Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting has said that India‘s Virat Kohli is the best batsman operating currently in the world of cricket. However, the Australian believes compatriot Steve Smith would be worthy of that accolade had he not been handed a one-year ban by Cricket Australia.
The ‘Punter’ was asked to pick his current best batsman in the world during Channel Seven’s launch of the cricket season.
“Right now, he (Virat Kohli) is because Steve Smith is not there,” Ponting was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“But if Steve Smith was playing now, I’d have him as the number one player in the world.
“That’s how high in regard I hold Steve Smith – what he’s done the last three or four years with his game and (he’s been) able to lead an Australian team to so many wins the way he has batted.”
“The Ashes summer last year was just some of the best and purest batting as you’re ever going to see. To do it on the big stage in an Ashes series, and to do it on the first day of an Ashes series when it counts the most, says a lot about him,” Ponting added.
Smith has been away from international cricket ever since the ball-tampering scandal that erupted at Cape Town during Australia’s tour of South Africa earlier this year.
The-then Australia skipper was handed a one-year ban from international and domestic cricket by Cricket Australia with his deputy David Warner receiving the same punishment. Protagonist of the saga Cameron Bancroft meanwhile, was handed a nine-month ban for his role.
Smith and Warner have both been in action lately in the inaugural Global T20 Canada league.
Atherton, who was speaking during the UK launch of former India skipper Sourav Ganguly’s book ‘A century is not enough’ at Lord’s when he was asked about the threat the launch of new T20 leagues posed to Test cricket.
“Like any other industry, cricket has been disrupted. IPL has been a disruptive event, giving players options and opportunities,” the Englishman was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
“We still sell Test cricket well here in England. The grounds in India may look empty (during Test matches) but we have to bear in mind that those are much larger grounds. The game has always adapted and will continue to do so. I remain optimistic about the future,” he added.
Ganguly, on his part, suggested that day-night Tests were the way forward to revive interest in the five-day game.
“It is difficult for working people to spend the whole day away from work at a cricket ground,” the former India skipper stated.
Former Sri Lanka stalwart Kumar Sangakkara too was a part of the discussion and he mentioned the need for Test cricket to become financially viable in the modern times.
“There is still a great love for Test cricket. But everything evolves and moves on. We just have to change our mindset,” the Sri Lankan said.
The two sides begin the five-match series on Friday with Pakistan going into the opener at Queens Sports Club as strong favourites following their T20 tri-series triumph.
They will also take on a Zimbabwe side who are missing several key players with the likes of Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza absent after a dispute with the Zimbabwe Cricket board. But Sarfraz believes his team will have to be on top of their game to beat the hosts and register their first ODI win in 2018 after being beaten 5-0 by in a bilateral series against New Zealand.
“The one-day series is important, and it’s not easy to play Zimbabwe in their home conditions,” said Sarfraz.
“The matches are also starting very early. It’s probably even more cold in Bulawayo too, so it’s not going to be an easy series.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe coach Lalchand Rajput promised that his charges will give a ‘real fight’ in every game.
“Pakistan are very strong but our players are a little bit confident,” Rajput said.
“The confidence we take from the T20I series will be shown in the ODI series as well. I am sure this team will definitely push Pakistan and make a real fight of the ODI series.”