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Who has to absorb more pressure? Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli? © Getty Images (file photo)

Alec Stewart, former England captain and Director of Cricket at Surrey County Cricket Club, believes that Virat Kohli has to withstand more pressure than Sachin Tendulkar had to. “Both represent a country with 1.3 billion people and there will be massive expectations. But it’s a tribute to these people the way they deal with adulation; it’s more than just a game of cricket. It’s potentially harder on Kohli than Tendulkar because of the accessibility now — TV, radio, social media, online, these days everyone has an opinion. The spotlight is even greater now,” Stewart told Hindustan Times.

Kohli had scored 149 and 51 in a lost cause in the first Test, at Edgbaston, Birmingham; and 97 and 103 in the third, at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, helping India turn things around despite being 0-2 down in the series.

Stewart spoke highly about both India and Kohli: “India are ranked No. 1, and they put up a decisive show at Trent Bridge. Under Virat, India have become a very competitive and proud unit. India would have lost the series otherwise, and it was a very, very good performance all around. Kohli’s batting was exceptional. Virat is the best in the world and India’s bowling and catching was right.

What went wrong in the first two Tests? “At Lord’s, India got their selection wrong, and they corrected that. They must back it up now at the Ageas Bowl and not revert to what we have seen at Lord’s and Edgbaston.”

Kohli had signed up for a stint for Surrey just before the England series. A neck injury had ruled him out of that. Does his success despite the lack of practice in English conditions surprise Stewart? “I’m not surprised at all. He is world class; I am a massive fan of him. Top players will always find a way to succeed. I expected him to do well, whether he played for Surrey or not: he has talent and mental strength to perform well.”

Stewart, who had played for England both as wicketkeeper and specialist batsman, also spoke about Jonny Bairstow. Bairstow, England’s regular wicketkeeper, had picked up a finger injury at Trent Bridge and is likely to play the fourth Test as a specialist batsman. However, Bairstow is surprisingly insistent on donning the big gloves despite the presence of Jos Buttler in the side.

What is Stewart’s take? “I fully understand he doesn’t want to give up keeping, and expect him to carry on. He wants to keep wickets as long as he performs to the right level. And his batting and keeping have improved, he has done very well in the last 18 months. If the selectors decide, it is down to them. I know Jonny wants to keep as well and his level is outstanding. You want to perform and keep and bat to the best of your ability; that makes him a genuine all-rounder. When you have both skills, why would you not want to do both?”

At the same time, Stewart backed Alastair Cook despite his woeful form, which has been poor enough for media to ask for his retirement: “He is a wonderful performer. If I had a say, he will be in my side till he decides to call it a day.”