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Is Virat Kohli really the best batsman of all time? Numbers reveal the truth

Written by PaperDabba
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Is Virat really the GOAT?

Ranked no. 1 in Tests and ODIs. The fastest to 10,000 runs in ODIs. Captain of the no. 1 Test team. The only batsman with an average of more than 48 in all three formats. I can go on an on. No prizes for guessing the person of interest here. Indian skipper Virat Kohli held all these records and many more before he turned 30 on November 5, 2018. Logically, the comparisons with the game’s greatest players followed. 

The situation has come to a level where with every match he plays, Kohli ends up being compared to the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and dare I say, even the unbeatable Don Bradman. In this article, we address the elephant in the room by finally looking at where Kohli stands in comparison to such names and try to deduce whether such comparisons deserve merit.

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For the purposes of this piece, I will restrict the analysis to comparing the Delhi batsman’s stats with the greats when they turned 30. This should give us a clearer picture of how well Kohli has performed till now instead of trying to predict what he will end up with when he retires. If you are interested in the latter it will follow sometime in the near future. Okay enough, let’s start already!

Run Machine

India Tv - Oooh, that cover drive of Tendulkar! Reminds you of someone else, doesn't it?Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Oooh, that cover drive of Tendulkar! Reminds you of someone else, doesn’t it?

Known as the personification of a robotic run machine, the Indian skipper seems miles ahead of inarguably the greatest all-rounder ever to play the game – Jacques Kallis – along with Ponting and Kohli’s friend AB de Villiers when we tally the total runs (Tests+ODIs) scored by them before they turned 30. However, his icon Tendulkar is almost 4,500 runs ahead of Kohli in this aspect which makes Kohli feel more human in some way rather than the god-like image we are accustomed to tagging him with.

Runs at 30 (Tests + ODIs)
Player Runs
Sachin Tendulkar (IND) 21,030
Virat Kohli (IND) 16.563
Jacques Kallis (SA) 15,084
Ricky Ponting (AUS) 13,799
AB de Villiers (SA) 13,297

Test Batting Average

India Tv - Kallis retired as undoubtedly the greatest Protea cricketer ever.Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

Kallis retired as undoubtedly the greatest Protea cricketer ever.

Boasting an impressive average of more than 54, Virat still lags behind Sachin and Kallis who were a notch above him in that aspect when they turned 30. Given that 30 is often considered an age where athletes are supposed to be at their career peaks, one should expect that two of cricket’s greatest servants in Tendulkar and Kallis would be a notch above others.

Test Batting Average at 30
Player Average
Sachin Tendulkar (IND) 57.58
Jacques Kallis (SA) 56.77
Virat Kohli (IND) 54.57
Ricky Ponting (AUS) 54.04

Test Tons

India Tv - No one was better than Ponting on his day and it was often his day when he played.Image Source : GETTY IMAGES

No one was better than Ponting on his day and it was often his day when he played.

This is the criteria where the Bharat Ratna awardee towers above everyone else with Kohli trailing behind with seven centuries less. Sachin ended up with 51 Test tons by the time he retired so Virat has at least some sort of challenge ahead of him in the years to come.

Test Centuries at 30
Player 100s
Sachin Tendulkar (IND) 31
Virat Kohli (IND) 24
Jacques Kallis (SA) 22
Ricky Ponting (AUS) 20
AB de Villiers (SA) 18

ODI Tons

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No one can match the audacity of ABD.

Already an ODI behemoth, Kohli leaves everyone behind when it comes to ODIs. With the exception of Sachin who is the only one close to the fiery chaser’s 38 centuries, there is a gap of a whopping 22 tons between him and the next best – AB de Villiers. His Bradmanesque stats in the 50-over format give the impression that Kohli might end up with some insurmountable numbers in ODIs by the time he hangs up his boots. 

ODI Centuries at 30
Player 100s
Virat Kohli (IND) 38
Sachin Tendulkar (IND) 34
AB de Villiers (SA) 16
Ricky Ponting (AUS) 15
Jacques Kallis (SA) 13

In conclusion, it is apt to mention that bowlers, playing conditions, oppositions are always in a flux and therefore a much more scientific analysis is required to gauge the performances of players of different eras while factoring in the variables like match situations, pitch condition, bowling strength etc. However, a cursory look at the numbers above suggests that Kohli definitely is thriving on the path of greatness but he is certainly not the greatest to play the game. At least not yet!


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