New Delhi: Virat Kohli has got stiff competition from his peers in international cricket and whoever out of them "masters the mind" best will end up having a better career, feels Australian great Ricky Ponting.
Brett Lee recently said Kohli is best in the business currently, ignoring the likes of Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson. His longtime captain Ponting, however, feels it is still not time to settle the "best batsman" debate.
"To tell you the truth, I don't really care (who the best batsmen is at the moment). I just love to see all these guys playing (Kohli, Smith, Williamson and Root). There are a number of current players who are probably on a similar career path," said Ponting, who is in India promoting his home state of Tasmania as its brand ambassador.
"Kohli probably has got age on his side. His ODI career till this stage has been incredible. We also know what he did in last year's (sic) IPL (hitting four hundreds). He is an ultra-skilled and talented player. More importantly, he has got the attitude to want to be the best he can be and wants to lead his country in the best way possible.
"Smith and Williamson are in the same boat. Whoever I guess masters the mind games the best will be the one who ends up with the best career record," the two-time World Cup winning captain further said.
For the record, Kohli has hit 37 international hundreds while Root, Smith and Williamson have 18, 20 and 21 centuries to their names respectively.
While all four of them have played similar number of Tests, Kohli has played ODI cricket a lot more than his contemporaries, having already slammed 25 centuries.
The next question for Ponting was on the Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar comparison. The Australian, who himself has 71 international tons --- second only to Tendulkar, said it is too early to compare the two Indians.
"I would say lets wait till Virat finishes his career. Virat is still very young. He could have a bad injury tomorrow and not play another game and then probably there will be no comparison with Sachin having played 200 Tests and Virat 50 or 60 odd. So there will be no comparison," said Ponting.
He also gave his thoughts on the proposed two-tier system in Tests but ended up criticising ODI cricket.
"Look I am all for adding as much context to all formats of the game as possible. The Test championship and the two division competition have been talked about for a long time and here we are now, still have not been able to come up with the right program.
"I think the question is more important for ODI cricket than Tests. ODI cricket is the format which is lacking the most context at the moment. You have a one off series, like Sri Lanka played Australia recently. It doesn't mean anything. Both teams want to win the series but there is nothing else riding on it. It is a great challenge (to come up with the right program for all formats)," said the 41-year-old.
Ponting also welcomed Anil Kumble's appointment as the head coach of the Indian team.
"Anil's appointment has been a good one for Indian cricket. He has been one of the stalwarts of the game. He has obviously had great success both as player and captain.
"I got the chance to work with him at Mumbai Indians. He has got great knowledge of the game. But it is down to the players to say and comment how great he is a coach. From the outside, you have no idea," he reckoned.
Talking about Kohli taking over captaincy in all three formats, Ponting said he doesn't see that happening anytime soon with MS Dhoni still going strong in limited overs format.
"It is up to the BCCI, what they think about having separate captains. It also depends on whether Dhoni thinks it is the right time to step aside. It doesn't seem like that he is going to retire anytime soon. It seems he has still got the passion and desire to captain India in limited overs format.
"As far as captaining in all format is concerned, I would say it does take a toll on you. It (whether you okay with it or not) depends on the kind of character you are as captain. Steve Smith is captaining in all three formats. It is a great challenge," he said.
Among other issues concerning international cricket, Ponting spoke his mind on day-night Tests and how the modern-day batsmen are not as technically sound as the ones from his playing days.
"We all know Test cricket has been on the wane in recent times. So you have to try something different. We have had (day-night Test) once in Adelaide last year.
"Once again I am all for what fans and administrators think is right for the game. If the fans want day night Test cricket, then the players and administrators have to do all to deliver it to them.
"Having said that, some players have been a little negative about day night cricket, as it is not traditional way the game is played. But if fans are telling us that they want something different, then it needs to taken seriously. I feel more interaction is needed with general public and administrators of the game. To me that question (what they want to see) has not yet been answered by the public," felt Ponting.
On the impact of T20 on the current generation, he said: "The Test match techniques of our young players are probably not where it used to be. When I played the game, I learnt first how not to get out and then accumulate runs. These days the guys are not worried about getting out. That is why you see some of them struggling in foreign conditions".
When asked about Australia's recent 0-3 defeat against Sri Lanka, Ponting said the team will learn from that and will hopefully fare better in the away series against India early next year.
"If you look at one series in isolation, then it looks exceptionally bad. But at the end of the day, the Australian team has been number one, two or three in the last 10 years with the currently being the World Cup holder in ODIs.
"Now we have bounced back to win the ODI series in Sri Lanka (4-1). Trust me it is not all doom and gloom. We have seen very talented players from Australia in the last two-three seasons. So it is as bad people would like to think. We are playing India later in the season, once again it will be a great challenge for Australia," he added.