Virat Kohli vs Steven Smith: Who is the better captain?
Two superstars of the modern game, Virat Kohli and Steven Smith have taken the world by storm through their consistent performances, first as batsmen and now as captains.
Both have lived a somewhat similar story on the international stage: Kohli’s surge began with the tour of Australia in 2011-12, while Smith regained – and then cemented – his place in the side on the India tour in 2013.
Since the Adelaide Test on that visit Down Under, where Kohli got his maiden Test hundred, he averages a healthy 52.42 and after Smith returned to Australia’s Test side in the third Test at Mohali four years ago, he has not missed a single match for his country, averaging a staggering 64.83 during the period.
In one-day cricket too, the leaders of their respective nations have left an imprint in the last half-decade.
Since Kohli’s rapid emergence as a mature number three in 2012, he scores at a shade under 60 per match, while Smith’s comeback to the ODI side in 2014 has also reaped rich results with runs at nearly 52 per game.
Regarded as two of the Big Four – Joe Root and Kane Williamson are the others – both Kohli and Smith have a long way to go and win many more honours for their teams.
Here is a statistical comparison of their captaincy.
In terms of win percentage, Kohli clearly beats his Australian counterpart Smith, with the Indian leading with 65.52 and Smith having only 50. However, the majority of Kohli’s matches – 16 out of 29 – as captain have come in friendly conditions at home, while Smith has only led in 15 home games out of a total of 24.
In terms of ODI leadership as well, Kohli, despite having led in 11 lesser games, has a win percentage of 73 in comparison to Smith, who sits at 56. However, in T20 cricket, both have an equal – and exact – win percent of 50. So, when overall records of the two modern giants are matched, Kohli clearly leads the way across formats.
At home, Kohli and Smith have a head-to-head of 16-15 with the Indian yet again pipping Smith in the number of wins as well as win percentage. While Kohli has lost only a single game at home – the rival captain was none other than Smith –Australia’s incumbent skipper has come second in only two home games – both against South Africa in 2016. Also, Kohli boasts of a clean sheet in ODIs at home – he has won 8 out of 8 – while Smith brags of a great home record as well – 11 wins out of 13. Surprisingly, Smith is yet to lead Australia in a T20 at home, with Kohli registering 2 wins out of 3.
Yet again, Smith finds himself behind Kohli when matches away from home are looked at. In just nine Tests outside Australia, Smith has led across New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India; of Kohli’s 13 away Tests, six and four have come in Sri Lanka and West Indies, respectively, while he first led India at Adelaide in 2014 as a stand-in for the then regular captain MS Dhoni. In the shorter format, having captained in 6 more matches, Smith has a win percentage of just two-third to that of Kohli.
Both relatively newly-appointed captains – Kohli officially took charge of the one-day side as recently as January while Smith assumed duties in mid-2015 – they have led their respective sides in only a single ICC ODI tournament, which was the Champions Trophy in 2017. While Kohli took India to the final, Smith was unfortunate to face twin wash-outs to eventually see Australia exit in the group stages. However, Smith also led in the 2016 ICC World T20, where his country tasted success in only 2 of the 4 matches.
Personal Performance as Captain
Both massive run-scorers, Kohli and Smith have each tallied in excess of 2,500 Test match runs as captain. Finally, Smith gets a chance to pip Kohli in the department of slamming runs. Not only has he scored nearly 200 more runs in one fewer innings, but Smith also averages a booming 71 as captain with Kohli averaging just under 60. In terms of half-centuries as well as hundreds, Smith leads the way with 9 and 12, with Kohli having 4 and 10, respectively. When it comes to ODIs though, Kohli’s swelled average of 76 is a long way ahead of Smith’s 51.