Kohli is all set to play his 100th Test when India take on Sri Lanka in the first match in Mohali, starting Friday (February 4). And the match presents the former India captain another opportunity to reduce the centuries gap with Tendulkar.
Kohli, with 70 international tons, is third in the all-time list of most centuries behind Tendulkar and Australian legend Ricky Ponting. But Kohli, who last scored a century in November 2019, has taken only 508 innings for his 70 hundreds, as against Tendulkar's 100 in 782 and Ponting's 71 in 668.
And invariably, Tendulkar talked about the "numbers" while congratulating Kohli on the approaching landmark.
"What a terrific achievement. I remember first time I heard about you was when we were in Australia in 2007-08," Tendulkar told BCCI.tv. "You guys were playing U-19 WC in Malaysia and there were certain players in the team who were discussing about you, this is one player to watch out for, acchi batting kar leta hai (he bats well).
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Welcome to the 1⃣0⃣0⃣-Test club Virat Kohli 👏 👏#TeamIndia greats share their thoughts on @imVkohli's landmark Test, his achievements & the impact he's had on Indian cricket. 🔝 👍
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"After that we played cricket together for India and not for long but whatever time we spent together, it was evident that you were keen on learning things. You kept working on your game and continued getting better."
Kohli has so far scored 7962 runs in 99 Tests, including 27 hundreds and 28 fifties at an average of 50.39. He also has 12,311 runs with 43 centuries in 260 ODIs and 3,296 runs in 97 T20Is.
Kohli, in fact, was the second Indian captain to lead the U-19 to a World Cup, a feat which was repeated by Yash Dhull in the 2022 edition recently. And Kohli's graduation from the age-group cricket to senior cricket has been a fascinating journey. As Tendulkar said, Kohli continues to get better.
After making his India debut in an ODI against Sri Lanka in 2018, Kohli has become the most recognisable cricketer and arguably the best batter of his era, earning an apt epithet, that of 'King Kohli'. He's been a king of the game, on and off the pitch, leading not only the Indian national team but also redefining how the sport is played with his unrivaled energy.
"It's been fantastic to watch you over the years. Numbers will have their roles and but your real strength is being able to motivate the whole generation," added Tendulkar. "That's been your real strength and your immense contribution to Indian cricket. That is something which I would say is your real success. Wish you many more happy cricketing years, go out and do well."
Tendulkar, who played 200 Test matches, also took the opportunity to share what transpired during an outing in Canberra in 2011.
"To grasp things quickly was your strength and it continued that way. In 2011, we were in Canberra, and I remember there was a Thai restaurant over there and we used to go there, for meals and walk back to the hotel.
"After one such meal as we were walking back to hotel you said, Paaji bahut ho gaya, fitness pe dhyan dena hai (we need to focus on fitness). I have to say you have left no stone unturned as far fitness is concerned, and numbers are there for everyone to see.
"That one particular evening I remember, you said that and achieved your goal."
Fast forward to 2022, Kohli is already a legend. And on Friday, he will become the 12th Indian and the 71st over to play 100 Tests.