Kohli on Babar: 'Probably the top batsman in the world across formats'

Rahul Dravid: Would be 'fantastic' if India meet Pakistan thrice in Asia Cup (0:45)

The two teams are set to meet in Kandy on September 2, and might play each other again in the next rounds too (0:45)

Pakistan have long viewed Babar Azam as their biggest global sports star, and the admiration is shared across the border by Virat Kohli, who called Babar "probably the top batsman in the world".

In an interview with Star Sports last year, Kohli spoke of his relationship with the Pakistan captain, and revealed that they had always been on good terms, since first meeting on a rainy day in Manchester in 2019.

"The first interaction I had with him [Babar] was during the 2019 [ODI] World Cup after the game in Manchester. I've known Imad [Wasim] since the Under-19 World Cup, and he said Babar wanted to have a chat. We sat down and spoke about the game. I saw a lot of regard and respect from him from day one, and that hasn't changed," Kohli said. "Regardless of the fact he's probably the top batsman in the world across formats, and rightly so. Performs so consistently and I've always enjoyed watching him play."

The rivalry between Kohli and Babar has always formed part of the cultural intrigue of India vs Pakistan contest s over the past five years, and partisan comparisons in both countries have added to the spice. When the two met at that World Cup game in Manchester, Kohli was ranked the top ODI batter in the world. On that day, he scored a 65-ball 77 as India eased to an 89-run victory.

Over the years, as Babar has entered the prime of his career, he has risen to the top of the game, particularly in the ODI format. Earlier this year, he became the fastest player in ODI history to reach 5,000 ODI runs, beating out Hashim Amla and Viv Richards. He's currently the top-ranked ODI player in the world by some distance with 886 points. Rassie van der Dussen is a distant second with 777. Kohli also makes the top ten, coming in ninth with 705 points.

Babar is also ranked third in T20I cricket and fourth in Test cricket, as he is the only batter to make the top five in all three formats.

India and Pakistan play each other in Kandy in a group stage game of the Asia Cup on September 2. They are also likely to play at least once more in the Super 4 stage, and are scheduled to play a World Cup match on October 14 in Ahmedabad.