Kohli 'honoured' to equal 'hero' Tendulkar's ODI century record

'Honoured': India's Virat Kohli reacts after the win over South Africa (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR)
'Honoured': India's Virat Kohli reacts after the win over South Africa (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR)

Virat Kohli said he felt "honoured" to equal "hero" Sachin Tendulkar's record of 49 one-day international hundreds during India's 243-run World Cup rout of fellow semi-finalists South Africa on Sunday.

Kohli, on his 35th birthday, made a superbly paced 101 not out in a total of 326-5 after India captain Rohit Sharma won the toss on a tricky pitch at Kolkata's Eden Gardens.

India, who have now won all eight of their pool play matches so far and are guaranteed to finish top of the 10-team table, then dismissed South Africa for just 83 in 27.1 overs, with left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja taking 5-33.

During the innings break, the now retired Tendulkar, acknowledged his fellow batting great's feat on X, formerly Twitter.

"Well played Virat," said Tendulkar, whom Kohli lifted on his shoulders in celebration after they were team-mates in India's 2011 World Cup final win.

"It took me 365 days to go from 49 to 50 (years old) earlier this year. I hope you go from 49 to 50 and break my record in the next few days. Congratulations."

It had taken Kohli 277 innings to score 49 hundreds and his first chance to get to a 50th will be in the last group game against the Netherlands next weekend.

"Tendulkar's tweet is quite special," said Kohli. "It's all too much to take in for now. It's a huge honour to equal my hero's record. He's perfection with the bat. It's an emotional moment. I know the days I come from, I know the days I have watched him on TV.

"To receive appreciation from him means a lot to me."

India's colossal winning margin was all the more impressive given South Africa, whose only defeat in the tournament before this match was a shock loss to the Netherlands, are second in the 10-team table and already assured of a last four spot themselves.

"It was a big game," said Kohli. "We were probably playing the toughest team in the tournament so far, there was motivation for doing well.

"People made it a bit more special on my birthday. I had a sense of it being something more."

He added: "The message from the management was for me to bat deep, I was happy from that perspective."

- 'Who writes your scripts?' -

Former India opener Sunil Gavaskar said Kohli's ability to rise to the occasion reminded him of celebrated England all-rounder Ian Botham's comeback to international duty in a 1986 Test against New Zealand at the Oval following a suspension for recreational drug use.

Botham took a wicket with his first ball and then dismissed Jeff Crowe to surpass Australia legend Dennis Lillee's world record tally of 355 Test wickets.

"At which point Graham Gooch who was also playing in the (England) team asked him 'who writes your scripts?'," said Gavaskar.

"And that is the question Kohli should be asked -- 'who has written your script where on your birthday you score your 49th (hundred) to equal your hero?' An incredible script."

Former South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, also commentating for Star Sports, said Kohli was a "master of  playing spin in these conditions".

"But what's fascinating about that knock is the (small) amount of dot balls Virat plays, he is a guy that is extremely well (capable) in getting 'ones' from good deliveries," said Du Plessis of his former opponent.

"I think that's the difference between great players and the guys that struggle -- the ability to hit one instead of getting dot, dot, dot and then you hit yourself out of trouble."

However, the significance of the occasion appeared to have little effect on Sri Lanka's World Cup skipper Kusal Mendis.

Addressing a press conference in New Delhi ahead of his team's game against Bangladesh, Mendis was asked if would like to pass on his tribute to Kohli.

"Why I would congratulate him?" asked a bemused Mendis.