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Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) stalwart Virat Kohli was at the center of heavy criticism over his performances in the first half of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 campaign. As RCB lost 7 of their first 8 games of the tournament, Kohli was one of the players blamed for the team’s poor run, with his strike-rate becoming a constant talking point. Even the great Sunil Gavaskar lashed out at Virat for his lack of intent, prompting a reply from the RCB star too. Now, AB de Villiers has also joined the debate, saying it wasn’t pleasing for him to see Virat in the line of fire.

De Villiers, in a chat on Jio Cinema, even recalled his own experience of playing against Kohli, saying his message to teammates would be “do not say anything to Virat” as criticism seems to get the best out of him.

“I thought it was… really bad for someone like that for a hero and a role model of the country to get so much criticism around that. But the way I know him, I just knew and that’s exactly what I mentioned on my show. I said, guys, you have no idea what happens to this guy when he catches criticism. The many years I’ve played against him, I used to tell the players in the team room, you do not say one word to Virat on the pitch because he will come out and he will score a big 100 if you try and chirp him,” De Villiers was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.

“Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, getting a bit of criticism, because stuff like that motivates him so much,” he added.

Speaking of Virat’s role at the T20 World Cup, De Villiers even went against the popular suggestion, saying the marquee batter shouldn’t open the innings alongside Rohit Sharma, and continue occupying the No. 3 spot.

“I feel he’s a number three batsman and that’s where he’s most impactful. He’s almost like the captain of the batting team everywhere he goes. He keeps the calmness and the composure within the batting unit,” the former South Africa captain said.

“I know Virat himself really enjoys opening, which is great. You’ve got to respect that from a man who’s played the game for many years. He understands his game really well and he understands what he wants out of the game as well.

“But if I was playing a TV game, Xbox, he would come in at number three in my team. I feel there’s too much risk in those first couple of overs to go and ask Virat to take the game on, to hit the ball in the air. All I want him to do is to bat between overs 4 and 16-17, somewhere there.

“I feel that’s where he’s best in the world by a country mile and that’s where he’s most impactful,” he asserted.

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