There is no bigger superstar in cricket than Virat Kohli, with the India batsman adored by a 1.3 billion plus population for his sensational run-scoring exploits.
As an all-format batsman, they really donâ€™t come better than Kohli who is well placed to break several records held by compatriot Sachin Tendulkar.
Kohliâ€™s machine-like ability to amass runs and centuries has rightly elevated him to legendary status, but how well does he compare to AB de Villiersâ€™ brilliance?
The South African ace is five years senior to Kohli, while his international future remains a subject of constant speculation after a shock retirement in 2018.
When it comes to naming the best batsman of the generation, de Villiers thoroughly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Kohli. Below are just a few reasons why.
Rate of scoring
Kohliâ€™s greatness in the ODI format is not only built on the fact that he makes runs so consistently, but also the rate at which he scores them. The 31-year-old has perfected a template which minimises risk, and instead relies on quick running between the wickets to keep the scoreboard ticking.
To score nearly 12,000 ODI runs at a strike-rate of 93.52 is nothing short of brilliant from Kohli. However, de Villiers blows his Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate out of the water with a strike-rate of 101.09.
Among batsmen with at least 5,000 ODI runs to their names along with averages greater than 50, none barring de Villiers have a strike-rate over 100. The South Africanâ€™s batting average of 53.50 might slightly pale to that of Kohli (59.33), but the fact that he scores his runs at a far superior rate deserves consideration.
In an exclusive club of two
Like Kohli, de Villiers has been able to translate his success seamlessly across different formats. In fact, the two are the only batsmen in history to score more 5,000 runs in both Test and ODI formats, while also averaging more than 50.
The fact that 19 of de Villiersâ€™ 22 Test tons have come from a position of No5 or lower only goes on to reinforce his genius as a red-ball batsman. The only area de Villiers loses out to Kohli as an all-format batsman are his surprisingly average T20I numbers.
As a batsman who has had significant success in the T20 franchise leagues around the globe, de Villiersâ€™ international average of 26.71 does not really do justice to his talents.
His 360-degree range as a batsman and the ability to play unconventional strokes is tailor-made for T20 cricket.
While de Villiersâ€™ ODI strike-rate portrays the image of a batsman who loves to go on the offensive, he does possess an extremely solid defence as well. On one hand, is a man whose 31-ball century against the West Indies is the fastest in ODI history. He also holds the record for the quickest ODI half-century and 150 as well.
On the other hand, is a man who could transform into a brick-wall when the situation so demanded it. Who can forget his match-saving 33 off 220 deliveries in the Adelaide Test against Australia in 2012, or his valiant 43 off 297 deliveries against the same opposition in New Delhi in 2015?
For all his unconventional and unorthodox cricketing genius, de Villiers has a firm grip on the fundamentals and basics of batting. If one wants to construct the complete batsman, they should look no further than the South African.
A man for the big occasion
South Africaâ€™s World Cup hoodoo shows no signs of stopping, although de Villiers efforts in the quadrennial tournament cannot be faulted. The right-hander has always raised his game for his country in World Cups, and holds a much superior record than Kohli in the tournament.
In 22 World Cup innings, de Villiers has amassed 1,207 runs at an average of 63.52 and a strike-rate of over 117. He has also registered four tons in the marquee event, including a glittering 162 off just 66 deliveries against the West Indies in 2015.
In comparison, Kohli has only managed to average 46.81 in 26 World Cup innings. It is a shame for the Proteas that de Villiersâ€™ team-mates have failed to adequately back up his World Cup displays.
His decision to retire from international cricket in 2018 has soured de Villiersâ€™ reputation with South African fans, especially with his continued commitment towards franchise cricket. However, one cannot ignore the sacrifices he has previously made for the countryâ€™s case.
In Tests, he has batted at every position from No1 to 8 and has performed adequately in each slot. The same is the case with his ODI career, where he has batted every position from No1 to 6 and done it handsomely. It proves de Villiersâ€™ powers of adaptability that he has performed every task with distinction.
It is also pertinent to note that the batting stalwart was asked to don the wicketkeeperâ€™s gloves in as many as 55 ODIs and 24 Tests. Despite the constant shuffling of his batting order and the burden of extra responsibilities, de Villiers has still managed to maintain performances at an elite level. The fact that he has done it while also nursing a troublesome back is testament to his extraordinary talents.
A peak like no otherÂ
For all of Kohliâ€™s exploits as an ODI batsman, even he has failed to scale the heights reached by de Villiers. From 2009 to 2015, the Proteas ace averaged more than 50 in each calendar year. No other batsman in history has managed to do so for seven consecutive years, with Kohliâ€™s best run in the format being four years so far.
The Indian still has time to match or better de Villiersâ€™ record, though it will take some doing in the coming years. Even his peak years as a Test batsman were a sight to behold and saw him touch dizzying heights. Between 2008 and 2015, he collected 5,877 Tests at an average of nearly 60 while also registering 18 tons.
Eight other batsmen scored more than 5,000 runs during the same period, but none of them averaged as high as the South African. That he batted at No5 or No6 for the most part during this sensational run further propels his qualities as a batting maestro.
It is no wonder that Kohli is himself in awe of his RCB team-mate.
â€œAB is the best batsman of our generation. Itâ€™s a pleasure to bat alongside him. Love so many things about his game â€“ his balance, his reactions, the way heâ€™s composed at the crease and the way he communicates,â€ he had once said about de Villiers.
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