Former Australia all-rounder Shane Watson has picked Virat Kohli as the best batter among the ‘big five’ in Test cricket, preferring to not read much into the Indian maestro’s failure to score a hundred since November 2019.
As per Watson’s list, the former India captain has pipped the likes of Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Babar Azam.
“In Test match cricket, I am always going to say Virat Kohli,” Watson said when asked by Isa Guha who he thought is the best Test batter in the world, in his latest episode of the ICC Review.
“It’s nearly superhuman, what he is able to do because he has such high intensity every time he goes out to play,” Watson added. While Kohli has slipped to 10th on the ICC rankings, the Indian great continues to hold a remarkable Test batting record. He has scored 27 Test centuries and 28 half-centuries and currently has a Test batting average of just under 50.
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 ‘five’ to a ‘big six’, but was left out of the debate for this topic due to a 40-Test minimum criteria, the ICC said in a report on its official website.
Regarding Pakistan skipper Babar, who he has kept at number two, Watson noted, “Babar Azam is playing incredibly well. “(It’s great) to be able to see how he has adapted his game to really move his game to Test cricket as well.
“Babar Azam would probably be No.2 at the moment.” Babar is currently ranked the fifth best batter in the world and appears to be on the rise if his recent performances against Australia are anything to go by. He stroked a superb 196 during the second Test in Karachi and finished the series with a total of 390 runs. About Watson’s third best batter Smith, he said the Australian star “has just started to come off a little bit.”
“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.” Smith is second on the ICC rankings, with only Australian team-mate Labuschagne ranked ahead of him.
About Williamson, who Watson considers the world’s fourth best at the moment, the Australian said, “Kane knows his game inside out and knows how to put pressure on bowlers in any conditions.” While Williamson has played just two Test matches in the last 12 months, he remains ranked as the third best batter. The Kiwi veteran has 24 Test centuries to his name and may still have plenty of cricket left in him if he can overcome his injury issues.
Coming to his fifth best batter Root, Watson said, “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.”
“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,” Watson added.