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Virat Kohli vs Joe Root: Nothing official about it, so why this silly debate?

When Joe Root has chosen ahead of Virat Kohli in this year’s ICC World XI, there was bound to be an incredulous reaction from the cricketing fraternity in India. More so, given a number of runs Kohli has scored this year and the nature of the media which feeds on exploiting “insecurities” and the nationalistic emotions of a fan. Little attention was paid to the fact that the time span which was taken into account for selecting the team had Joe Root outscoring Virat Kohli at the number 4 slot, which resulted in the Indian Test captain being left out.

In any case, the team chosen for the year 2016 by the ICC is by no means the final World XI and can be disputed without expressing outrage of the kind TV channels would like to invite to gain TRP ratings. This just goes to show how touchy we as a nation can be when it comes to judging who the best player/best team is, especially when India is in contention.

Virat Kohli, the undisputed monarch

Moving beyond this silly controversy, there is no doubt that India is by right the best team in the world today and Virat Kohli the undisputed monarch of batting. He has had a phenomenal run across all formats, the like of which is rare and goes to show what an exceptional year Kohli has had. Virat Kohli is the best at the moment, though Root is not far behind and the coming time will show how this rivalry will unfold in terms of quality and quantity.

Joe Root came to India with a great run behind him and though he was a success on the tour, he failed to play a substantive innings which could have redefined the series for England. That was the difference between Kohli and Root in the five-Test contest. Whereas Kohli played innings after innings which had a significant impact on India’s mauling of England, Root just about hung on, unable to play that big inning which could have changed the course of the series. Does this mean Kohli is a far superior batsman and has left Root far behind in this race for the number one tag? Certainly not and let me explain why.

Kohli, a failure in England

It is far easier to be a lion in your own den than to gobble up opponents in enemy territory. To remind readers of a well-known statistical fact: When Kohli last visited England in 2014, he was a dismal failure, averaging a pathetic 14 and succumbed to the seaming, swinging conditions with embarrassing regularity. In Kohli’s favour, we can say that he is no longer the same player who could hardly put bat to ball in the summer of his discontent. Root in comparison has had a series in India which does no discredit to him and proves his skill and fighting qualities.

Kohli has come a long way since then and is a far more complete batsman today than he was then. His exploits in Australia, his becoming a disciplined icon, whose focus and training would today be the envy of the best international athletes, are well known.

That has helped him become the player he is today and as we head into another new year, how he performs outside India, especially in England and South Africa, would define his place in the pantheons of world cricket. In this sharp contest of greatness and who is better -- Root, Smith, AB de Villiers or Kohli – fans are in for an exciting time.



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