Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Joe Root, Marnus Labuschagne and Babar Azam. These modern-day greats make the experience of watching cricket wholesome and the fans keep on debating on who is the best batter among this lot. Kohli, who was a runaway favourite for being the best batter, suffered a blip in form after November 2019 and he failed to register a single century since then. He finally broke the dry spell in the Asia Cup which was held earlier this year, and that was also his first T20I century.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell has looked at all these players, and he says, “from among these players on their best days, it’s hard to surpass the highly competitive Kohli.”
“Kohli is a fine player with a great stroke range, a highly competitive nature, and a thoughtful approach to batting. When asked why he doesn’t indulge in typical short-form risky shots, he replied: “I don’t want them to creep into my Test game.” However, whatever the case – the ageing process, or his having retired as captain – Kohli’s output has started to wane and he needs to rekindle the magic,” Chappell wrote in his column for ESPNcricinfo.
“It’s hard to choose the best player from that talented group. And when you consider that some old-timers preferred Victor Trumper’s artistic style over the acknowledged best batter, Sir Donald Bradman, the difficulty is not surprising. From among these players on their best days, it’s hard to surpass the highly competitive Kohli. His twin centuries in a failed but brave victory attempt at Adelaide Oval in 2014 remain my favourite innings among those produced by this group,” he stated further.
Former England Test captain Joe Root is now leading the run-charts among these batters and earlier this year, he also went past the 10,000-run mark in the longest format.
“Root comfortably heads the list on both runs scored and centuries made, and has also played the most innings. He has an engaging desire to score and collects runs all round the wicket, with a wide array of shots. He is renowned for compiling centuries but he is the only player in this period to reach double figures in terms of hundreds made,” said Chappell.
“Nevertheless, his inability to score a century in Australia despite having played 27 innings there overall is damaging. He has got to 50 on nine occasions without converting any of those into a century. A string of low scores at home against South Africa’s strong pace attack this year is also a warning,” he added.
Talking about Babar, Chappell said: “Babar is a complete player with his flowing drives and all-round shot range. His footwork is neat and there is an enjoyable artistry that makes his batting compulsive viewing. To round out the picture, he has a game that fits all three formats but his Test batting, with an ability to compile centuries, stands out.”
“Josh Hazlewood dominated Babar in Australia in 2016-17, and this created some concerns about his ability on bouncy pitches. However, on his second tour of Australia he produced a couple of gems to enhance his reputation as a player to follow,” he added.
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