Last week, Virat Kohli smashed a record-equalling 49th century in ODIs, levelling batting great Sachin Tendulkar for the iconic milestone. Kohli achieved the feat during India’s group match against South Africa in the 2023 World Cup, and while the entire cricketing community applauded the Indian batter, the significane of the occasion had little effect on Sri Lanka captain Kusal Mendis. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi ahead of his team’s game against Bangladesh, Mendis was asked if he would like to pass on his tribute to Kohli.
In a response that later went viral on social media, Mendis had bemusingly said, “Why I would congratulate him?”
Following Sri Lanka players’ return to home after a dismal World Cup campaign – in which they won only 2 matches in 9 – Mendis opened up on his response over Kohli’s century. The Sri Lanka star stated that he was “wrong” in his response and clarified the reason behind his rather blunt reply to the journalist.
“On that day I went for the press conference and I was not aware that Virat had scored a century, When suddenly that journalist asked that question, I didn’t know what to say, And also I didn’t understand the question clearly. Scoring 49 ODI tons is not an easy job to do, Virat is one of the brilliant cricketers in the world, later I realized what I said was absolutely wrong,” he said, as quoted by Sri Lanka’s Asian Mirror.
“I now feel I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did,” said Mendis, recognizing the need for a more composed response to cricketing achievements, even from opponents.
Kohli, meanwhile, had said he felt “honoured” to equal “hero” Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 one-day international hundreds; he was named the player of the match following India’s 243-run World Cup rout of fellow semi-finalists South Africa. Kohli had also received a congratulatory tweet from Tendulkar himself.
“Tendulkar’s tweet is quite special,” Kohli had said. “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.”