Virat Kohli world’s top ranked test batsman after Edgbaston heroics

For many cricket lovers around the globe, and particularly in India, Virat Kohli has been the best batsman in the world for a long time. At worst, he has been in the very top echelon alongside the likes of former Australian captain Steven Smith, and South African superstar AB De Villiers.

In Test cricket, however, he has never been able to lay claim to being the top of the tree, at least according to the official world rankings. Following the recently concluded Test against England at Edgbaston, that has changed.

India went down by 31 runs in a thrilling match, but it was by no fault of Virat Kohli. In the first innings, in which his side were bowled out for 274 runs, Kohli made a magnificent 149, coming in at 2/54 and not leaving the crease until the final wicket. Confirming just how brilliant the innings was, no one else was able to contribute more than 26 runs in the innings.

In the final innings of the match, Kohli made 51 off 185 balls, ultimately not enough to aid India to the required total of 193, but still comfortably the highest individual score of the innings.

As a result of his 200 run test, the Indian captain surpassed Steve Smith as Test cricket’s number one ranked batsman, in the process becoming the first Indian batsman to lay claim to the title since Sachin Tendulkar seven years ago. 

His rise above Smith has, of course, been aided by the fact that the former Australian captain has not been able to play International cricket since he was suspended for 12 months for his role in the ball-tampering saga which rocked Australia’s tour of South Africa earlier this year. 

Prior to that controversy, Smith had proved himself very difficult to dislodge from the number one spot. The Australian number four is on track to end with a record-breaking career, and this year aside, has been proving himself to be one of the best batsman of all time.

After a relatively slow start to his Test career, Smith has now racked up 6199 runs in his 64 test matches, at an extraordinary rate. He averages an absurd 61.37 runs per innings, and has accumulated 23 centuries to go with his 24 half-centuries. At just 29 years of age, he still has plenty of time left in his career, and will likely end up as one of Australia’s, and indeed the world’s, greatest ever players.

Kohli, however, has numbers that stuck up pretty well against Smith, and which would place him as the world’s top batsmen in many eras past. Kohli, also 29 years of age, has played just a couple more tests than Smith at 67. He has accumulated 5754 runs in this time at an average of 54.28, and has an extremely impressive conversion rate of 50s into 100s. In total he has reached 50 39 times in his career, and 22 of these times he has gone on to score a century.

In the last 12 months, he has taken things up a notch. While Smith has been forced to sit out half of this period, Kohli has had one of the best periods of his career. He has scored 1255 runs since India’s series against Sri Lanka which kicked off in July of last year, racking them up at the huge average of 83.67 runs per innings. This stretch has included four centuries, two double-centuries, and a three innings period in which he scored 104*, 213 and 243 in succession.

With Smith to remain out of International cricket until next year, and AB De Villiers recently announcing his retirement after years of intermittently missing International cricket, there is little doubt that Kohli is the best Test batsman in the world at the moment. His style, a combination of the typically bottom-hand focussed Indian batsman and the more traditional high-elbowed, top-hand player allows him to play in a variety of conditions, and makes him a unique test for any bowler. 

He and Smith now sit comfortably atop the world rankings, and the gap will only widen over the coming months with Smith continuing to sit on the sidelines. Rounding out the top five are Joe Root, Kane Williamson, and David Warner, the latter of whom is also set to miss the next six months with Smith and will continue to tumble down the rankings.

Root and Williamson are terrific players worthy of their place in the top five batsmen in the world, but for now, Kohli has them covered relatively comfortably. It appears he will only consolidate his spot atop the rankings in the coming months, and will likely open up a lead which he will not relinquish quickly. World rankings are not always a reliable indicator of the best talent in the world, but in this case, Kohli’s move to the top is certainly reflective of the situation as it stands.