Virat Kohli.
Virat Kohli. Image Credit: X

The former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif feels that the super-star of not only Indian cricket but world cricket, Virat Kohli’s popularity is huge, and he has been blown away by how the Pakistan fans have loved the India batter over the years, thanks to his many spectacular knocks, against them.

It was just the last edition of ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, held in Australia, where Kohli snatched victory from the jaws of Pakistan during their opening game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Even though the ‘Men in Blue’ struggled at the start of their 160-run chase, Virat stood there until the end, guiding them with a magical knock of unbeaten 82 runs.

When it comes to his all-over performances over the ‘Green Brigade’, Virat Kohli finds himself in a different world, as he notched up 678 ODI runs over this opponents in 16 innings, at an average of 52.2 and a strike rate of over 100, with two fifties and three centuries.

While in the 20-over format, Kohli has nailed 488 runs in 10 innings at an average of close to 100 and a strike rate of 123.09, with five half-centuries, which is quite incredible.

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‘But Virat Kohli’s popularity in Pakistan is on par with Dilip Sahab’ – Rashid Latif

Virat Kohli has already earned the same level of love and respect as Sachin Tendulkar Kapil Dev or MS Dhoni when it comes to love in Pakistan and India. But the former captain of the neighbouring country, Rashid Latif believes that Virat’s love by the people of that country is unmatchable.

He compares his level of respect with the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Dev, and the two Bollywood super-stars Shah Rukh Khan, and Amitabh Bachchan.

‘It’s not like that Virat is the first one with such a big fan base in Pakistan. If you go back, Dilip Kumar had a massive fan following in Pakistan. Sunil Gavaskar became a cult in Pakistan. Young batsmen were told to copy Gavaskar Sahab’s technique.

“Then Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘angry young man’ movies used to get sold out. Then came Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, Shah Rukh Khan, MS Dhoni. When Dhoni came here his long locks became a trend,” Latif expressed during an interview with ‘The Indian Express.

The retired player shared how Pakistan will accept Virat Kohli, the way they have given love to both Virender Sehwag, Dhoni, Yuvraj and others, just like how in India, the fans love the pacers- Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis, or Wasim Akhter.

‘But Virat’s popularity in Pakistan is on par with Dilip Sahab, Mr. Bachchan and Shah Rukh. Like in India, you guys loved our bowlers – Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Shoaib Akhtar became household names.  

“Here in Pakistan, we adored Gavaskar Sahab, Tendulkar, then Dhoni and now (Virat) Kohli – they are all icons. Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag too have a good fan following in Pakistan. But all said and done, the mad-craze over Virat is another level,” Rashid reflected.

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Another former Pakistan captain Azhar Ali also noted that if India comes to play in their country, and once Virat Kohli remains in the squad, he will be the most loved in the ground than their captain Babar Azam or Shaheen Shah Afridi.

‘The day Virat plays in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi or in Multan, only then you guys will understand his craze in Pakistan. You won’t believe but the stadium will be filled with green jerseys.

“Magar peeche naam Babar ya Shaheen ka nahi, Virat Kohli ka hoga aur No 18 ke saath (There won’t be names of Babar or Shaheen at the back of the shirt, it will Virat Kohli with no. 18 being writer with it.),” Veteran remarked in the same interview.

India will lock horns with Pakistan on June 09, at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium, in New York.