Australian legend Michael Hussey knows all stats speak for Steve Smith, but he can’t beat Virat Kohli as the best test batsman in the world.
Smith looted his 27th ton at SCG and assisted them in the second dig at 81 when Kohli watched the action from home after returning to India to give birth to his child after the first test in Adelaide.
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When Smith was chugging on Sunday, conversation in the Fox Cricket comment box turned to the best wicker farmer among the supposed Big Three of Smith, Kohli and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.
Numbers often tell the story in cricket, and Hussey admits Smith is at the top of the pile based on data alone. But the likable left-hander just can’t shake the belief that Kohli is the real number 1.
« Numbers and averages would say Smith is number 1, but I have a feeling that if I just look at the eye, Kohli is probably the best of the three, » Hussey said on Sunday.
« It’s all very close, don’t get me wrong. But I notice him as the best. »
Hussey is one of the most respected characters in the game as having played with passion and integrity his entire career, but we believe he missed the mark here – something that isn’t often said about Mr. Cricket.
With the numbers alone, it can be argued that there shouldn’t even be a debate about the Big Three, with Smith standing alone as the Big Three.
He’s got 7449 runs and an average of 62.75 out of 76 tests compared to Kohli’s 53.41 with 27 tons (87 tests) and Williamson’s 54.31 with 24 centuries (83 tests). Not only does the Aussie play in a different league, they play in a different stratosphere as well.
Smith has the second best average of all time (at least 20 innings), just behind Don Bradman. If he retired today, he would be one of only seven batsmen who average over 60.
Then you’ve got Smith’s record away from home. Many batsmen can get runs in the comfortable conditions they grew up with, but how they move around hostile territory often best reflects their true worth.
Again, it’s not even close. Smith has more runs (3883) with a significantly better average (57.1) than his peers when jumping on a plane after scoring 13 centuries out of 39 tests on foreign soil.
By comparison, Williamson has 3,327 runs at 45.5 with 11 tons from 42 tests overseas, while Kohli has 3,760 runs at 44.2 with 14 centuries in 48 games.
We will accept that there are extenuating circumstances. Kohli’s classical technique is beautiful to look at and may appeal to cricket purists more than Smith’s eccentric dance moves on the crease.
He’s also a captain and carries the weight of more than a billion people in cricket-mad India every time he goes out to hit. When you boast a record like Kohlis that would choke most mortals to death from the pressure, you need to look beyond aggregates and averages to get a real estimate of his performance.
As a skipper, Williamson has taken the Kiwis to the No. 1 test ranking and is clearly the best player in the country’s history. While he doesn’t have nearly the same burden as Kohli in terms of population, his team’s fortunes depend so heavily on him, and New Zealand’s success is inextricably linked to his runscoring accomplishments.
You can argue that Smith is also facing pressures to be Australia’s best player, but lately he’s been blessed with criminal partner David Warner – and now Marnus Labuschagne – to share the burden.
Numbers can lie, but in this case they’ll talk anything – and they say Smith is the best dog.
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