Is Virat Kohli really India’s best batsman?

Posted by
2 minute read


Were he to find himself playing in a format-spanning Super Series, it would seem highly likely that Virat Kohli could find himself named man-of-it. The guy averages over 50 in the two shorter formats with a perfectly healthy strike-rate in both.

His Test record’s very good too: 12 Test hundreds and an average of 43.76.

That’s not extraordinary though. If we’re not exactly in Aftab Habib territory, the numbers don’t quite match Kohli’s reputation – and what is cricket about if not building one’s reputation through numbers? Maybe that’s what he’s always so angry about when he’s batting.

We felt moved to check Kohli’s Test record while Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were batting together against New Zealand recently. While they’ve played fewer Test matches, both average about 47.5. The numbers don’t say much, but they tally with our feeling that these two are perhaps the team’s best batsmen in the longest format.

Captaincy combined with weight of runs across the formats gives Kohli a certain clout, but we still found it odd to hear him dissecting Pujara’s approach to Test cricket recently. There were complimentary words in amongst it all, but the general tone was a bit end-of-term school report.

It all had a kind of he’s-finally-started-listening-to-me hue.

“Pujara is someone who absorbs the pressure really well but after a certain stage in the innings there comes a time when the team needs runs. That’s where we felt that he has the ability to capitalise. It was just about conveying that to him.”

Or what about this?

“We want Pujara to bat to his potential. Once he starts scoring runs to go with the composure he already has, it becomes very difficult for the opposition to have control of the game.”

Kohli also said it was “a revelation” to see Pujara score quicker “because he used to bat that way initially.” The qualification criteria for revelations clearly aren’t as stringent as they once were. We suppose it’s down to modern attention spans.

Is it just us who finds this tone somewhat odd? We suppose Kohli, as captain, has responsibility for how the team performs as a whole (as a unit, if you will), but it seems to us that in Test cricket at least, Kohli arguably has as much to learn from Pujara as Pujara does from Kohli.

Flip it around. Imagine Pujara saying the following about Kohli and see how it sounds.

“Kohli is someone who always looks to score runs, but at certain stages in the innings, the team just needs him to absorb pressure. That’s where we felt that he could improve. It was just about conveying that to him.”


“We want Kohli to bat to his potential. Once he starts showing composure to go with the run-scoring ability he already has, it becomes very difficult for the opposition to have control of the game.”


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. Great hover caption there, KC.

    In other news…

    …I have finally calmed down enough to write up the final match of the County Championship season. Bit rambly still, but that aspect of my personality might take a few weeks or months to settle.

    The usual caveats apply – more than pamphlet length and some mention of the actual cricket. But several decent pictures and a very happy ending:

  2. Pujara could definitely teach Kohli a thing or two about batting in India. Pujara has 5 tons there and averages 63. Kohli only averages 42 at home.

    Also, have you noticed the ‘fab four’ narrative popping up across various cricket writers in the last couple of years too? The one that looks to keep comparing Kohli with Joe Root, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson.

    The latter three do compare easily, they are the best bat in their team by some distance, they are all about the same age, they are all right-handed middle order batsmen who bowl a bit of spin. Most clearly they’re the number 1, 2 and 3 ranked test batsmen in the world, and have been in some order or other for the last couple of years. At the time of writing, Kohli’s ranked 20th. It’s a bit weird.

    1. That’s precisely it. It’s not inexplicable though. To elaborate on one of the points made in the piece, if there were rankings taking into account all the formats (so cricket rankings, basically) Kohli would certainly be there or thereabouts. He’d just have taken a slightly different route to get there.

      So we can see why he’s included in that company when talking about cricket’s best batsmen of the moment, but not when talking about Test cricket’s best batsmen.

      1. No, Balladeer. No. I’m not at all surprised. Perhaps that is because, like young Virat, I have shaved off my eyebrows and am now unable to convey the emotion.

  3. I used to like Virat, but am not so sure anymore. He’s joined that list of metrosexual males who shave their entire face except their beards.

    1. Which parts of one’s face, other than one’s beard, should one fail to shave? Whatever is unshaven is surely the beard?

      Or are you suggesting he shaves his eyebrows?

Comments are closed.