Who’s the best batsman: Smith, Kohli, Root or Williamson?

Kersi Meher-Homji Columnist

By Kersi Meher-Homji, Kersi Meher-Homji is a Roar Expert

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    What a coincidence that the current four top batsmen in Tests and ODIs are captains.

    They are Steve Smith from Australia, Virat Kohli from India, Joe Root from England and Kane Williamson from New Zealand, and it’s debatable who the best of the four is. That is why I have presented their statistics in the two tables below.

    Batting record: Tests

    Players Tests Runs Average Highest Strike Rate 100s 100s/Test
    Smith 61 6057 63.75 239 55.76 23 0.377
    Kohli 66 5554 53.4 243 58.26 21 0.318
    Root 65 5701 53.28 254 55.76 13 0.2
    Williamson 63 5214 50.62 242* 50.51 17 0.27

    Smith and Kohli stand out. Smith has the best batting average and the most number of centuries, and he also has the best century-per-Test rate among the four. Kohli has the highest strike rate.

    (Philip Brown/Getty Images)

    Batting record: ODIs

    Players ODIs Runs Average Highest Strike Rate 100s 100s/ODI
    Smith 108 3431 41.84 164 86.35 8 0.074
    Kohli 208 9588 58.1 183 92.14 35 0.168
    Root 102 4226 50.91 133* 86.79 10 0.098
    Williamson 123 4977 46.51 145* 83.56 10 0.081

    Unlike for the Tests, there is a clear winner in the ODIs: Kohli. It’s because of him as the captain and a batsman that India is ranked number one in Tests and ODIs.

    Skipper Virat Kohli was outstanding in the away ODI series against South Africa, leading India to a first-ever series win (5-1) on Proteas turf. It was a whopping victory thanks to his 558 runs – he had a high score of 160 not out – at 168.00 and his strike rate of 99.46, hitting three centuries at 0.5 century per ODI.

    At the post-match press conference on Friday night after India defeated South Africa by eight wickets in Centurion to win the series 5-1 Kohli said that, “At this stage I don’t feel like competing with anyone.

    “It’s my job. I am supposed to do what I am doing and I am not doing anyone a favour.

    “It’s all about how I prepare before the game and what my work ethics are and how I am feeling on game day. My only motivation is to get into that frame of mind.”

    Kersi Meher-Homji
    Kersi Meher-Homji

    Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.

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    The Crowd Says (78)

    • February 19th 2018 @ 3:28am
      MANISH K RAO said | February 19th 2018 @ 3:28am | ! Report

      Competition is between Smith and Kohli. Smith looks like a great test batsman but Kohli is a complete batsman not just one format player.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 6:35am
        marfu said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:35am | ! Report

        Manish – Yes if the analysis above had included T20 (and I don’t understand why it didn’t), Kohli is king by a comfortable margin..

        • February 19th 2018 @ 7:15am
          Nudge said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:15am | ! Report

          He might be the king by a comfortable margin, but no way I’d take Kohli over Smith. Test match cricket is the pinnacle and you can’t even compare their stats as Smith is just so far in front

          • February 19th 2018 @ 7:27am
            marfu said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:27am | ! Report

            Yes it is a meaningless really to try to compare performances across formats as they are different and agree Tests are the real deal.

          • February 19th 2018 @ 9:11am
            spruce moose said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report


            Test cricket is obviously the pinnacle, but ODI has equal primacy in scheduling and is vital keeping the game financially solvent. ODI’s have also been an accepted part of cricket for over 40 years now.

            And since both tests and ODI’s are going to exist in the near future, if you had to pick just the one, it would to be Kohli.

            • February 19th 2018 @ 12:27pm
              Nudge said | February 19th 2018 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

              As I virtually mentioned in my previous post spruce, Kohli is probably the worlds best batsman. I absolutely love my one day cricket but tests is what I care about the most. So once again no way I’d swap Smith for Kohli. You can’t even compare Kohli to Smith in the test arena, there average’s are just so far apart

              • February 19th 2018 @ 3:51pm
                spruce moose said | February 19th 2018 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

                Their averages are far apart for now…

                It would take a mighty brave person to suggest Smith’s average will be 63 when he leaves South Africa after 4 tests, especially if presented with similar pitches the Indian’s got on their tour.

              • February 19th 2018 @ 4:42pm
                Nudge said | February 19th 2018 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

                You might be a mighty brave person spruce, but you would have been mighty brave to suggest the same if you knew what the wickets were going to be like in India last year as well.
                “Their averages are far apart for now”
                And they will remain far apart for a long time. If Smith’s next 18 test innings are all ducks, he will still have a better test match average than Kohli. I’m thinking that should put into perspective for you, the massive gap between the pair in tests.

          • February 19th 2018 @ 7:33pm
            Simoc said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:33pm | ! Report

            Only to a one eyed Ozzie Nudge. Kohli is the best batsman. Test cricket only enjoys primacy in Australia and England. It is a tired and boring game for the elderly to pass their days while waiting to die.

            • Roar Guru

              February 20th 2018 @ 11:13am
              Matt H said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:13am | ! Report

              So Kohli only to a one-eyed Indian then.

    • February 19th 2018 @ 3:43am
      Mitch said | February 19th 2018 @ 3:43am | ! Report

      Kholi has a 50 average in T20s which is insane. Smith has it for the the tests proving his skill all over the world in very tough conditions. Kholi by far the best in short formats and has proven multiples times he can win games if his own bat. Its two different formats so its unfair to compair however test match is the ultimate test of skill.

    • February 19th 2018 @ 6:14am
      Ouch said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:14am | ! Report

      “Unlike for the Tests, there is a clear winner in the ODIs:”

      There is a clear winner in the tests – Smith. Averaging 10 than the next guy. SR is not a factor in test matches.

      • Roar Guru

        February 19th 2018 @ 9:23am
        JamesH said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Correct. And a SR difference of 2.5 runs per 100 balls is fairly meaningless anyway.

        I’m also not sure why these four are described as ‘the best batsmen in tests and ODIs’. Of these players, only Kohli is ranked in the top four ODI batsmen in the world.

        • Roar Guru

          February 19th 2018 @ 9:32am
          JamesH said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:32am | ! Report

          Sorry, ‘the current four top batsmen’. Still incorrect.

    • February 19th 2018 @ 6:16am
      Shree Jee said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:16am | ! Report

      Tests – Steve Smith
      ODI – Virat Kohli
      T20 – Virat Kohli
      Overall – Virat Kohli.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 6:52am
        KiwiHaydn said | February 19th 2018 @ 6:52am | ! Report

        100%, to be ranked as one of the best across all formats gives Kohli the gong. Smith is next best, but not as good at the shorter forms. Williamson proved again last night that he just isn’t a T20 player and makes up the numbers with Root on this list.

      • Roar Guru

        February 19th 2018 @ 10:42am
        Ryan H said | February 19th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        Would have to just about agree with this.

        As the numbers reflect, Smith is pretty clearly the superior test batsman, by some distance. However Kohli has him well covered in the shorter forms, and he is streets ahead in this regard.

        Overall? Could mount a solid case for either, but I’d have Kohli just a whisker ahead when looking from an overall perspective.

      • February 19th 2018 @ 9:06pm
        Don Freo said | February 19th 2018 @ 9:06pm | ! Report

        Shree, if you work it that way, Smith is best for 5 days while Kohli is best for only 140 overs…that just over one day. Smith, therefore, is more than 3 times as good.

        • Roar Rookie

          February 19th 2018 @ 11:20pm
          savage said | February 19th 2018 @ 11:20pm | ! Report

          Yet somehow kohli has scored 9.500+ runs in ODIs and 2000 runs in T20s compared to 5500+ in test by him and Smith has scored only 6000+ runs in Test.

          • Roar Guru

            February 20th 2018 @ 11:15am
            Matt H said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            Never use total runs. Kohli has played heaps more ODI’s and T20’s than Smith, so will obviously have scored more career runs. Using total runs, Ganguly is better than Kohli.

    • February 19th 2018 @ 7:13am
      marfu said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      Kersi – I am curious as to why you did not include T20 analysis ?

    • February 19th 2018 @ 7:51am
      Kersi Meher-homji said | February 19th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      On second thought I should have used T20I stats also for comparison. As the S. Africa – India T20 series and the Trans-Tasman Tri T20 series is going on, I reckoned I’ll wait for a week.

      As at yesterday morning, Kohli convincingly led with an average of 52.86 and SR of 137.84.
      Then in averages: Root 39.10, Williamson 32.47 and Smith 21.55.
      By Strike Rate, Root 128.76, Smith 122.44 and Williamson 121.85.

      So Kohli rules. But Warner is ahead of him with a T20I Strike Rate of 140.68.

      • February 25th 2018 @ 7:44pm
        John Erichsen said | February 25th 2018 @ 7:44pm | ! Report

        If looking at Tests, Limited Overs and T20 formats, it would be wrong not to consider AB de Villiers in the mix, although Kohli still gets the nod as the best across the combined three formats. On the test arena alone, he currently sits a long way behind Smith, but ahead of the others.

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