For long, there has been a debate about whether the world’s best batsman among the current crop is Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Joe Root or Steven Smith.
If there is to be a serious discussion, the parameters have to be similar in terms of conditions, if not bowling attacks. India’s ongoing home season—comprising 13 Tests against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia—provides this setting. One by one, Kohli will come face to face with Williamson, Root and Smith, in that order. He might have the advantage of playing in home conditions, but his Test credentials are the weakest among the four, with the flop show in England in 2014 always a prime talking point.
That series was a nightmare for Kohli, and since then, the Indian Test captain has always been considered susceptible to the moving ball. Despite an excellent outing in Australia (2014-15), these doubts haven’t receded. While home conditions are likely to favour Kohli, Williamson, Root and Smith have been impressive in their few outings in the alien environment of the subcontinent.
“Kohli’s ODI (One Day International) career till this stage has been incredible. We also know what he did in this year’s IPL (Indian Premier League). He is an ultra-skilled and talented player,” former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting told reporters on a recent visit to India, without committing himself to an answer on who the best batsman in the world is.
Kohli did score his maiden double hundred in the Test series against the West Indies this year, perhaps his most fluent innings so far. It has put the Indian captain in a good spot, both in terms of batting and leadership. But does this put him in pole position to accept the challenge of his three visiting rivals? Going by Kohli’s performance in the first Test against New Zealand (27 runs against Williamson’s 100 in two innings at Kanpur), the Indian skipper might want to rein in his attacking shots early on in the innings.
Chetan Narula is the author of Skipper—A Definitive Account Of India’s Greatest Captains.