The world of cricket has witnessed the excellence of numerous batsmen over the years. But, in the modern era of the sport, the batting charts have been thoroughly dominated by four batsmen - Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Joe Root. Labelled as the 'Big Four' of modern-day batting, the quartet has appeared to be in a class of their own.
Such has been the level of competition between these four batsmen that it's almost hard to pick who's the best. But, if statistics are anything to go by, the likes of Smith and Kohli, especially in the past couple of years, have clearly left Williamson and Root behind. From scoring centuries at will, dominating ICC rankings to shattering old records, Smith and Kohli have carved their own niche in international cricket, making others look mediocre.
Their consistency with the willow has not only left the pundits in disbelief, but also the fans who are truly relishing the contest between Smith and Kohli. Their batting masterclass has changed the way we perceive the gentleman's game and every time someone poses a query over the best batsman around, the answer is either Kohli or Smith.
While it is still hard to pick between the two, there is little doubt over Smith's excellence, especially in the longest version of the game, Returning to the playing field after a year-long suspension earlier this year, Smith silenced the naysayers and probably all his detractors who felt that he may have lost his touch.
Hitting his lowest ebb in years, Australian cricket's darling marked a sensational return and won back his fans after clobbering 774 runs, including two hundreds, a double ton and three fifties, in the Ashes series earlier this year. His brilliant outing also propelled him to the top spot in ICC rankings for batsmen in Test cricket.
But, for someone who truly made the longest format his own little playground, Smith couldn't replicate his success during the recently-concluded Test series against Pakistan. The first Test at the Gabba saw the right-hander falling prey to Pakistani spinner Yasir Shah for a mere four runs in the first innings and a brilliant bowling display by Australia denied him an opportunity to bat in the second.
In the second Test, where his teammates David Warner (335*) and Marnus Labuschagne (162) looked at their menacing best in the first innings, Smith could only manage to score 36 runs before being dismissed by Pakistani seamer Shaheeh Afridi. With Australia offering a follow-on to Pakistan, Smith was once again denied an opportunity to make amends for his mediocre batting display in the second innings.
With just 40 runs to his name in the two-match series, Smith didn't just miss out on carrying his fine form, but also lost the no.1 spot in the ICC rankings for batsmen in Test cricket. Smith's loss has proved to be Kohli's gain as the Australian's nemesis has reclaimed his old spot that he had lost earlier this year.
Virat Kohli back to No.1!
David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne and Joe Root make significant gains in the latest @MRFWorldwide ICC Test Rankings for batting.
Full rankings: https://t.co/AIR0KN4yY5 pic.twitter.com/AXBx6UIQkL
The Indian captain, who has 7202 runs and 27 hundreds from 84 Tests, currently occupies the top spot with 928 points to his name. He is followed by Smith, who dropped points owing to his recent struggles in Brisbane and Adelaide, with 923 points. The list also includes New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, at the third spot, whose 51 points adrift at the top.
Kohli might have reclaimed the top spot, but the fact that he will not play any more Test matches in 2019, makes him prone to getting dethroned again. Unlike Kohli, Smith, despite losing his top spot to Kohli, will have a great opportunity to snatch the No. 1 spot back when he takes the field in the two Tests against New Zealand later this month.
While Kohli and Smith continue to upstage each other with their impeccable skills, the cricket fans should be blessed to witness their competitive edge which appears to bring out the best in two of the modern-day batting greats.