New Delhi: India's Test skipper Virat Kohli's ability as a batsman has often been compared to AB de Villiers by cricket experts.
However, it is now clear that the South African is ahead of Kohli and is widely regarded as the best batsman in the world across all formats.
AB's popularity among fans was never in doubt, but the ongoing tour of Proteas in India has seen rise of the right-hander as some sort of a cult figure.
From Kanpur's Green Park to Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium, Indian fans have cheered every run and ton of De Villiers like one of their own.
Having surpassed Kohli, De Villiers' connect with fans and his batting record is now being compared with legendary Sachin Tendulkar.
Speaking to the Times of India, former South African pacer Fanie de Villiers said AB is going to be more popular than Sachin Tendulkar in world cricket.
"AB is going to be more popular than Sachin Tendulkar in world cricket. That's the calibre of a person we are talking about; that's the cricketer we are talking about; that's the loveable, marketable player we are talking about. He is in the Sachin Tendulkar category.
If you are in the Tendulkar category, when it comes to marketing the game of cricket, you are special. You can compare his records with Tendulkar; you feel this guy is even better than Tendulkar in ODIs. You can compare his popularity around the world and at home, he is in the category of Sachin Tendulkar.
It's a privilege to be in that class or category on and off the field. He is very much the same as Tendulkar. He hasn't got tattoos, he hasn't got earrings; he hasn't got that flashy image. He is not a fashion freak and all that shows what kind of a character he is.
The moment you start going for all those things, you develop a flaw in your personality. You are trying to show not what you are. AB hasn't got any of those things and Sachin had nothing of that either. Sampras had nothing of that, Federer had nothing of that. When you're a top sportsman like Sachin Tendulkar and AB de Villiers, you don't need to do anything like that. You are already very popular and that's a lesson for all those people full of tattoos, full of hair styles and full of earrings," he said.
Fanie also stated that he wasn't surprised with the Indian fans rooting for the mercurial batsman.
"Who else do the Indian public cheer for as much as AB? Not many. AB is that sort of cricketer. He should have been Test and T20 captain as well. They deprived AB of not captaining South Africa in all formats. ODI cricket is always difficult but I think you can truly rate the captain in Tests.
There are too many variables in ODI cricket. I know for the fact that players enjoy AB's company more than anybody else; players will support him more than anybody else; he is good enough to be a captain; he is the marketing icon of South African cricket and that is the captain. The captain is just judged on how good he is on-field, off the field, has marketing appeal and experience. He has got everything," he added.
Whether AB goes on to be more popular than Sachin Tedulkar remains to be seen, but one thing is clear, no visiting cricketer has been showered with such love and adulation by the Indian cricket fans like the South African has.