IPL 2022: Virat Kohli is the Cristiano Ronaldo of cricket, says PBKS batter Bhanuka Rajapaksa

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Having missed out on international selection opportunities over the years due to fitness issues, highly-rated Sri Lanka batter Bhanuka Rajapaksa is looking forward to make use of the Indian Premier League stint to hone his skills as well as take some fitness lessons from some of the best in the world.

The 30-year-old, who was bought by Punjab Kings at the mega auction, said he is looking forward to catching up with Virat Kohli, whom he believes is the “Cristiano Ronaldo of cricket”. Rajapaksa said he has admired th work ethic of the former RCB captain.

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Kohli, as pointed out by Rajapaksa, has been credited for inducing a fitness revolution in the Indian cricket team. The 33-year-old has managed to cope with the demands of playing all three formats of the game for close to a decade.

“IPL is the best league in the world and with every teammate of yours you get to learn a lot about the game, so I am loving picking the brains of Shikhar Dhawan. I get along very well with Mayank Agarwal as we played U-19 together,” Rajapaksa told the Press Trust of India.

“Outside of the team, Virat Kohli is always someone I could speak to and get some advice on fitness. He’s at another different level when it comes to fitness.

“To me, he is the Cristiano Ronaldo of cricket for sure. The work he puts in you can obviously see the results. You can compare him to anyone when it comes to fitness or even skills-wise. He plays so hard and you can learn a lot by talking to him,” he said.

SKILL vs FITNESS

Rajapaksa announced his international retirement this January and withdrew it a week later on the insistence of authorities. However, he still missed the plane to India due to the same fitness issues, last month.

Rajapaksa made an early impression as he hit a match-winning 44 against RCB, helping PBKS gun down 206 in just 19 overs. The Sri Lankan batter will be hoping to make mark and give captain Mayank and head coach Anil Kumble a selection headache as Jonny Bairstow is expected to take his place when he joins the squad, which is packed with power-hitters.

Meanwhile, Rajapaksa feels he is now doing “all the right things” as he looks to extend his international career by at least three to four years, elaborating on his call to make a U-turn after announcing retirement.

Rajapaksa is sure that the two-month-long stint with Punjab Kings would benefit his game immensely and take his fitness to the next level.

“As a player you need your fitness but it could be different from person to person. For me, of course, skill comes first. And then the fitness, but if you are not fit enough you definitely can’t perform.

“I’m actually working hard on my fitness. Whenever I get a free day I hit the gym early in the morning. That there are some fitness requirements to represent the country and with fitness, my international career would be longer.

“I’m hoping to play for the next three to four years at least and do the best for the country because after my resignation I had to withdraw it back because I had a couple of conversations with the technical committee and the Sports Minister as well. They wanted me to reconsider my retirement and I decided to withdraw it,” he said.

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Also Read | Expecting Kohli to score 600-plus runs this season, says de Villiers

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