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ICC Review: Watson rates Kohli ahead of Smith, Williamson, Root and Babar among big five Test batters

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Dubai, April 14 (IANS) He may not have scored a hundred in Test matches since November 2019, former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson has picked Virat Kohli as the best among the current ‘big five’ batters in red-ball cricket.

Watson has rated Kohli ahead of Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, Australia’s Steve Smith and England Test captain Joe Root in the latest episode of The ICC Review, the ICC’s monthly podcast.

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The world’s current No.1 Test batter Marnus Labuschagne, who has played 26 Test matches and averages 54.31, would have increased the ‘big ‘ive’ to a ‘big six’, but was left out of the debate for this topic due to a 40-Test minimum being the criteria selected, the ICC said in a report on its official website.

Watson rates the 33-year-old Kohli at the top of the unofficial ‘big five’ with Babar Azam second, with Smith, Williamson and Root following in that order from third to fifth. Kohli has scored 8043 runs in 171 innings of 101 Tests at an average of 49.95, Babar has 2851 in 71 innings of 40 Tests at 45.98 is second while Smith with 8010 runs from 151 innings of 85 matches is third with an average of 59.77.

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Williamson has scored 7272 runs in 150 innings of 86 Tests at 53.57 while Root has 9889 runs in 216 innings of 117 Test matches at 49.19.

Though Smith and Williamson have a batting average that is better than Kohli and Joe Root has amassed more runs than all of them, Watson said he will rate the former India captain as No 1 among the unofficial Big Five because of his high intensity every time he goes out to play.

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“In Test match cricket, I am always going to say, Virat Kohli,” Watson said, when asked by Isa Guha, former England cricketer and commentator, about who he thought is the best Test batter in the world.

“It’s nearly superhuman, what he is able to do because he has such high intensity every time he goes out to play,” Watson was quoted as saying by the ICC website.

While Kohli is only rated 10th on the ICC Men’s Test batter rankings, the Indian great holds a remarkable Test batting record. Kohli has scored 27 Test centuries and 28 half-centuries and currently has a Test batting average of just under 50, it said,

Though Azam finished as Pakistan’s second-highest run-scorer during the recent three-Test series against Australia and has impressed everyone, Watson said he still has some way to go to claim his top ranking in the illustrious group.

As far as his compatriot Steve Smith, Watson said the former Australia captain has dropped down that list a little bit.

“Steve Smith has just started to come off a little bit,” Watson added. “It looks like Smith has really started to play for time a little bit more and is not putting as much pressure on the bowlers as he did when was at his absolute best. For me, Steve has dropped down that list a little bit.”

About Williamson, Watson said the Black Caps captain has been hampered by elbow issues. As far as Root is concerned Watson said the England captain has not been able to score big like has done in the past.

“Joe Root recently scored a hundred but he has had a bit of time along the lines of Steve Smith where he hasn’t been able to nail the big scores like he has done in the past,” Watson said.

“It’s incredible how these world-class batters just go through waves where instead of scoring those big hundreds, get the 70s-80s, but still have an impact on the game but are not able to really maintain that really high standard of getting those big runs as they have done in the past.”

Currently rated fourth on the ICC Men’s Test batter rankings, Root showed his class during England’s recent Test series against the West Indies by making consecutive centuries for his country. In total, he has 25 Test centuries to his name.

The ICC said Watson’s ranking of the ‘big five’ is sure to generate a debate and it sure will as Kohli has not been that successful in recent times.

In the last-10 matches, he trails the other four with 553 runs at 30.72 while Williamson leads the pack 950 from 17 innings. Root has 789 from 19 innings of 10 Tests, Smith 773 in 16 innings while Azam has amassed 769 runs in 16 innings of his last 10 Tests at an average of 48.06.

–IANS

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