Former England captain Kevin Pietersen on Tuesday said fitness freak Virat Kohli has turned his teammates into “out and out athletes” and called him the man responsible for an incredible turnaround in Indian cricket. Previously while commentating in IPL 2024, Pietersen said Kohli should be picked in the Indian team for the T20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies for the “good of the game regardless of his performances”. In a subtle message after guiding Royal Challengers Bengaluru to victory over Punjab Kings on Monday, Kohli said he has still got the the game to thrive in the T20 format and doesn’t just see himself as a vehicle to grow the game globally.

Following Kohli’s comments, which created a flutter, Pietersen told Star Sports, “One of the things that everyone will remember and will create the greatest memories as a player will be him finishing innings and being one the greatest finishers of all time.

“One of the things that he has done for Indian cricket is he has turned Indian cricketers into athletes, out and out athletes, and while doing so, he’s not just talked the talk. He has walked the walk, and you can see that.” Speaking about his commitment to his team, Pietersen added, “When he is running between the wickets, his full commitment, energy and desire is to be the best and he is the best.

“That starts before the field, that starts with diet, the energy he puts in the gym, with the sacrifices that he has made to walk the walk because when you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

“That’s what all the other players who have played under you are following you, watch you. The turnaround in Indian cricket is because of what he has done.” South African legend and Kohli’s former RCB teammate AB de Villiers too is in awe of the Indian batting mainstay.

Speaking on JioCinema after Kohli’s match-winning 49-ball 76 on Monday night, De Villiers said, “I could see it in his eyes, this guy meant business tonight and nobody was going to stand in his way. Unfortunately, he didn’t finish it at the back end. He would have wanted to.

“Knowing him, he will be analysing tonight in his room, ‘Why didn’t I finish that game?’ He’s very hard on himself sometimes. He’s creeping up there on the list of most 50 scores with the other guys in IPL history.

“He’s an amazing player, he played fantastically well tonight. He kept it together, kept them in the game. Well played, Virat.”

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