England legend Kevin Pietersen has slammed the ‘foolish’ critics of Virat Kohli ahead of the new Indian Premier League season.
Kohli scored his first Test century since 2019 earlier this month, racking up 186 in a high-scoring draw with Australia in Ahmedabad.
It was Kohli’s 75th international hundred as he chases all-time record holder Sachin Tendulkar, who finished his extraordinary career with 100.
Despite being one of the best players of his generation, Kohli’s form appeared to be on the decline before a resurgence this year but Pietersen says it was ‘foolish’ for anyone to doubt the India superstar.
‘With Virat, I’ve known for a very long time,’ Pietersen told Betway. ‘The way that he plays the game – so passionate, so abrasive, so emotional.
‘I think Covid hurt him. I remember saying to him, “just chill, dude, it’s Covid, you’re an entertainer. You cannot play with three people and their dog watching you play cricket”.
‘To see him get that 75th hundred… People were foolish not to back him and not to support him.’
Kohli will hope to help Royal Challengers Bangalore finally win the Indian Premier League when the new season starts on Friday.
Pietersen was one of the first English players to feature in the tournament and has compared the pressure the players are under to that of Champions League football.
‘All the best players know, they block out their two months of the year, that’s when they’re going to go and do their service,’ the ex-England captain said.
‘There’s a lot of pressure. I remember speaking to De Villiers and Kohli about this three or four years ago.
‘They say it’s like the Champions League. These guys are turning up knowing this is not just a free ride to go and earn a quick buck. They really have to perform.’
Reflecting on his first experience of being signed by an IPL franchise, Pietersen added: ‘I went into the auction in the second year of the IPL.
‘We were playing a Test match in the Caribbean and Freddie [Flintoff] and I woke up one morning, went down to breakfast, and we’d just been bought for $1.5m each.
‘That day I proceeded to bat pretty well! I just decided, right, the spinner’s tossing it up. So I went six, six, out, got out for 97. The headline the next day was “Dumb Slog Millionaire”.’
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