02 June 2016
Virat Kohli, who had culminated into a plethora of runs in Twenty20 cricket in recent times, is among the top ten sportspersons of the world, according to a list produced by ESPN, one of the world's largest sports and entertainment broadcasters.
Kohli is No. 8 on a list that has just two cricketers, Mahendra Singh Dhoni being the other. India's limited overs captain is No. 14 on the global list that has football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo as No. 1. Tennis star Sania Mirza is the third Indian on this elite list at No. 41.
There are 92 men and only eight women in the top-100 list based on a formula that combines salaries, endorsements, social media following and Google search popularity.
Kohli's growing popularity reflects on ESPN's list. He is ahead of Colombian and Real Madrid footballer James Rodriguez and tennis' multi Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.
Dhoni remains high on popularity in spite of his limited cricket exposure. He will have few reasons to smile, especially after a forgettable Indian Premier League season that his Rising Pune Supergiants finishing seventh in an eight-team competition.
Recently, batting legend Sunil Gavaskar included the 2011 World Cup-winning captain in his IPL Dream XI, saying that the 34-year-old Dhoni is still India's No. 1 stumper. In Gavaskar's books, Dhoni got the better of better performers like Quinton de Kock (Delhi Daredevils) and Lokesh Rahul (Bangalore).
Kohli has been in the form of his life. The run-machine, who amassed a mammoth 973 runs in the just concluded IPL, was also the Player of the Tournament in the ICC World T20. Kohli recently received a shot in the arm after former Team India director Ravi Shastri endorsed him to lead India in all three formats of the game.
ESPN's Top 20 (in order of ranking): Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Federer, Kevin Durant, Tiger Woods, Virat Kohli (8th), James Rodriguez, Rafael Nadal, Kobe Bryant, Gareth Bale, Phil Mickelson, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (14th), Usain Bolt, Novak Djokovic, Wayne Rooney, Maria Sharapova, Mesut Ozil, Rory McIlroy (20th).