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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

Steve Smith leaves Virat Kohli behind in golden year, lays down marker for 2018

Steve Smith struck his 23rd Test century -- sixth in 2017 -- as he rounded off a fabulous year as the leading run-getter in Tests, leaving Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root – the other captain-batsmen -- behind and setting the benchmark for 2018.

cricket Updated: Dec 31, 2017 09:07 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Steve Smith (R) was the highest run-getter in 2017, closely followed by Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli.
Steve Smith (R) was the highest run-getter in 2017, closely followed by Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli.(BCCI)

Steve Smith’s exploits in 2017 has cemented his reputation as one of the best batsmen in the modern era. The numbers accumulated in Tests have left some of his illustrious contemporaries (captain-batsmen) far behind.

After his 23rd century, and eighth against England, helped Australia draw the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, some of the numbers make for staggering reading. In 11 Tests this year, Smith has 1,305 runs at an average of 76 and six centuries. For the fourth consecutive year, Smith has scored over 1,000 runs in a calendar year. After 60 Tests, he has 5,972 runs at an average of 63.55.

READ | Virat Kohli can achieve anything only if he is hungry: Jacques Kallis

When one looks at the overall picture in 2017, it was a close tussle between Smith and Kohli with Root and Williamson left behind. Both batsmen’s fifty to hundred conversion rate was phenomenal. Both scored big hundreds. Kohli trumps over Smith when it comes to big scores, with three double centuries compared to one for Smith.

However, the Australian skipper’s consistency trumps Kohli. The Indian skipper went without a fifty-plus score for seven consecutive innings – five of them against the visiting Australia -- while Smith’s lean patch was just three.

Overseas performances make him supreme again. In six Tests, Smith has 618 runs at an average of 56, including 499 runs in tough conditions in India (8 innings, 3 hundreds). On the other hand, India played only three Tests away from home this year, all in Sri Lanka. Kohli scored 161 runs, averaging 53.

Australia’s Test series in 2018
  • February-March: vs South Africa (4 Tests Away)
  • June-July: vs Zimbabwe (1 Test Home)
  • July: vs Bangladesh (2 Tests Home)
  • November-January: vs India (4 Tests Home)
India’s Test series in 2018
  • January-February: vs South Africa (3 Tests Away)
  • June-August: vs England (5 Tests Away)
  • October: vs West Indies (3 Tests Home)
  • November-January: vs Australia (4 Tests Away)
England’s Test series in 2018
  • March-April: vs New Zealand (2 Tests Away)
  • May: vs Pakistan (2 Tests Home)
  • June-August: vs India (5 Tests Home)
  • October-November: vs Sri Lanka (3 Tests Away)
South Africa
  • February-March: vs Australia (4 Tests Home)
  • August-September: vs Sri Lanka (3 Tests Away)
  • October: vs Zimbabwe (1 Test Home)
  • December-January: vs Pakistan (3 Tests Home)

When it comes to the other top batting contenders, England’s Joe Root and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, poor conversion and lack of games are issues. Root has only two centuries while Williamson has suffered due to few games.

However, there were batsmen other than the quartet who too also prolific. India’s Cheteshwar Pujara (1140 runs, 4x100), South Africa’s Dean Elgar (1,128, 5x100), Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne (1,031, 3x100) and Dinesh Chandimal (1,003, 3x100), and Aussie David Warner (997, 4x100) were also at the top of the charts in 2017.

2018 - The battle intensifies

The tussle between Smith and Kohli looks set to reach great heights. India play 15 Tests and the series against South Africa, England and Australia gives Kohli a chance to stamp his authority in overseas conditions after a dominant run in familiar conditions. The Indian skipper will lock horns with his Australian rival when India play four Tests in Australia starting in December, 2018.

READ | India vs South Africa: Series not about me and AB de Villiers, says Virat Kohli

Root also has a chance to make big gains in 2018. He does not enjoy playing Tests overseas, averaging just 33.85. In the battle between Kohli and Smith, Root has a chance to play spoilsport but the biggest loser will be Williamson. After playing only seven Tests in 2017, New Zealand do not have much planned for 2018 as they play only seven Tests again.

The exploits of Smith and Kohli in 2017 promise an exciting 2018. Smith has laid down the challenge for supremacy. It is time for Kohli to respond.

First Published: Dec 31, 2017 09:04 IST

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