Comparison between the two rising sensations has always been an intrigued matter to have banter upon. And it becomes more engaging when this tug of war takes place between the two world favourites Steven Smith and Virat Kohli. Steven Smith from Australia in the Gabba Ashes Test showcased an outstanding unbeaten 141 in tough conditions. In the ashes stint, he displayed what should be the defining innings of the match. Meanwhile, in Nagpur, Virat Kohli continued his run-glut, admittedly in easier conditions and against a toothless bowling attack. The runs were made in vastly different circumstances, but they encapsulated the way both have led from the front.
The similarities are remarkable. Both started their captaincy stints in the same series – the India tour of Australia in 2014-15 – and scored hundreds in their first innings in charge. Kohli made three-figures in each of his first three innings, and Smith had three centuries in his first five. Since then, both have gone on a relentless run-fest.
After 27 Tests as captain, Smith has 13 hundred and averages more than 72; Kohli has 12 centuries in 31 matches as captain, averaging 63.93. They have won three Man-of-the-Match awards as captain, though Smith will probably add another for his effort in Brisbane.
Among all captains with 500-plus runs – there are 137 players in this list – Smith and Kohli are in the top five, as is Kane Williamson.
And over the last couple of years, they are clearly the most prolific batsmen, with averages more than 68.
Kohli and the art of scoring hundreds
Kohli’s 213 in Nagpur is his fourth ton of Tests in 2017, and his 10th across formats this year. That makes him the most prolific captain, in terms of hundreds scored in a calendar year. He went past Ricky Ponting, who made nine in both 2005 and 2006, and Graeme Smith, who made nine in 2005.
Kohli’s century here is his 12th as Test captain – five of them are doubles. That equals another record: Brian Lara is the only other captain to make five hundred; Don Bradman, Michael Clarke, and Smith have four each.
Kohli is already the top centurion among Indian captains. Sunil Gavaskar had 11 from 47 Tests, but Kohli has already gone past that in only his 31st Test at the helm. In ODIs, he is only one behind Sourav Ganguly’s record of 11.
These numbers boil down to Kohli’s amazing conversion rates. Of the 16 times, he has gone past 50 as a captain, he has converted 12 into hundreds, which is easily the best among the 18 captains who scored 10 or more Test hundreds. Even Bradman couldn’t achieve this rate: he scored 14 hundred out of the 21 times he passed 50.
Steve Smith and his remarkable batting stands
On the other end, Steve Smith is one fine inning away from leaping to the second spot on the all-time batting rankings behind only the legendary Sir Donald Bradman.
Smith on Tuesday extended his lead atop the ICC’s Test batting rankings following his stunning, unbeaten 141 which proved the difference in Australia’s heavy 10-wicket Gabba Test victory to draw first blood from the Ashes.
Incredibly, champion Australian batsman and national selector Greg Chappell predicted Smith had his best cricket ahead of him – despite already “leaving everyone for dead”.
The innings gained him five points and lifted him to 941 rankings points and extended his lead at the top to 53 points. It is the second time Smith has reached 941 rankings points, having done so earlier this year during Australia’s tour of India. His tally is the fifth-highest in history — bettered only by the incomparable Bradman (961), English duo Len Hutton (945), Jack Hobbs (942) and Australia’s Ricky Ponting (942).
Greg Chappell with his remark on Smith
National selector Greg Chappell, considered by many to be Australia’s finest batsman outside of Bradman, was blown away by Smith’s performances. After 57 Tests, Smith averages an extraordinary 61.23 to 21 Test centuries. By comparison, at the same point in their careers, Chappell himself averaged 53 while Ponting Australia’s leading Test runscorer and a genuine colossus of the modern game averaged 46.
“He’s a very, very good player and he’s playing exceptionally well at the moment. His self-management is exceptional. Also, the way he dealt with the plans England shot him with just showed great maturity and great skill. Who knows where he could finish up? You would expect him to get better from here. At 28 years of age, he is in his prime. It’ll be very interesting to see where he does get to because he’s leaving everyone dead.” Chappell told SEN’s The Run Home.
Ricky Ponting, scared of Smith’s in-field dominations
Australian legend Ricky Ponting also admitted his Australian Test record of 41 centuries was in danger with Smith looming large. He had even made the extraordinary call that Smith could finish as the game’s greatest ever batsman.
“Hopefully (my record of 41 centuries is) in danger, I’d love to see that,” Ponting told cricket.com.au. If he keeps going like he is, he’s going to catch me in four or five years. It’s well and truly in danger. What we’re seeing is potentially one of, if not the best batsman that the game has ever seen.”
As already mentioned comparing this two yet-to-be-legend cricketers of the same era is simply very tricky. Maybe this is what makes the ICC’s historical ranking system so interesting. The ratings are always based on a complex statistical breakdown. This breakdown doesn’t only factorise the runs scored by these batsmen but also the quality of an attack. The level of run-scoring in each match and even whether they were the match-winning knocks or not also played pivotally. We can only hope this healthy competition between these two stars coming out strong each season would continue for eternity. And we will get to witness some great knocks which as a spectator all of us will forever remember.