Former South Africa captain AB de Villiers feels Virat Kohli’s natural talent makes him a cricketing equivalent of Tennis legend Roger Federer. Kohli’s natural ball-striking and ability to score freely make him more visually appealing on the cricketing field compared to his contemporary Steve Smith. At the same time, De Villiers believes Smith’s mental fortitude and toughness have a distinct similarity with Rafael Nadal.

Put in a tough spot by the fans during an Instagram live chat with former Zimbabwe seamer Pommie Mbangwa, the South African stalwart was asked by fans to compare the game’s biggest crowd-pullers right now – Kohli and Smith. The 36-year-old De Villiers, who plays under Kohli at the IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, picked the Indian over the Aussie for his ability to score and win games all around the world.

“It’s a difficult one, but Virat is definitely the more natural ball-striker, there’s no doubt about that,” de Villiers said during his interaction on ‘Sports Hurricane’.

“In tennis terms, I’d say he’s more like a (Roger) Federer whereas Smith is like a (Rafael) Nadal. Smith is mentally very strong and figures out a way of scoring runs – he doesn’t look natural, but he ends up writing records and doing amazing things at the crease.”

During the interaction, the Protea hailed Smith’s mental toughness and rates it the best in the world.

“I think mentally, Smith is one of the best I have ever seen. Virat has also scored runs all over the world and won games under pressure,” de Villiers, himself a modern-day great, said.

De Villiers also felt that when it comes to chasing, Kohli is a shade ahead of Tendulkar. “Sachin is a role model for both of us (him and Kohli). The way he stood out in his era, the things he achieved and with the grace he did all that is a great example for everyone,” de Villiers said.

“And I think Virat will also say that he set the standards for us to follow.

“But personally, in a chase, I’d say Virat is the best I’ve seen in my life. Sachin was amazing in all formats and all situations, but Virat comes out on top while chasing.”

The world knows Kohli as a prolific cricketer but for de Villiers, he is a friend, who has interests beyond cricket and is spiritual at one level.

“He’s much deeper than just a cricket player…I think most people realise after a while that there’s more to life than just cricket,” de Villiers said.

“…Virat’s always been a thinker, he experiments (with) a lot of things, he loves trying new things out – gym wise, what he puts in his mouth. He thinks a lot about life after life – what’s to come, the different religions, we talk about everything.”