Steve Smith v Virat Kohli is the most intriguing battle of the summer, a battle which cricket fans were robbed of during India’s last visit to Australia because Smith was serving his 12-month suspension, and it will again be a great shame this series when Kohli has to fly home after the first test for the birth of his first child.
It is wonderful news that Kohli will become a father for the first time, and of course there are more important things to life other than cricket. But there is no doubt that cricket fans would be feeling a little selfish in wanting Kohli to stay to not only take on the might of the Australian test bowling attack for the entire series, but his battle within the battle to reclaim the number one spot on the ICC test batsmen rankings, currently held by Smith.
Players like Kohli do not come to our shores very often. From the perspective of an Australian cricket fan, not only is he the player we love to hate, but he is also the player we love to watch. So much so, Australian fans were calling on Kohli to bring his wife to Australia so she could have the baby here and not miss any of the test series. Perhaps Kohli does not want his child being eligible for the baggy green.
We will have to cherish his presence in the first test at the Adelaide Oval which begins on December 17th and hope he puts on a show with the bat, because it will be a few years before we get to see him play test cricket in Australia again.
Smith has outshone Kohli so far this summer with unbelievable back-to-back centuries in the ODI series, both off just 62-balls which helped Australia to a series win. We are yet to see Kohli at his best so far this tour, although he did notch up a couple of half centuries in the ODI’s and contributed to India’s series clinching win in the second T20.Embed from Getty Images
Both limited overs series has set the tone for the upcoming test series and Kohli will be hellbent on ensuring India gain the advantage and momentum before he departs after the first test.
On the 2018 tour, Kohli and his Indians dominated against a Smith-less Australian side and in 2020, the tables have somewhat turned as it will be tough for India to cover the loss of their skipper, especially when you consider the fact that Smith is in ominous form.
If Kohli fails with the bat in the first test, Smith will have a chance to consolidate his slim lead on the test batting rankings. The rankings certainly would not bother Kohli as he is very much the ultimate team player, but there would hardly be a day that goes by that Kohli is not working hard to be the absolute best batsman in the world and he knows Smith is a serious challenger to those bragging rights and that would motivate him to stay on top of his game.
The test series will lose much of its spice and prestige after the first test and it is a testament to the greatness of Kohli. Some may beg to differ, but using Nielsen’s athlete marketability assessment methodology, Virat Kohli is the fourth most marketable athlete in the world with only Lebron James, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi ahead of him.
The consolation for Australian fans, is the potential for some payback for the crushing 2018 defeat and Smith will certainly be hungry to make it up to his country.
But even after Kohli leaves our shores, India will still be a force to be reckoned with and possess a world class bowling attacking featuring Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – so the great Steve Smith and the rest of the Australian batsman will have their work cut out for them in what will hopefully still be a competitive series.