Legendary Pakistan batsman Zaheer Abbas is the latest among a growing bandwagon of former greats to tip Indian captain Virat Kohli as the man to break all the records belonging to Sachin Tendulkar.
Kohli registered his 39th ODI hundred during India’s series win in Australia, and is now only 10 short of Tendulkar’s all-time record mark of 49 centuries.
Abbas did, however, advise cricket pundits to always keep in mind the era, conditions and opposition while assessing a batsman, in an appearance on GTV’s Gsports show.
Zaheer Abbas”I think at the moment Virat is the best. He will break all the records.”
Among the leading batsmen during the first decade of one-day international cricket, Abbas was effusive in his praise of the current Indian crop.
“Not only Virat, the Indian team has other top batsmen too. If you look at Rohit Sharma, you are just delighted to watch his strokes. One can only appreciate the beauty of his strokes. The variety of strokes in possession of Indian batsmen counts a lot,” he said.
“Obviously, the confidence will come when you have so many strokes and when you know how to stay at the wicket. These skills don’t come easily. It takes time and hard work and one needs to develop a system for this,” said Abbas, who was considered a batting artist during his best years in the ’70s and ’80s.
A veteran of 78 Tests and 62 ODIs for Pakistan, Abbas was candid enough to admit that even top Pakistani batsmen, like Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, were yet to reach similar standards.
Zaheer Abbas”They are our players and I want to see our batsmen do very well. But at this stage, they have not reached that standard that I can feel proud of. They haven’t come up to world standards as yet.”
Reminiscing the days when Pakistan used to dominate India on the cricket field, the former Pakistan captain implored his country to take a leaf from their neighbours’ cricketing structures.
Zaheer Abbas”India at this moment is a top side. Their standards have improved a lot specially after the IPL because they don’t allow their players to go and play anywhere else. They are giving so much financial security to their players.”
“Not only their batsmen but even their bowlers. They have improved a lot and this is because their board had the foresight to set up the MRF pace academy years back and get Dennis Lillee as their first coach to help groom their pacers,” he added.
Abbas advised the Pakistan players and management to get over the Champions Trophy triumph from 2017.
“I think we need to get over it and move on. Unfortunately, in our cricket culture success hides every weakness. We need to learn from our neighbours. Not only India but also Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who have improved so much now.”
The former ICC President also has no doubts that the top teams not touring Pakistan since 2009 (after a terrorist attack on Sri Lanka cricketers) because of security concerns had also put Pakistan cricket backwards.
Zaheer Abbas”Home series are very important as it allows youngsters to watch their role models and learn from them. Tours by foreign teams allow our players to also get more exposure and experience of playing against international players.”
Now 71, Abbas also appreciated how cricketers from around the world, including Sunil Gavaskar, had called him to inquire about his health and wish him well after his recent heart surgery.