England Test captain Joe Root’s stupendous performance in recent times has reignited the debate over who is the best batter among the Fab Four of international cricket

England Test captain Joe Root’s stupendous performance in recent times has reignited the debate over who is the best batter among the Fab Four of international cricket – Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson being the other three. In the ongoing India-England series in the UK, Root has amassed three hundreds in as many Test matches. On the other hand, Indian captain Kohli continues to struggle for runs. In this feature, we rank the Fab 4 on the basis of their recent performances to see who is on top at the moment. For analysis purposes, we will consider the showing of the four batters since January 1, 2019.

1. Joe Root

Aftergoing through a brief lull, Root has re-emerged as a massive force to reckon with over the last couple of seasons. Since January 1, 2019, Root has featured in 31 Tests and has amassed 2713 at an average of 50.24 with as many as eight hundreds. Three of his tons have come in the ongoing series against India. That apart, he has registered two hundreds in as many Tests in Sri Lanka and one each in India, New Zealand and West Indies.

Root also averages 50-plus in ODIs with three hundreds during this period from 31 matches. He has only played four T20Is since the start of 2019 as doesn’t seem in the scheme of things in the format. It is not just his impressive figures that have stood out but also the manner in which he has dominated varied bowling attacks. There was a time when critics felt that Root was not worthy of being considered on par with Smith, Kohli and Kane. The tables have definitely turned since.

2. Steve Smith

Former Aussie skipper Steve Smith has remained a run machine even after returning from the career-threatening ball-tampering controversy. In 13 Tests, starting January 1, 2019, Smith has amassed 1341 runs at an average of 63.85 with four hundreds. What stands out about Smith is that he has scored three of his four hundreds away from home, during the 2019 Ashes when he amassed 774 runs in four Tests, averaging over 100.

During the period in review, Smith has also shone in the ODI format, smashing 947 runs from 20 games at an average of nearly 50 with three hundreds. In the same period, he is also averaging 40 from 15 T20Is. Smith loses out on the top spot to Root because the latter has a much bigger sample size and his consistency and dominance have been on a different level.

3. Kane Williamson

 The New Zealand captain has had a sensational run with the bat over the last couple of years. If we look at his record from January 1, 2019, Kane Williamson has scored 1365 runs in 15 Tests at an average of 68.25 with five hundreds. Despite a much superior average to Root, Williamson loses out on the top spot because all his five three-figure scores have come at home. Also, during this period, he is averaging 14.25 in Australia (2 Tests) and 8 in Sri Lanka (2 Tests). The sample size may be too small but this is an area Williamson needs to work on it.

During the period in review, Williamson has been impressive in ODIs as well, notching up 989 runs in 22 games at an average of 54.94 with two hundreds. He has also scored 381 runs from 13 T20Is. Williamson is right up there among the best. On current numbers though, he needs to improve his away numbers to be considered among the greatest in the modern era.

4. Virat Kohli

 On present form, Indian captain Virat Kohli is an easy pick for the last slot. In 19 Tests starting January 2019, Kohli has 1026 runs to his name at a moderate average of 38. The Indian skipper has only two hundreds during this period, both coming at home, one of them against Bangladesh. During the period in review, Kohli is averaging 33.66 in Australia (2 Tests), 21 in England (4 Tests), 9.5 in New Zealand (2 Tests) and 34 in West Indies (2 Tests). The numbers make for sorry reading.

Kohli has fared better in the shorter formats – averaging 55.34 from 38 ODIs with five hundreds and 62 from 25 T20Is. However, it is the Test format that is a true reflection of a player’s calibre. And by that yardstick, Kohli is out of the Top 3 for now.

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