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Kohli finds Tendulkar’s shoes a good fit

December 18, 2013

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Virat Kohli made a century of some significance on Wednesday, not least because it came from Sachin Tendulkar’s No. 4 spot in India’s first test since the great batsman retired.

Chosen as the successor to cricket’s most prolific run-scorer and India’s most worshipped player, Kohli responded immediately to the responsibility with a disciplined, gritty and at times swashbuckling 119 under pressure, blending the qualities that made Tendulkar the best batsman of the modern era.

For Kohli’s young career, it was also his highest test score and first international century in South Africa, and he called it his best innings in the five-day format.

“Obviously a lot was expected of me,” Kohli said of moving up to Tendulkar’s place in India’s batting lineup. “To block that (out) and focus on your plan and execute it to get your hundred is very pleasing.”

Kohli’s hundred also came at time when India desperately needed it. He arrived at the crease with his team 24-2 against the best quick bowling attack and the top-ranked team in tests, piling more pressure on the already immense expectation that comes with replacing a batsman who is considered irreplaceable.

“I wasn’t thinking about (Tendulkar), to be honest,” Kohli said. “I knew that I might get to play on that spot once he retires, and obviously it is a big challenge because he has done so much at that spot. For me, it’s all about scoring runs wherever I go in to bat.”

He said his immediate reaction to being picked at No. 4 was: “Big shoes to step into.”

No doubt.

It’s way too early to compare the 25-year-old Kohli to Tendulkar, who scored mountains of runs for India in 200 tests over more than two decades after making his debut as a curly-haired teenager. But South Africa bowling coach Allan Donald still drew comparisons after Kohli’s innings had completely revived India on the first day of the opening test at the Wanderers.

Donald, a former quick bowler who had many battles with Tendulkar, said he was especially impressed with the way Kohli combined a solid defense on a quick, bouncy pitch with flourishing attacking strokes and a fierce determination— all hallmarks of Tendulkar’s play.

“The one word (that) comes to me is responsibility,” Donald said of Kohli’s innings, possibly an early landmark in his young test career. “I think he showed great discipline and responsibility. And it reminds me of Sachin Tendulkar. There’s one person that always jumps out at you and always plays the situation and plays for his team when the chips are down and that was Sachin Tendulkar.

“And that’s what comes to mind when I saw Kohli play today.”

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Follow Gerald Imray at www.twitter.com/GeraldImrayAP

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