Virat Kohli heaps praise on 'nice guy' Babar Azam

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Virat Kohli believes there is a healthy amount of respect between the India and Pakistan players, despite the fierce on-field rivalry between the two sides.

Kohli, speaking to the press after the two sides clashed in the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup was nothing but short of praise for their rivals. In a thriller, Pakistan won the match by five wickets, with one ball remaining. They chased down a total of 182 in the final over, courtesy of some brilliant contributions from Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Nawaz. 

Kohli was also asked about the comparison between him and Babar Azam and the former Indian captain was nothing short of praise for the Pakistan skipper. Kohli believes the pair have always had a relationship based on respect, with Babar also tweeting out his support for the Indian stalwart during his lean patch with the bat

Kohli also isn't surprised with Babar's performances across all the formats with the bat. Babar is currently the No.1-ranked batter in the world in ODIs and T20Is on the MRF Tyres ICC Men's Player Rankings

Lauding the Pakistan captain, Kohli said, "Babar is a very nice guy. I have always had good conversations with him. I am not sure about kinship since he is much younger to me, but there is respect. There is always respect." 

Kohli also recalled an incident where Babar approached him for advice after the two sides met in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup in 2019. "He was always keen to learn. He spoke to me after our game in the 2019 World Cup. I have always said he is keen to learn, and there’s no surprise that he is playing like this in all formats of the game. He is obviously a very talented player," Kohli added. 

The bonhomie and camaraderie between the players from both sides have also been visible during the tournament, with them often engaging in friendly conversations and interactions with each other. 

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Kohli believes this stems from the mutual respect between both sides and also the courteous nature of the Pakistan players. He stated, "It’s always nice to meet him (Babar) and also the other guys (from Pakistan). They are all very friendly and get along nicely with all of us. There is mutual respect between both teams.

"I have realised that it was there to be seen last year as well (during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup). We are very competitive on the field but very respectful."

Kohli has found form with the bat during the ongoing Asia Cup, being the second highest run-scorer in the tournament aggregating 154 runs in three matches. He has also notched up two half-centuries while contributing a crucial 35 in their group stage match against Pakistan.

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Prior to the tournament, Kohli took a prolonged break and also spoke about his struggles with mental health. The India stalwart revealed that he did not touch his bat for a month, with his mind telling him to step back. 

Further elaborating on his break, Kohli said, "I didn't think I'd go a month without touching my bat, but the situation became such that I had to take a break, more mentally than physically. 

"Then you realise when you bat again after a month why you started playing the game. That [realisation] is lost at times, the way people look at you, cheer for you when you're at the ground, at such times you can lose that realisation."

Kohli also realised that his being in a bad space was neither beneficial for him nor the team. "When I'm happy in my space, then I know what I can do for the team. Me being in a bad space is neither good for the team nor for me."

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He also believes that no one should shy away from taking a break, adding, "I think no one should run away from this, if someone is feeling negative or low, taking a break isn't a bad thing.

"And I hope people will derive strength from that and address whatever they are feeling. We're all human, everyone can feel this way. But to recognise that and care about it is important. If you ignore it, you will get more frustrated. This is something I realised and I got a lot of help. I'm happy, I'm excited and having fun playing cricket again, which was the most important thing for me." 

India will next face off against Sri Lanka in a Super Four encounter on Tuesday, 6 September, with the clash being a must-win encounter for Rohit Sharma's men. 

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