Who is the finest batsman across formats currently? Has T20 made place for sloggers to be considered valuable assets as batsmen or are the orthodox stroke-makers still the preferred option? Aayush Puthran analyses the best batsmen across formats.
While rusty, unbranded shots of horrendous aesthetics have crept into the game, making effectiveness more crucial than beauty, a pool of men stand in opposition to the time with their brand of classical cricket, as valuable in terms of getting runs as much as it is a treat for the eyes.
Even as news sites were quick on noticing the fact that AB de Villiers had just crossed 3,000 runs in T20 cricket on Tuesday, it is not tough to fancy whether the South African One-Day International (ODI) skipper is indeed the best batsman across formats currently in world cricket. And if there is any contest, it must come in the form of the aggressive Virat Kohli, Sri Lanka’s go-to man Kumar Sangakkara or De Villiers’ own teammate Hashim Amla who is leading the International Cricket Council (ICC) Rankings for batsmen in Tests and ODIs. If one discounts the fact that Michael Clarke does not play T20 anymore, he too could fit into the league.
It doesn’t take rocket science to realize that the four men, when in full flow, are among the finest exponents of the art of modern batting. So let’s analyse what the four men bring to the table with their style of cricket that is effective and equally good looking.
To start with, de Villiers has to be the most beautiful innovator currently in cricket. Instead of looking off-balance and ugly while playing unorthodox shots, he leaves bowlers stunned and the crowd equally mesmerised. Known for his power-hitting, de Villiers has proved to be an ideal finisher for South Africa in the limited overs format. While playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL), he has worked as a suitable No 4 to back the power-hitting of Chris Gayle and Kohli upfront. Undoubtedly, de Villiers’ strength is the fact that he can play his shots all round the ground and over the years he has realised that and used it to his advantage brilliantly.
In Tests too, he has proved to an able middle-order batsman in a strong batting line-up, assuming a special place for himself. Apart from being consistent, he has shown the temperament to play the long innings. Over the last two years, he has scored 1,623 runs at an average of 62.42. Technically, he has no failings and among the lot, is the best to adapt to the changing circumstances of the match.
Kohli, on the other hand, would probably give de Villiers a run for the title, but misses out for the fact that he is yet to cement his caliber in the longer form outside the sub-continent. He was impressive in the second half of the Test series when India toured Australia, but he needs to be seen doing that on a more consistent basis, an area where De Villiers has excelled.
On the contrary, there is little competition for him as far as his run of form in limited-overs cricket is concerned. Here he also holds the edge of being able to counter spin bowling better than his South African counterparts and also the fact that he plays Lasith Malinga, one of the deadliest bowlers in the shorter formats, better than anyone else, makes him a fit candidate for the second best batsman currently in world cricket.
Close to the heels of both these batsman, is Amla, who has a much more classical and subdued approach to batting. He is not the kind of batsman who is too flashy or who will give enough chances to the bowlers, yet he has managed to score at a rate of 91.19 in ODIs and 118.50 in T20Is. He has managed to stay atop the rankings in both Tests and ODIs. Amla relies on grace and placement more than brute force. However, his efforts in T20Is bring him a shade down in this listing and place him at the third position.
He probably edges Sangakkara, one of the finest exponents of cover drives in the modern game. Sangakkara is not brutal, but one doesn’t realise how the scorecard moves on when he is at the crease, captivating the imagination of the audience with his artistic strokeplay. Although he has been a proven run machine, one has to take into account that his stats have been boosted by his performance at home as compared to foreign conditions. While, over the last two years, he averages 58.10 in Sri Lanka, abroad his average drops to 45.81.
Here is a list of the highest run-getters across formats over the last two years:
|AB de Villiers||70||3,162||54.51||72.97||7||17|
If one takes out Clarke and Alastair Cook from the list, for they don’t play T20Is, De Villiers heads the list of averages followed by Amla, Sangakkara and Kohli. However, Kohli would move up the pecking order because unlike the other two, he has played more T20Is, where the averages are bound to be lower than those in Test cricket.
What this analysis does highlight is the fact that all the four players in the list currently have ensured that batting as an art has not lost out to the fast-paced change-demanding form of cricket.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)