West Indies batting legend Brian Lara feels that Virat Kohli isn’t more talented than Rohit Sharma or KL Rahul but his commitment and preparations stand out and make all the difference.

Lara, regarded as one of the greatest batsmen to have graced the cricket field, has drawn comparisons between Portuguese superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and India captain Kohli. “I think it has got a lot to do with Virat’s outstanding commitment besides his preparation. I don’t think he is any more talented than a KL Rahul or a Rohit Sharma but his commitment to prepare himself properly stands out. He is, for me, the cricketing equivalent of Cristiano Ronaldo,” Lara told PTI.

He continued, “His fitness level and his mental strength is unbelievable. His batting skills are unbelievable. He is a guy you cannot leave out in any era. If a guy is averaging 50 plus in all versions of the game, then that is something which is unheard of.”

Lara also praised England allrounder Ben Stokes who has had a memorable 2019 during which he played the starring role in his country’s maiden ODI World Cup triumph. He then produced a jaw-dropping innings in Headingley to win an Ashes Test which England were on the verge of losing and could have potentially resulted in a series defeat.

“It was an unbelievable innings that he played,” Lara said of Stokes’ innings in the world cup final that was decided by boundary counts after the regulation innings and Super Over both ended in a tie. “You must give him the credit not only for that innings but also for his 84 not out in the ODI World Cup final. He came up through a very rough period couple of years back (Bristol pub brawl and subsequent suspension) and he has shown the mettle to put things aside and soldiered on as a cricketer.”

Talking about West Indies that has seen a growing trend of cricketers preferring franchise cricket, Lara said it was normal as it’s an individual choice. “Each cricketer has to make a choice. Back in the day in late ’70s, there was Kerry Packer and there was an exodus of cricketers. I can’t say that there’s something that’s new. Not everyone will be playing for the West Indies. So if you can make a living playing T20 leagues then why not? I don’t see it as a mercenary act,” the 50-year-old said.

However Lara, who played 131 Tests and 299 ODIs between 1990 and 2007, hopes cricket will continue to generate interest in West Indies. “I am hoping that West Indies don’t have to get involved in a lower Test level. Series like West Indies vs Australia (Worrell Trophy), West Indies vs England (Wisden Trophy) have always had a legacy created over the years,” he said.

“West Indies have 5 to 6 million people, different islands, different politics. You have seen Usain Bolt run for Jamaica and not for the West Indies. Cricket is the only unifying force but still has its problems to keep it unified in terms of getting the infrastructure needed,” Lara said.

He added, “…it’s a situation where as a youngster, you have an opportunity to go out there and make a living for yourself. So hopefully, it doesn’t do too much damage but it still belongs to West indies board, the power to ensure that it doesn’t happen,” he asserted.

“A youngster may want to do different things, (but) if you have a structure in place, I am sure you can have the effect of what the baggy greens have in Australia. Look at the current Indian cricket team. They have the most exciting T20 league (IPL) and yet they are excited about Test cricket as well as all the versions of the game.”