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Virat Kohli is the greatest batter ever across formats: Former CSK player

Comparison. An inevitable, unavoidable and arguably, a necessary component of a conversation around any sport.

From teams to coaches, support staff to management and right down to the fans, we love drawing comparisons and building intriguing narratives. One doesn’t have to go too deep into the past to dig out examples of the seriousness such conversations merit.

Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo? Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal? Lewis Hamilton vs Michael Schumacher? Usain Bolt vs Carl Lewis. Or closer home: Sachin Tendulkar vs Virat Kohli.

Tendulkar retired as international cricket’s most prolific batter and continues to be so nearly a decade later since he paid his final obeisance to the hallowed turf of Wankhede Stadium as an India player.

Stats are proof that Kohli is the sole batter who has come anywhere close to threatening Tendulkar’s record for real. His slump in across formats and especially in Test cricket may have pushed him behind his competitors but Kohli remains peerless in limited-overs cricket.

After a brief slumber, the debate has been sparked to life thanks to Kohli’s recent run that saw him peel off three centuries from four ODI innings – a happy reminder of the time when it seemed ridiculously easy for him to get to three figures.

His latest hundred was also the 46th of his career and he’s now just three centuries away from equalling Tendulkar’s record of 49 such scores. It’s quite possible Kohli will equal or even surpass the legendary batter this year itself and it surely will lead to endless discussions on who gets the bragging rights to be the greatest ever batter?

Then there are a few prominent former cricketers who cannot fathom how players from different eras can be pitted against each other considering the changes in playing conditions over the years.

However, for Srikkanth Anirudha, a former Chennai Super Kings opener and son of the famous World Cup winner Kris Srikkanth, there’s nothing wrong in making comparisons.

“There is nothing wrong in comparing,” Anirudha tells News18 CricketNext in an exclusive conversation. “I am a firm believer that’s what we play sport for. When we were young, we discussed who is better: Sachin or Gavaskar? Sachin or Vivian? Those conversations should be had. We keep asking who is better: Messi or Ronaldo? Messi or Pele? Messi or Maradona?”

Anirudha though adds that while it’s very difficult to prove who is better but in terms of impact on Indian cricket, nobody will surpass Tendulkar.

“Yes, it’s so difficult (to ascertain who is better). They are only opinions. You can throw any stats you want. In terms of impact and longevity, nobody is going to be better than Sachin Tendulkar. He did so much for Indian cricket. There is no doubting that. Today, if cricketers are getting so much money, so much of ad revenue coming into the sport, it’s originally because of the 1983 side led by Kapil Dev and then Sachin took it to another level,” he said.

“The interesting thing about cricket is that it’s very much like the NBA. How Magic Johnson and Larry Bird brought the NBA back, then Michael Jordan became everything. And today you have a LeBron James. I would compare that with cricket. Kapil Dev brought cricket back, money into Indian cricket and then Sachin took it to another level. And now there’s Virat Kohli,” he added.

But for Anirudha, Kohli is the greatest batter across formats.

“For me, across formats, he’s (Kohli) the greatest batsman ever. If it’s just Test cricket, Sachin is ahead but when you take ODIs and T20s and combine all of that, his fitness, I don’t think anyone is close to him,” he said.

Anirudha represented Tamil Nadu in the domestic circuit and scored over 4000 runs across formats between 2004 and 2019. He also played in IPL representing Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad.

The 35-year-old is now dabbling in commentary and is part of JioCinema’s expert panel for the inaugural SA20.

Recalling his days representing CSK, the former opening batter says he was lucky to have played alongside MS Dhoni and explains how the franchise has been so successful over the years and why players, current and former, fondly remembering their association with the Chennai-based outfit.

“I was actually very lucky to have been part of CSK’s golden period. What was amazing about the entire franchise and why we were successful was because right from the top bosses to MS Dhoni and to players, the mentality was always to never give up. Actually when we first won, we were nearly out of it before bouncing back. That belief and more importantly how well they take care of you, make you feel comfortable, make sure they put you in the right position, ensuring a right environment, atmosphere around the dressing room,” Anirudh said.

He continued, “At that particular level, everybody is equally talented. It’s just the matter of who gets the right opportunity and atmosphere to perform. That’s the only difference. CSK had it. And when you have a guy like MS Dhoni leading, you have a massive advantage. The captain is crucial and so is the management. So, I was very lucky.”

Anirudha is enjoying his stint as a commentator and reveals that he was planning his transition from a player to an expert for some time now.

“Playing the sport is definitely more challenging without a doubt,” he said. “There is no comparison because so much goes into playing a sport. But the transition has been very smooth. Guys have been helping me a lot. It’s been amazing actually, enjoying a lot. I was thinking about it for the last three years, I’d started my own YouTube channel. I still do play cricket and I’m enjoying both.”

He also predicted that SA20 is going to be quite beneficial to the South African national cricket team as their domestic players will get more opportunities to rub shoulders with international stars.

“In a matter of a few years’ time you will see very good domestic South African cricketers come up and it’s going to be amazing for their cricket. Expect South Africa to be a formidable force in a few years’ time, definitely,” Anirudha said.

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