NEW DELHI -- In awe of Virat Kohli's meteoric rise, Indian Team Director Ravi Shastri today said the swashbuckling batsman seems like a mirror-image of West Indian great Viv Richards and "wields his willow like a fencer does to his sword."
"Some of his (Kohli) batting reminded me of Viv -- like the way the great man dominated all formats of the game he played. He is an in your face kind of batsman," Shastri told as he analysed the present Indian team ahead of the World T20 at home next month.
The comparison cannot be too off the mark given that Richards himself has stated that he sees a bit of himself in the flamboyant Indian, a praise that Kohli finds surreal.
The right-hander sizzled with half centuries in all three T20 games, to go with two hundreds in the preceding ODIs. Shastri feels Kohli, combined with the equally devastating Rohit Sharma and the revived Shikhar Dhawan, make for the "best top three in the world".
The top three were the prime reason Australia were blanked and suffered a never-before low in their proud cricketing history and Shastri was willing to look at each of them individually.
"Shikhar has a license to be destructive at the top, that's the role he has, and once his chances came off, there was no stopping him. Rohit is all class: brilliant, explosive and his nonchalance is frightening. Virat just tears attacks to shreds, carves them to pieces. He wields his willow like a fencer does to his sword," Shastri explained.
Kohli has credited Shastri for his revival after the horrible England tour of 2014 summer. His propensity to nick everything on the off-stump was neutralised after he chose to take a middle-off guard, stand outside the crease and adjusted the width of his feet in stance.
"Those were really minor issues. The important thing is he was ready to give it a try," said Shastri, unwilling to dwell further on the subject.
Largely due to the trinity of Kohli, Dhawan and Sharma, India's rest of the batting went untested though critics still murmured whether Mahendra Singh Dhoni has outlived his role as a batsman and captain.
"Just one word to them, and I repeat myself: don't mess around with legends. Ask them to look for a word in dictionary: Respect. His contribution is second to none in Indian cricket," said Shastri in his inimitable style.
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