Steven Smith Virat Kohli Ricky Ponting best batsman in the world
Steven Smith (left) and Virat Kohli © Getty Images (file photo)

Virat Kohli is the best batsman in the world today, believes Ricky Ponting, but only because Steven Smith is currently serving a 12-month ban from the international game. Speaking at the launch of Channel Seven’s cricket season, Ponting pinpointed Smith’s absence due to his role in the ball-tampering controversy a few months ago as the reason why he viewed the Indian captain as the premier batsman in the world.

“Right now, he [Kohli] is because Steve Smith is not there. If Steve Smith was playing now, I’d have him as the number one player in the world,” said Ponting, who led Australia to two World Cup wins. “That’s how high in regard I hold Steve Smith — what he’s done the last three or four years with his game and [he’s been] able to lead an Australian team to so many wins the way he has [batted].

“The Ashes summer last year was just some of the best and purest batting as you’re ever going to see. To do it on the big stage in an Ashes series, and to do it on the first day of an Ashes series when it counts the most, says a lot about him.”

Kohli and Smith have for the past few years been viewed, along with New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson and England’s Test captain Joe Root, as the four best batsman along with AB de Villiers. In Tests, Kohli averages 53.40 with 21 centuries whereas Smith has 23 centuries and averages 61.37.

In ODIs, the numbers are rather different: at the age of 29, and with 35 hundreds, Kohli is on course to surpass Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 whereas Smith has managed just 8 hundreds. Kohli’s ODI average is 58.10 to Smith’s 41.84, and in T20Is the Indian skipper averages 48.88 compared to the Australian’s lowly 21.55.