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Steven Smith vs Virat Kohli

The competition which has reached awesome heights

The history of World cricket has witnessed several gripping personal batting competitions across eras . After Bradman had monopolized batting like only he could before 1950s ,we witnessed several personal contests in subsequent eras like Richards and Gavaskar in 1970s and Lara and Sachin in 1990-2000s . On similar lines we are witnessing a tremendous personal contest since the last 5 years between two current legends of the game, Steven Smith and Virat Kohli.

First let’s look into the batting styles of both players. Kohli is the more orthodox batsman with copybook technique, more side on than Smith and very well balanced in the crease. He is excellent both off front and backfoot and has got the best cover drive in the world currently. Very good with his cuts and his on side wristy shots . A fine player of the  pull shot which he employed well in Australia vs Mitchel Jonhson in 2014-15. He does not employ the sweep shot much. His weakness has been outside off stump in seaming and swinging conditions and he was found out in England in 2014 . In the next England series however, he handled it better by cutting out his cover drives. Normally a fine player of spin but he has tended to struggle on spinning pitches occasionally.

Smith by contrast has an intugruing batting technique which is subject to massive scrutiny by former greats in recent times. Cricket world is astonished that how with such unorthodox and at times wierd technique, Smith is not only surviving but dominating test cricket . Currently he plays totally off backfoot and goes back and across towards his offstump ,leaving his leg stump exposed frequently. So whenever bowlers are sighting the opening and tending to bowl to his leg stump , Smith is mentally ready to flick them off his pads for easy runs. Side by side he looks solid outside off too. Jofra Archer tried to rattle him with bouncers in recent Ashes and due to his kind of backfoot technique Smith had difficulty in avoiding them at Lords and got hit. However he tweaked his technique against the short ball slightly which allowed him to leave it better by dropping his shoulders and rattled up almost 400 runs in last 2 ashes tests playing Archer with ease. He is a tremendous player of spin bowling and scored heavily in India on rank turners and in this area he scores over Kohli.  Very good on all the shots in the game with uncanny ability to find gaps and get the fielding side on the wrong foot. Thus he seems to have great peripheral vision.  The great Tendulkar on observing Smith’s batting put it very aptly —” complicated technique with organised mindset”. With his penchant of playing off his pads right in front of stumps, past great yorker length bowlers like Akram and Waqar would have fancied their chances against him and one feels that when India face Australia next time in tests the big rivalry  between Jasprit Bumrah and Steve Smith is waiting to happen.

With the game being played across 3 formats ,the players had judged across all of the formats .Hence first let us judge both Kohli and Smith in the game’s most testing format– Test cricket.

Virat Kohli is 251 runs short of 7000 test runs in 79 tests with 25 tons and boasting an average of 53–fantastic numbers these. Having a great home batting average as 64 , Kohli would have surely liked his batting average to show more than his current 46 in overseas  like other Indian greats Sachin, Dravid and Gavaskar all of whom averaged 50 plus abroad.  By contrast Smith is just 27 runs short of 7000 runs in 68 tests (11 fewer than Virat) at an astonishing average of 65 (2nd only to Don and 12 more than Kohli) .At home Smith averages an insane 77 whereas in abroad he currently  averages an awesome 60 plus (14 more than Kohli !!) .

Virat Kohli in tests :

Career averages
Span Mat Runs HS Bat Av 100 Wkts BBI Bowl Av 5 Ct St Ave Diff
overall 2011-2019 79 6749 243 53.14 25 0 0 75 0 Profile
Career summary
v Australia 2011-2019 19 1604 169 48.60 7 0 0 18 0 view innings
v Bangladesh 2015-2017 2 256 204 85.33 1 1 0 view innings
v England 2012-2018 19 1570 235 49.06 5 14 0 view innings
v New Zealand 2012-2016 7 735 211 66.81 3 0 0 9 0 view innings
v South Africa 2013-2018 9 758 153 47.37 2 0 0 7 0 view innings
v Sri Lanka 2015-2017 9 1004 243 77.23 5 0 0 9 0 view innings
v West Indies 2011-2019 14 822 200 43.26 2 0 0 17 0 view innings
in Australia 2011-2019 12 1274 169 55.39 6 0 0 10 0 view innings
in Bangladesh 2015-2015 1 14 14 14.00 0 0 0 view innings
in England 2014-2018 10 727 149 36.35 2 5 0 view innings
in India 2011-2018 34 3105 243 64.68 11 0 0 34 0 view innings
in New Zealand 2014-2014 2 214 105* 71.33 1 0 0 2 0 view innings
in South Africa 2013-2018 5 558 153 55.80 2 0 0 4 0 view innings
in Sri Lanka 2015-2017 6 394 103* 43.77 2 6 0 view innings
in West Indies 2011-2019 9 463 200 35.61 1 14 0
home  2011-2018 34 3105 243 64.68 11 0 0 34 0 view innings
away 2011-2019 45 3644 200 46.12 14 0 0 41 0

Smith, particularly in the last 5 years have massively dominated test cricket with Bradmanesque statistics in many big ticket series which includes Ashes and India series. If we go by countrywise figure comparisons in their respective tables we will find Smith leading Virat comfortably against all top nations except South Africa against whom Virat averages 47 to Smith’s 41. Same trends are observed in abroad averages in respective countries where Smith leads comfortably in all major countries except in South Africa where Virat averages 55 to Smith’s 41. According to most top past and present cricketers , currently England and South Africa are more tougher locations for batters to succeed than other countries . And in South Africa ,there is more pace and bounce in their pitches with a traditionally good bowling attack that the Proteas always produced. Though people remembers Virat’s 100s in Australia, South Africa and England, his 2 match winning knocks of 54 and 41 at the Wanderers in 2018 were of the highest quality as those were scored against a lethal bowling attack on a diabolic pitch where the balls were exploding on batsmen’s body from good length spot  and hit many batters on the body as the test was in danger of getting abandoned at one stage.

Another area where Virat scored over Smith was his returns in decisive  4th innings where he averages  49 compared to Smith’s 31. Thus in 2 parameters Virat leads Smith in test cricket- better record in South Africa and 4th innings returns. In every other parameters in test cricket , Smith leads Virat by big margins , including his contributions in winning causes in Tests.  Of the two, Smith has overall showed more patience and resilience and seems to tweak his technique more easily ,when he feels that the bowlers are getting the measure of him in one area. And who will forget his roaring return to test cricket after his one year ban from ball tampering saga. After being brutally disgraced and demoralised in the aftermath of that infamous ball tampering episode, Smith made a stirring comeback in the high octane ashes series ,with the English crowd booing him at every oppurtunity.  His comeback with a massive 774 runs at 110 average and 3 tons in just 4 ashes tests was a script that can be found in fairytales. And what was more ,in just 3 tests,he retained back his number 1 ranking as the best test match batsman ,pushing Kohli back to 2nd spot . Also his achievements were made even more gigantic by the fact that he had to face the new ball at the start in each of his innings ,as he was holding an extremely fragile batting lineup on his own with great powers of concentration and skill . Moreover ,time and again Smith proved that he has the sense for the big occasion. Thus all things considered, Steven Smith is presently the finest batsman in test cricket, and some distance ahead of the next best Virat Kohli.


Steven Smith in Tests:

Career averages
Span Mat Runs HS Bat Av 100 Wkts BBI Bowl Av 5 Ct St Ave Diff
overall 2010-2019 68 6973 239 64.56 26 17 3/18 55.76 0 108 0 8.80 Profile
Career summary
v Bangladesh 2017-2017 2 119 58 29.75 0 3 0 view innings
v England 2010-2019 27 2800 239 65.11 11 6 3/18 61.00 0 35 0 4.11 view innings
v India 2013-2017 10 1429 192 84.05 7 1 1/63 149.00 0 16 0 -64.94 view innings
v New Zealand 2015-2016 5 543 138 67.87 2 0 0 12 0 view innings
v Pakistan 2010-2017 7 715 165* 59.58 2 6 3/51 40.16 0 11 0 19.41 view innings
v South Africa 2014-2018 9 623 100 41.53 1 3 1/3 32.33 0 14 0 9.20 view innings
v Sri Lanka 2016-2016 3 247 119 41.16 1 0 0 10 0 view innings
v West Indies 2015-2016 5 497 199 165.66 2 1 1/2 44.00 0 7 0 121.66 view innings
in Australia 2010-2018 29 3090 239 77.25 13 2 1/3 191.00 0 52 0 -113.74 view innings
in Bangladesh 2017-2017 2 119 58 29.75 0 3 0 view innings
in England 2010-2019 16 1727 215 59.55 6 8 3/18 27.37 0 17 0 32.17 view innings
in India 2013-2017 6 660 178* 60.00 3 1 1/63 63.00 0 10 0 -2.99 view innings
in New Zealand 2016-2016 2 262 138 131.00 1 5 0 view innings
in South Africa 2014-2018 6 411 100 41.10 1 2 1/30 44.50 0 9 0 -3.39 view innings
in Sri Lanka 2016-2016 3 247 119 41.16 1 0 0 10 0 view innings
in U.A.E. 2014-2014 2 174 97 43.50 0 3 1/41 48.33 0 1 0 -4.83 view innings
in West Indies 2015-2015 2 283 199 141.50 1 1 1/2 18.00 0 1 0 123.50
home                 2010-2018 29 3090 239 77.25 13 2 1/3 191.00 0 52 0 -113.74
away 2013-2019 35 3609 215 60.15 13 9 3/18 37.66 0 54 0 22.48
neutral 2010-2014 4 274 97 34.25 0 6 3/51 37.83 0 2 0 -3.58

 

However ,if we shift our focus to white ball cricket, ie ODIs and T20s ,we will find an exactly a different scenario as the tables below suggests:

 

M Inn NO Runs HS Avg BF SR 100 200 50 4s 6s
Virat Kohli:
ODI 239 230 39 11520 183 60.31 12359 93.21 43 0 54 1085 120
T20I 71 66 18 2441 90 50.85 1796 135.91 0 0 22 235 58
M Inn NO Runs HS Avg BF SR 100 200 50 4s 6s
Steven Smith:
ODI 118 104 12 3810 164 41.41 4414 86.32 8 0 23 322 33
T20I 30 25 5 431 90 21.55 352 122.44 0 0 2 34 11

 

It is clear from the statistics that Virat Kohli reigns supreme in both ODIs and T20s and here Smith’s numbers pales in comparison, specially in T20s where Smith averages a mediocre 21 comparing to Kohli’s 50 which is an incredible achievement in T20s as the batters are always going for the shots in shortest version and so maintaining an average around 50 in T20s is astonishing. Also in T20s Kohli plays orthodox cricket and combines power with technical correctness brilliantly. Smith by contrast has played lesser T20s but even then his performance standards hardly matched Kohli in the shortest version. Strike rates ,which matters most in T20s also differs a lot. Smith’s 122  way behind Kohli’s 136 . It appears that Smith tends to favour the longer versions more, hence just 30 T20 internationals for him till date compared to 71 of Kohli. Also Kohli has performed well in the T20 world cups and performed in big games.

In ODIs Smith averages a much healthier 41 for his 3810  runs in 118 ODIs with 8 tons and 86 strike rate.  Virat has played 239   ODIs and scored a staggering 11520 runs at an awesome average of 60 and 93 strike rate with sensational figures of 43 tons and well on his way to surpass the great Sachin Tendulkar. Once again massive differences in figures even though Virat played lot more games. Kohli’s average and strike rate in ODIs ,much ahead of Smith and Kohli further has shown his mastery in huge chases. He has been very successful against Lasith Malinga ,one of the greatest ever fast bowlers in white ball cricket. No one can forget Kohli’s lethal innings of 183 vs Lankans in 2012 in triangulars in Australia.  The Indian captain phases his ODI knocks beautifully in chases, starting steadily and then picking up in several gears as his innings progresses. His wide array of shots (mostly orthodox)  and timing with awesome powerful wrists tended to decimate the best of bowling attacks. Only one area Smith has upstaged Kohli in ODIs and that is his performances in World cup semis and finals. In 2015 semis Smith scored a 100 vs India and another 50 plus in the finals and again in 2019 World cup,  Smith was the leading Australian run getter in their World cup semi final loss to England. Kohli by contrast failed in all the semis of 2011, 2015 and 2019, getting out in single digit scores to left arm fast bowlers though he played well for his 35 in the 2011 finals . Apart from that Kohli has overwhelmingly dominated ODI cricket in which Smith has got a lot of catching up to do. Rather than Smith , it was AB DeVilliers who has and could have given some complex to Kohli in shorter versions had he carried on playing international cricket. Another player who is giving strong competition to Kohli in white ball cricket is his teammate Rohit Sharma who averages 49 in ODIs and 32 in T20s.

On overall records taking into account all 3 formats, Kohli leads Smith.   In the white ball cricket Kohli has marched well ahead whereas in test cricket . Smith  has scored over Kohli in most parameters and is the undisputed number 1.  Both cricketers have captivated their fans and the cricket public with their exploits and more are to follow as they both reach 30, widely considered as the best phase for a quality batsman.

Overall averages:(Test, ODIs,T20I combined):

Virat Kohli:

Career averages
Span Mat Runs HS Bat Av 100 Wkts BBI Bowl Av 5 Ct St Ave Diff
overall 2008-2019 389 20710 243 56.58 68 8 1/13 117.37 0 232 0 -60.79

Steven Smith:

Career averages
Span Mat Runs HS Bat Av 100 Wkts BBI Bowl Av 5 Ct St Ave Diff
overall 2010-2019 216 11214 239 50.97 34 62 3/16 36.90 0 191 0 14.06
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Amitava Mukherjee

A commerce graduate with work experience in Banking sector. An avid sports enthusiast. Big fan of soccer cricket and tennis

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