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Who is a better ODI batsman right now: Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma?

ANALYST
Feature
Modified 06 Feb 2020, 17:43 IST

Virat Kohli (L) and Rohit Sharma
Virat Kohli (L) and Rohit Sharma

Virat Kohli is widely recognised as the best ODI batsman in the world. But a few others are catching up, and some would say a bunch of them could, in the near future, get on par with the Indian skipper in certain aspects of their game.

If we compare the careers of Kohli and Rohit Sharma from the beginning, there is one clear winner. Kohli has managed a monstrous 11,843 runs at an average of 59.81. His overall strike rate is 93.33, which has gradually improved since his debut in 2008 - where he scored 12 from 22 opening the innings alongside Gautam Gambhir against Sri Lanka at Dambulla in a losing cause.

Rohit's batting debut saw a similar start; in 2007, after a game against Ireland in which he did not bat, he only managed 8 from 9 batting at 7 against South Africa. Since then Rohit has performed poorer in every category: a smaller total of runs at 9,115, an average of 10 less at 49.27, and a slower strike rate at 88.92.

But the question is: who is the better player at the moment?

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We'll start with the year 2017. Two years after a World Cup in which India were beaten by Australia in the semi-final, the Kohli and Rohit combo really started to take a tight grip over ODIs. Rohit was the established number two to Kohli in the captaincy, and at the big tournament of the year, the Champions Trophy, it seemed that the rest of the field would bear the brunt of their partnership.

For a while, it panned out that way too as India romped their way to the final thanks largely to the top three. But in the final they all came unstuck at the hands of Mohammad Amir, which led to questions over their big match temperament.

That would be answered towards the end of the year. The stats at the end of 2017 saw Kohli lead the way with 1,460 runs at an average of 76.84 with a strike rate of 99.11. Rohit finished the year with a mammoth score of 208 not out against Sri Lanka, with a total of 1,293 runs at 71.83 and a better strike rate than Kohli at 99.46.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli
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2018 was the golden year for the Kohli-Rohit combination as Kohli maintained the gap between himself and his vice-captain with his best year for ODI cricket. He scored at an average of a staggering 133.55 and a strike rate of 102.55, with a yearly total of 1,202 in just 14 matches.

Rohit played more games, 19 in total, including an Asia Cup where he put the big match issues to bed with some wonderful batting displays against India's arch-rivals. He finished with 1,030 runs at an average of 73.57 with a similarly impressive strike rate of 100.09.

The gap didn't seem to be closing, but in 2019 it did.

A huge amount of games in the year, mainly due to the 2019 World Cup, saw Rohit play 28 and Kohli play 26. Rohit managed to outscore Kohli in total runs for the first time in recent history, with 1,490 to Kohli's 1,377. The average battle still belongs to Kohli though, as the India skipper's 59.86 trumped Rohit's slightly smaller 57.30.

Sri Lanka v India - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
Sri Lanka v India - ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Rohit's strike rate was pretty low for the first time in a few years at only 89.92 while Kohli kept his at a higher standard with a reasonable 96.36. But in the World Cup, Kohli failed to register a single hundred and finished 11th on the list of top scorers, while Rohit finished at No. 1 with 205 more runs than Kohli and a staggering five hundreds in the competition.

So while Rohit is still behind Kohli at the moment, the gap is shrinking. The opener is turning into just as important a member of the team with his swashbuckling starts, and his ability to carry his bat through the innings has also improved considerably.

That said, don't be surprised if Kohli decides to show us who is king in 2020.

Published 06 Feb 2020, 10:02 IST
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