Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has singled out Virat Kohli as the batsman in the world albeit with one major caveat. Ponting believes tainted Australia batsman Steve Smith still trumps the Indian skipper and he would have picked Smith had he been playing the game right now.
Smith is currently serving the one-year suspension from international cricket for his involvement in the ball-tampering plot at Newlands in March.
Ponting reckons Smith's golden Ashes summer at home separated him from the pack, meaning Kohli is only the best by default.
Smith has amassed 687 runs at an incredible average of 137.40 with three tons during the last Ashes series. In the opening Ashes Test at Gabba, Smith had played a match-defining knock of 141* which helped the hosts registered a comprehensive 10-wicket victory over England while he displayed his remarkable batting prowess in the third Test at Perth to register his second double ton (239) in the 5-day game.
After missing out on scoring a ton in the first innings of Melbourne Test, Smith had constructed a gritty 102* off 275 balls in the second innings to ensure a draw for Australia and thereby became the third quickest (110 innings) batsman after Sunil Gavaskar (109) and the certain Don Bradman (59 innings) to complete 23 Test centuries in fewest innings.
"Right now, he (Kohli) is because Steve Smith is not there. (But) if Steve Smith was playing now, I'd have him as the number one player in the world. That's how high in regard I hold Steve Smith - what he's done the last three or four years with his game and (he’s been) able to lead an Australian team to so many wins the way he has (batted),” Ponting quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
"The Ashes summer last year was just some of the best and purest batting as you're ever going to see. To do it on the big stage in an Ashes series, and to do it on the first day of an Ashes series when it counts the most, says a lot about him," he added.
Statistics also seem to back Ponting’s remarks since Kohli happens to be the only batsman on the planet who’s averaging almost 50 across all formats of the game whereas Smith has taken his game to a different level in Tests. The former Aussie skipper is averaging an extraordinary 61.37 in the traditional format, while the Indian captain has 21 hundreds and a batting average of 53.40.
On the contrary, Virat has 35 centuries to his name in 208 one-day internationals as compared to Smith's eight in 108 games, and averages 58.10 to Smith's 41.84. Likewise, Kohli’s dominance is pretty much evident in T20 Internationals, where the Delhi lad averages 48.88 in 62 games to Smith's 21.55 in 30 matches.