Cricket has witnessed some of the most intense and hard-fought rivalries over the years. The 70s and 80s witnessed a brutal combat between legendary cricketers Viv Richards and Jeff Thomson. This was followed by a hard-fought rivalry between Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne in the 90s, as well as the fierce battle between Brian Lara and Glenn Mcgrath in the early 2000s. This legacy carries on at another level, as Team India skipper Virat Kohli and Australian batsman Steve Smith battle for glory.
Kohli and Smith are currently considered two of the greatest players in Test cricket. The duo have fought it out for supremacy on a consistent basis, with excellent performances through thick and thin.
Fans from all corners of the world gather around in unison to witness their jaw-dropping gameplay. Such has been their dominance that legendary batsman Don Bradman who was once deemed incomparable, is now considered within reach following the exploits of the duo.
Smith who recently made a comeback to Test cricket following a 12-month ban for ball tampering, made his presence felt during the latest edition of the Ashes. The 30-year-old accumulated 774 runs in seven innings, after being forced to miss out on the third Test following a lethal bouncer by English pacer Jofra Archer.
Steve Smith's 2019 #Ashes campaign:
Seven innings for 774 runs at an average of 110.57, including three tons and three fifties. Highest score of 211.
Legendary. pic.twitter.com/vNt9YwT5pM- cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) September 15, 2019
Smith stood out under pressure especially during the fourth Test at Old Trafford, enabling Australia to retain the Ashes on the back of victory by a margin of 185 runs. The batsman scored 211 runs off 319 deliveries in an innings comprising of 24 boundaries and two sixes to help Australia post a strong first innings total of 497/8.
His performance in the second innings was as gritty and effective, with England set a stern total of 383 runs to chase down. A fine performance by the Australian bowling attack led by Pat Cummins, helped ensure a comprehensive victory. Performances of this nature resulted in Smith being named as the highest ranked Test batsman by the ICC, having accumulated 937 points at an average of 64.56.
Kohli on the other hand, was placed on the second spot, after scoring 903 points at an average of 53.14. This startling gap of 34 points was certainly a shock for the Indian cricket fans, who had seen the prolific run-scorer dominate world cricket in every format of the game. Kohli however had no else to blame but himself, after a disappointing away tour of West Indies, where he managed to score 136 runs at an average of 34 during the two-match Test series.
The 31-year-old was criticized for his performances with the willow, in the longest format of the game. Some even went to the extent of stating that his hunger and desire to score under pressure, did not extend as much beyond the shorter formats. Kohli who is known for the ability to grit his teeth and desire to continue in the same vein despite criticism, did not provide any response in typical fashion.
However, to those who had followed his career closely, there was certainly an extremely special knock waiting to burst out ruthlessly against an unassuming opposition. Kohli unleashed his fury on a touring South African side in the 2nd Test of the three-match Test series at Pune, reserving his best for an extremely potent pace attack led by Kagiso Rabada.
The Team India skipper smashed 254 runs off 336 deliveries in an innings comprising of 33 boundaries and 2 sixes, to frustrate the visitors with his tenacity and patience.
Kohli finished as the third highest run-scorer in the Test series, accumulating 317 runs in four innings at an astonishing average of 158.50. This was certainly an incredible comeback by the batsman, and a fitting response to his critics.
However, the fire in the batsman's belly is certainly yet to be extinguished as evident from his excellent century against Bangladesh in the historic D/N Test at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Kohli scored 136 runs off 194 deliveries in an innings comprising of 18 boundaries.
Watch: @imVkohli's sensational century lights up EdenNovember 23, 2019
The latest ICC Test rankings have further indicated the impact of the cricketer's performances, with the gap between Smith and the Team India skipper reduced to just three points. The race for Test supremacy which seemed to be tilted in favour of the Australian at one stage, is back on level terms and to a certain extent in Kohli's favour considering his recent form and momentum. Smith further managed to score just 40 runs in the two-match Test series against Pakistan.
For Steve Smith, the pass mark is 100.November 26, 2019
However, the Australian is a cut-throat competitor at the same time, as evident from his unique distinction of being the only batsman after Don to score three double centuries against England. One is certainly guaranteed a riveting battle as the two heavyweights maintain their quest for supremacy.