In the midst of all the excitement and on-field drama in sports, there's the heartwarming story of respect and friendship between two amazing players from countries that share an intense rivalry: Virat Kohli from India and Babar Azam from Pakistan.
Recently, Virat Kohli spoke with Star Sports and shared a story about how he first met Babar Azam.
It was during a rainy day in Manchester at the 2019 ODI World Cup. Kohli and Babar chatted about the game, and right from the start, Kohli felt that Babar was a genuinely nice guy.
This feeling of respect has stayed with Kohli, even though Babar is considered one of the best batters in the world and plays really well in all types of cricket.
Kohli didn't just talk about this, he also said that Babar is “probably the top batsman in the world.”
That's a big compliment coming from someone like Kohli, who is a superstar himself. He mentioned how Babar's consistency in playing well is something he really admires.
Virat Kohli recalls first interaction with Babar Azam
“The first interaction I had with him [Babar] was during the 2019 [ODI] World Cup after the game in Manchester. I've known Imad [Wasim] since the Under-19 World Cup, and he said Babar wanted to have a chat. We sat down and spoke about the game. I saw a lot of regard and respect from him from day one, and that hasn't changed,” Kohli said.
“Regardless of the fact he's probably the top batsman in the world across formats, and rightly so. Performs so consistently and I've always enjoyed watching him play.”
The rivalry between Kohli and Babar is like an extra exciting part of the big India versus Pakistan matches. They've faced each other on the field, and fans from both countries love comparing them. In that World Cup match in 2019, Kohli showed his skills by scoring 77 runs, helping India win by a lot.
Babar has really worked hard over the years and become one of the best players, especially in the one-day matches. Right now, he's the number one player in ODIs with the most points, way ahead of others. Even Kohli is in the top ten, but Babar is leading the pack. He's also good in T20 and Test matches, ranking in the top 10 across all three formats, validating Kohli’s comments.
People are now eagerly waiting for the Asia Cup where India and Pakistan will play against each other. The match is set for September 2 in Kandy, and it's going to be a big showdown. There are more matches between them in the Super 4 stage and even in the World Cup later on.
In 2022, Kohli faced a tough phase, struggling to find his usual form. Even the IPL didn't go well for the former India captain, and this rough patch continued in international matches too.
During India's tour of England, Pakistan's captain across all formats, Babar Azam, showed his support for Virat Kohli on Twitter, and the message quickly gained popularity online. Interestingly, while Virat was grappling with his game, Babar was in outstanding form, consistently scoring runs in various formats.
Around the same time last year, Babar tweeted, “This too shall pass. Stay strong. #ViratKohli.” It was a simple but powerful message of encouragement.
Virat took notice of Babar's tweet and responded with gratitude, writing, “Thank you. Keep shining and rising. Wish you all the best.”
Kohli would go on to regain his form, famously scripting a thrilling win for India over Babar’s Pakistan at the T20 World Cup later in the year.
Thank you. Keep shining and rising. Wish you all the best 👏— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) July 16, 2022
As the two prepare to go head to head in the Asia up and later in the World Cup, the rivalry is up between the fans, but the players themselves share a great deal of mutual respect.
The story of Virat Kohli and Babar Azam shows us that you can be rivals on the field and still have respect and friendship off the field. It's as good a reminder as any that sports can bring people together, no matter where they come from.