It has been a summer dominated by Steve Smith alone with the Australian batsman reaffirming his credentials as the best Test batsman in the business with his Herculean displays in the recently concluded Ashes series.
Smith’s extraordinary return of 774 runs in just seven innings at an average greater than 110 has catapulted him back to the top of the ICC Test rankings with the right-hander leaving Virat Kohli in his wake.
While Smith has rightly drawn all the plaudits for his sensational return to Test cricket after a gap of nearly 16 months, Kohli has sent in a timely reminder as to why he is still the best all-format batsman in the game by some distance.
The India skipper was in his element on Wednesday in the first T20 against South Africa and struck an unbeaten 72 to set up a comprehensive seven-wicket win for his side at Dharamsala.
That effortless innings from Kohli has seen his T20I average soar beyond 50 once again after a total of 71 matches. The right-hander is now the only batsman in history to hold a batting average above 50 in all three formats of the game.
Tests: 53.14— ICC (@ICC) September 18, 2019
Virat Kohli once again averages over 50 in all three international formats 🤯 pic.twitter.com/3R8GnYwtvE
To put Kohli’s record into context, just three players average more than 50 in two formats of the game, let alone three. None of his ‘Fab Four’ competitors like Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root hold a batting average greater than 50 in more than one format.
Apart from Kohli, only three batsmen – Babar Azam, Matthew Hayden and AB de Villiers – have managed an average of more than 50 simultaneously across two formats.
To be able to dominate to such an extent in each of the three formats is a testament to Kohli’s adaptability and temperament with the India star getting even better with each passing year. When one sees the likes of Jason Roy and Aaron Finch struggle massively in their transition from limited-overs to red-ball cricket, Kohli’s achievement becomes all the more staggering.
Here, we take a closer look at his numbers in the three international formats.
Kohli has been relatively a late bloomer in the Test format compared to his Fab Four counterparts with the India batsman really coming into his own in 2016 despite making his debut in 2011.
The 30-year-old failed to find his feet instantly in red-ball cricket even though his talent was there for all to see. However, since the turn of 2016, he has racked up 14 Test tons and 10 half-centuries in just 63 innings with some memorable displays on the overseas tours of South Africa, England, Australia and the West Indies.
Only Smith with 26 centuries has registered more Test tons than Kohli (25) among active players with the India superstar now nearing 7,000 runs in the format. With the increased maturity and batting craft that Kohli has shown in the Test circuit in the last three years, his best days are most certainly still ahead of him and he is on course to establish himself as one of the all-time greats.
When it comes to the 50-over format, Kohli’s genius has already been established with the India skipper well on his way to overhauling Sachin Tendulkar as the format’s greatest proponent.
He is already eighth on the list of the all-time top-scorers in ODIs and will most definitely finish in the top-two by the time he calls it a day. With 43 tons and 54 fifties already in just 230 innings, it is only a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ with regards to his pursuit of Tendulkar’s 49 centuries.
That he has done it all with a strike-rate of more than 93 makes Kohli’s ODI numbers all the more mind-boggling. With 17 tons in just 62 innings since the turn of 2017 alone, there is no telling where Kohli’s final century tally will end up by the time he retires!
It would have been easy for Kohli to focus mainly on Tests and ODIs but such is his incredible hunger and drive that he has managed to thrive in equal measure in even the shortest format of the game.
His innings of 72 on Wednesday saw the India man overtake his deputy Rohit Sharma to become the format’s highest run-scorer despite having played 23 innings fewer in comparison.
It was also his 22nd fifty in the format in just 66 innings, which means he registers a half-century in every three innings in T20Is. What makes Kohli’s T20 prowess even more stellar is that he rarely plays an ugly slog or try to force the issue with aggressive shot-making. It is all about conventional batting for the right-hander even in the limited-overs formats and he has mastered the art of racking up the big scores without taking any undue risks.
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