When it comes to pure Test cricket, most of the world still considers Sir Donald Bradman the greatest batsman ever. He scored 6996 runs with 29 centuries. To put things in perspective (even though it doesn’t quite work that way), had the Don played 200 Tests, then he would have made 26,907 runs and 112 centuries!
The Don also captained a team called The Invincibles which played 31 first class matches and three other games in 144 days without losing a single match. Bradman had a Test average of 99.9 and second place is quite far off: Graeme Pollock with 60.97.
But Bradman never played an ODI match. He retired in 1948 and the first ODI was played in 1971.
So who is the greatest batsman across both formats? One candidate is Sir Vivian Richards who terrorized both Test and ODI bowlers. He was part of two ODI World Cup winning squads and played when West Indies were considered champions in Tests.
Of course many Indians and those obsessed with records would simply go with Sachin Tendulkar and his 100 international centuries and his 34,000 odd international runs.
But Richards never played international T20s and Tendulkar played just one, scoring 10 runs off 12 balls.
With the growing popularity of international T20s, after 5-10 years, the question will be popped: Who’s the greatest batsman across all three formats?
One such candidate who has taken an early lead is India’s sensation in the form of Virat Kohli, who is proving to be a revelation in all three forms of the game.
Interestingly he had a quiet ODI debut and made no centuries in his first 10 matches. And then he really took off. He has currently played 134 matches and made 5634 runs at an astonishing average of 52.2 and as many as 19 centuries.
(Richards averages 47 and Tendulkar 44.8 in ODIs)
Nobody could boast of such a sterling record at this stage of his career. What’s more, 13 of them have come in chases and India has won a whopping 12 of them. There is no doubt that Kohli has a crack at breaking Tendulkar’s ODI records.
He also had a quiet beginning to his Test career. In his first Test series in the West Indies he didn’t even score a half-century and he was dropped from the team.
When he made a comeback he made it count this time and so far has six centuries in 24 matches and has made 1721 runs at an average of 46.5 which is getting better and better and he has a chance to take it beyond the 50 mark.
Why Kohli seems to be a long-term player is the fact that he is getting better and better and has come to the party on foreign soil. Kohli came to the party in the Perth Test in 2012 and since then he averages 67.5 on foreign soil!
So basically in ODIs he excels in tough chases and in Tests he dazzles overseas: All the makings of a lasting great.
Similarly, Kohli was a slow started in international T20s too. He scored his first half-century in his 10th match and since then has simply broken lose. He averages a phenomenal 45.3 (the highest for a Test playing nation with players who have played 25 or more matches) with 8 half-centuries and in the recently concluded T20 World Cup in Bangladesh he has been sensational.
He scored 319 runs at an average (high even for Tests) of 106.3.
Kohli may have well emerged as the best international player across all three formats.
His technique and shots are breath taking. With the way he is going, he will have all the records too. He blossoms under pressure and is the master of the chase. His ability to minimize dot balls has already gone beyond the all-time greats.
He is a big match player too. In the 2011 ODI World Cup, he was involved with an 83-run partnership with Gautam Gambhir that took us to safety after the fall of two early wickets.
In the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy final he top scored with 43 and in the 2014 T20 WC he top scored with 77.
Kohli has already become the Emperor of Pressure and one day could well be dubbed the greatest batsman ever!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/