Having been his teammate at RCB since 2011, AB de Villiers has watched Virat Kohli evolve as a cricketer and leader. © BCCI

“He has been blessed with wonderful natural talent but, as ever among high achievers, his talent is underpinned by a willingness to work hard,” writes de Villiers about Kohli. © BCCI

Virat Kohli is the “outstanding cricketer in the world”, according to AB de Villiers, his captain at Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.

Kohli, 28, moved to the top of the ICC One-Day International rankings for batsmen over the past week after scoring three half-centuries in the Champions Trophy 2017, taking his career tally of runs to 8008 at an average of 54.07 by the time he had hit 96 not out in 78 balls to help India get over the line against Bangladesh in the semifinal.

De Villiers said of Kohli, who struck an unbeaten 76 in last Sunday’s eight-wicket win over South Africa in the Champions Trophy, that he was “being a consummate surgeon at the crease” in an column in the BBC on Saturday (June 17), the eve of the tournament final between India and Pakistan.

“He has been blessed with wonderful natural talent but, as ever among high achievers, his talent is underpinned by a willingness to work hard,” wrote de Villiers.

De Villiers, who endured a disappointing campaign in charge of South Africa, the No. 1 ODI side coming into the tournament, said that Kohli was also able to cope with the extreme pressure that comes with being captain of the Indian cricket team.

“Intense and serious in matches and at practice, he retains the invaluable ability to switch off from the game, relaxing, laughing and joking at every opportunity. He enjoys calling people by playful nicknames and he can find humour in almost every situation.”

“Beyond the golden talent and the iron determination, Virat has learned how to cope with the pressures of his exalted position. If you drive into almost any city in India, you will see his face appear on every other billboard,” he went on. “Being the most marketable and possibly the most popular personality in a nation of 1.3 bn people brings its own pressures; he simply cannot move without being begged for a ‘selfie’ and his every move, word and even gesture is relentlessly reported in print, electronic and social media.

“Twitter whirred when he stuck out his tongue to celebrate a wicket against Bangladesh. Virat has learned to live with these realities.”

De Villiers, who has spent a lot of time with Kohli while with the Bangalore team, felt the Indian captain had, in fact, mellowed with the passage of time, and the aggression had been replaced by a more jocular personality.

“Intense and serious in matches and at practice, he retains the invaluable ability to switch off from the game, relaxing, laughing and joking at every opportunity,” said de Villiers. “He enjoys calling people by playful nicknames and he can find humour in almost every situation.”