AFP Mohali, Feb 4 : Test cricket is the "real cricket", Virat Kohli said Thursday ahead of his 100th game for India in the five-day format, his first since stepping down as captain in January. "I personally never grew up thinking I have to score small runs, the idea was to score huge runs," Kohli said ahead of the match in Mohali against Sri Lanka -- also the visitors' 300th Test.
"My idea was to bat long. I used to enjoy batting for long periods of time, try to win games for my team, or try to get a first-innings lead, which is the format we used to follow," he said.
"These are the things which reveal your true character. I just felt that Test cricket needed to stay alive, because this for me is real cricket," Kohli said in the interview with the Indian cricket board. Kohli, 33, threw in the towel as India's most successful Test leader with 40 wins and 17 losses in 68 Tests as captain.
Under his leadership, India rose to top the Test rankings and stayed there for over three years, beating all comers at home and away including winning a series in Australia for the first time. But India failed to win any international tournaments, including last year's inaugural World Test Championship, when they lost to New Zealand in the final.
A few months later, Kohli quit as T20 captain after a disastrous World Cup that included a heavy defeat to arch-rivals Pakistan and failing to make it to the knock-out stage. He was then sacked as one-day captain and after publicly falling out with the head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Saurav Ganguly resigned the Test captaincy in January following a series loss in South Africa.
'Credit to Virat' Rohit Sharma, who last month replaced Kohli as captain across all formats, was one of a string of players past and present to pay tribute to his predecessor on Thursday ahead of the landmark match.
"As a Test team, we stand in very good position. If you look at the last five years of our Test cricket... the whole credit goes to Virat for getting us going in this particular format," Rohit told reporters. "What he has done with the Test team was brilliant to see," Rohit told reporters, saying he wanted to give Kohli a "special" victory over the visitors --- who have never won a Test in India.
Sachin Tendulkar, who played 200 Tests for India, said in a video message to Kohli that it had been "fantastic" to watch him over the years. "Numbers will have their roles, but your real strength is being able to motivate the whole generation," he said.
"That's been your real strength and your immense contribution to Indian cricket. That is something which I would say is your real success." India's coach Rahul Dravid said: "To be able to play one (Test) is great. To play 100 is a fantastic achievement.
"It's an achievement Virat Kohli can be very proud of. It's a great achievement for one of India's greatest players. Just looking at his fitness and looking at where he is, I think he has a lot more to go."