6 great contemporary batsmen – Who is the best of them all?
This is what was probably referred to in mythology as the Clash of the Titans!
Can we define greatness with the bat? Leave alone defining, can we even comprehend greatness with the bat? Is it in the sublime versatility of AB de Villiers? Is it in the transcendental chasing ability of Virat Kohli? Is it in Steven Smith’s resolute swagger or in Kane Williamson’s almost monk-like demeanour?
This is a blessed generation that is inundated with talent of the highest levels. But six players have separated themselves from the pack, showing the worth they offer to their teams. Two of them are in their 30s – AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla – South Africa’s batting stalwarts. They face stiff competition from four future greats – Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson. A cursory glimpse at their numbers reveals a few details:
Each of them is almost sublime in one area of cricket – Tests or ODIs, batting first or chasing. Most of them with the exception of AB de Villiers haven’t realised their full potential in the longer and shorter formats of the game.
Kohli, Root, Williamson and Smith are neck-to-neck when it comes to the mantel for the Best Batsman of the next generation once AB de Villiers concedes the space. Interestingly, for all of AB de Villiers’ pyrotechnics and sublime skills, he isn’t really the best in terms of sheer overall career numbers, whether it is Test cricket or ODIs.
Tests – Smith dominates the tables
AB de Villiers
In Tests, the tussle for the title of the Best Contemporary Batsmen is an extremely tight one. If averages were the criteria, it would undoubtedly be Steven Smith, the Australian captain whose phenomenal numbers are an anomaly considering his unorthodox batting style.
Kohli hasn’t really bloomed yet fully in the Test format but Root has had a scintillating time in whites, inspiring England to an Ashes series win with a series-defining knock under pressure. Those earn more points of course, and legends are built on the basis of such knocks.
While Root’s home average is impressive, it dips away from home and that is where Smith does well again. His average away dips, but only from 67 to 60 which is still an impressive average in Tests.
AB de Villiers is the only player with a better away average than home average, while in case of Amla, it is more or less the same, home and away. If you have one spot and one of these six to pick, it would still be AB de Villiers, given his ability to play 360 degrees against any type of attack on any surface (Smith is yet to prove himself on turning tracks in the sub-continent), in the long run.
Smith isn’t too far from the mantel of the best Test batsman, with stiff competition from Root, if he can improve upon his average which is a flaw that also afflicts Williamson, for whom, the away average is approximately 13 points behind the home average.
Root might also need to work on his conversion rate, considering he has fewer centuries compared even to Kohli, who has scored far fewer runs than him in almost a similar number of Tests played.
Last 3 Years in Tests – Williamson emerges as leader of the pack
There is a surprising winner when we look at stats from the last 3 years in Tests. It is neither Steven Smith nor AB de Villiers who looks the most impressive but New Zealand’s talismanic batsman, Kane Williamson. He is just 800 runs short of Smith, having played 11 Tests fewer.
Only Smith has more centuries than Williamson during this period. Having said that Alastair Cook is missing from this list, given he wasn’t considered for the title of the Best Batsman, his ODI record playing spoilsport.
Last 3 Years
AB de Villiers