Is Virat Kohli numero uno in ODIs?

Is Virat Kohli numero uno in ODIs?

Source : SIFY
By : Ravi Venkat
Last Updated: Tue, Oct 17, 2017 17:12 hrs

Is Virat Kohli the greatest ODI batsman of all time? Is he even the greatest ODI batsman of his generation? Is it really possible to compare batsmen of different generations?

Will fans of Sachin Tendulkar and Viv Richards accuse me of blasphemy? The answer to these questions will be incomplete and dare I say futile without statistics.

There is a saying 'Lies, damned lies and statistics.’

Numbers may not always paint a clear picture and analysis of numbers is always open to interpretation. Should any value be given to aesthetic grace and elegance or should we focus just on runs as they are the most obvious metric of comparing players?

When Kohli takes the field against New Zealand in the first ODI at Wankhede he will be playing his 200th ODI. Out of the 2388 players who have played ODIs, only 71 have played 200 ODIs. Kohli will become the 72nd player to join this august list.

This shows his longevity. However, he is still only halfway through his career and already has many records to his name. To go further with this analysis, let us shortlist the usual suspects in ODIs at the end of their 199th ODI and see where Kohli stands with respect to them.

For the purpose of this analysis, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, AB De Villiers and Michael Bevan are the obvious candidates. Viv Richards played only 187 ODIs but forces his way in by the sheer weight of his numbers. The table below gives the batting stats of all six batsmen after their 199th ODI.

Player

Runs

Batt Ave

Batt S/R

100s

 

 

 

 

 

Sachin Tendulkar

7303

41.97

85.65

18

Virat Kohli

8767

55.13

91.47

30

MS Dhoni

6574

50.96

88.36

7

AB De Villiers

8520

53.92

100.14

23

Michael Bevan

6028

54.8

74.44

6

Viv Richards

6721

47

90.2

11

Kohli has the most aggregate runs, the most centuries, the highest batting average and the second highest batting strike rate. However, that doesn’t necessarily make him the best of his generation as the average totals scored by teams as increased exponentially over the years and batting averages and strike rates have sky rocketed through the roof.

Moreover, players like Bevan and Dhoni came lower down the order and shepherded their team through a tense run chase playing the role of a finisher. So, naturally they will not have the number of centuries that top order batsman rack against their name. Secondly, while Kohli is top of the tree in three of the four parameters, he is not streets ahead of AB and Dhoni. Even Sachin Tendulkar took 78 ODIs to score his first ODI ton because he batted lower down the order.

Another argument that is bandied about is that the standard of bowling has deteriorated rapidly over the years and therefore modern-day batsmen have it easier. However, that argument is subjective and batsmen can only face the bowlers that are up against them and their achievements cannot be belittled because of facing supposedly inferior bowling.

Perhaps, the one point that queers the pitch in favour of modern day batsmen is that the boundaries are shorter, the bats are heavier and there are more fielding restrictions now than ever before.

Some players are good when their team bats first and score big thereby setting the opposition a huge total. Others, like Kohli thrive in the pressure of a daunting run chase and take their team home. That incidentally is one of the greatest criticisms levelled against Tendulkar. The table below gives the record of all six batsmen batting first and chasing a target at the the end of their 199th ODI.

 

Batting first

While chasing

Player

M

Runs

Batt Ave

S/R

M

Runs

Batt Ave

S/R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tendulkar

96

3362

37.38

79.66

103

3941

46.91

91.52

Kohli

83

3311

43.56

88.5

116

5456

65.73

93.37

Dhoni

94

3697

50.64

92.54

105

2877

51.37

83.51

AB

103

4809

52.27

105.48

96

3711

56.22

93.97

Bevan

99

3446

53.84

80.81

100

2582

56.13

67.36

Richards

82

3711

48.82

93.54

105

3010

44.92

86.39

While chasing a target, Kohli is ahead of the pack by a distance as his batting average is nearly 10 runs better than the next best batsman and his strike rate is also nearly as good as AB who is the quickest scorer of the lot.

Moreover, Kohli has scored 19 centuries in chases which is two more than Tendulkar even though he has chased in 126 less ODIs than Tendulkar. So, clearly Kohli is in a league of his own when it comes to chasing a target.

Some batsmen score heavily at home but are found wanting in overseas conditions. The table below, gives the batting averages of all six batsmen both home and away after the end of their 199th ODI and the number of Man of the Match and series awards won by each of them.

Player

Home Ave

Away Ave

Diff

MOM

MOS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tendulkar

45.54

32.71

12.83

29

4

Kohli

56.61

51.62

4.99

25

3

Dhoni

55.39

49.83

5.56

15

5

AB

50.94

62.73

-11.79

24

6

Bevan

58.11

54.4

3.71

11

1

Viv Richards

36.59

56.82

-20.23

31

4

Let us go by the assumption that scoring runs away from home is harder than scoring runs in familiar conditions at home, provided the quality of tracks is somewhat similar. This is one area where AB and Viv have a clear superiority over Kohli as the difference between their averages at home and away is lesser than Kohli's.

Kohli is also close to Richards and Tendulkar in number of MOM and MOS awards won even though he plays in a team with more match winners than them, and it would be impossible for him to put in match winning performances all the time.

One point that must be mentioned is that Viv Richards had a strike rate of 90.2 in his era which is so far ahead of his contemporaries like Gordon Greenidge and Javed Miandad who had strike rates of 65 and 67 respectively.

This shows how much ahead of his peers he was.

To conclude, Kohli has made an excellent start to his ODI career and there is definitely a case for calling the greatest ODI batsman of all time. However, his numbers have to be revisited at the end of his career. If he plays anywhere close to potential he will end up as the greatest of all time.

The author tweets @ravivenkat007