India batting legend Sachin Tendulkar on Monday said he noticed the aggressive "spark" in Virat Kohli when he made his India debut and his never-say-die attitude has changed the players in Indian dressing room for the good. Kohli on Sunday slammed his 31st century in his 200th ODI against New Zealand, albeit in a losing cause. The 28-year-old raced past former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting, and is now only behind Tendulkar, who has 49 ODI hundreds to his name.
"His (Kohli's) attitude hasn't changed since he got into the team. I noticed that spark in him which many guys were not fond of and there were many guys who were criticising him for that," Tendulkar said during the launch of The Great Indian Cricket Story.
Tendulkar and legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar were interacting with Harsha Bhogle during the launch of "Democracy's XI - The Great Indian Cricket Story" penned by journalist Rajdeep Sardesai at the Royal Opera House.
"And today that has become the strength of the Indian team. He hasn't changed much but people around him have changed. His attitude has changed only because of his performances and it is extremely crucial for a player to have that freedom to express himself," the legendary batsman added.
Tendulkar also said that the present Indian team is lot more balanced as a unit.
"I feel today we have got great balance in the team with a lot of spinners that can bat, lot of seamers that can bat. We saw what Bhuvneshwar (Kumar) did yesterday, people like him (Bhuvneshwar) and Hardik Pandya are going to change the balance when we start travelling," he said.
India rode on a patient century from Kohli to post 280/8 against New Zealand in the first of the three-match series.
Kohli scored 121 runs and his 125-ball knock included nine hits to the fence and two sixes.
Chasing a challenging 281, Tom Latham and Ross Taylor stitched a 200-run stand for the fourth wicket to guide New Zealand to a comprehensive six-wicket victory over the hosts. The visitors overtook India's total of 280/8 with six balls to spare.
Latham, who remained unbeaten on 103, smashed the opposition bowlers all over the park to notch up eight boundaries and two sixes in his 102-ball innings. Taylor (95) used his experience from the other end to keep the scoreboard ticking, punishing the loose deliveries.
With this win, New Zealand have taken a 1-0 lead in the three-match ODI series.
(With PTI inputs)