It hasn’t changed because he is performing now and coming into his own. I don’t see his attitude or approach changing towards me which is a very good sign of someone who is very grounded in the foundations of his upbringing and his cricketing foundations as well are very solid.”

Kohli said players such as Azam “go a long way” and “inspire many”.

“I congratulated him yesterday for how he has been playing and I told him how amazing to watch it is and I wish him all the best.”

He was referring to his interaction with Azam in Dubai on Wednesday where the two shared a warm greeting ahead of the much-anticipated India vs Pakistan clash at the Asia Cup on Sunday.

Kohli said Azam “deserved all of this” and sportsmen like him were needed to keep world cricket “exciting”. “That is the reality of the situation,” he added.

Last month, Azam had also shown support for Kohli and told him that the rough patch he was maybe going through at the time would be temporary.

The encouraging message came in light of the criticism of the Indian cricketer’s recent poor performance.

Meanwhile, questioned on the upcoming Sunday match against Pakistan and how his feelings had evolved compared to past encounters, Kohli said: “I won’t run away from the fact that the atmosphere on the outside is very different to any other game … [but] this doesn’t have to be a world cup game.”

He said that as a player once you stepped on the field, “it is [like] any other game for you … usual business.”

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