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Virat Kohli vs. Steve Smith: The Battle Within the War!

The two best Test batsmen in the world go head to head in this highly anticipated series.

The skippers and their teams' talismanic batsmen. Image: NDTV Sports

If the 1998 Test series between India and Australia was billed as a clash between India’s batting genius – Sachin Tendulkar, and Australia’s spin wizard – Shane Warne, then the latest edition of this intense rivalry will see two modern greats in identical roles going up against each other.

India’s Virat Kohli and Australia’s Steve Smith are not only their team’s premier batsman but also its captain. Their batsmanship more often than not decides the fate of their team’s innings. In addition to that, their leadership skills will play an integral part in the direction the series takes.

The talismanic Indian skipper is the master of all he surveys. Not only is he in the form of his life as a batsman but his aggressive intent, passion and ambition clearly rubs off on his teammates and has galvanized them into becoming the No.1 Test team in the world. His ‘belief’ in himself and his team’s ability to win games from any situation against any opposition is a huge part of his leadership style. He sets the standard on the field and his team, to the last man, follows his lead. He has transformed himself from a great limited overs player into an unstoppable force and sits at the top or near the top of every batting chart, across formats. His recent performances in the Test arena where he became the only player in history to score 4 double hundreds in 4 successive Test series further underlined his growing stature as a batsman. Responsibility also clearly suits him, as his Test batting average has rocketed up from a healthy 41.13 to an astonishing 67.22, since he took over the reins from M.S. Dhoni. He is still a young captain but has already notched some impressive numbers – he has led his team to six consecutive series wins, more than M.S. Dhoni, and a 19 test undefeated streak. He also has the highest winning percentage of any Indian Captain (who has captained more than one test) – 65.21. His sharp cricketing brain will be ticking over furiously as he plots the downfall of the ever- competitive Australians.

Kohli is the 2nd ranked Test batsman while Smith holds the top spot. Credit: Deccan Chronicle

While The Australian captain isn’t as vocal as his Indian counterpart, his importance as a leader and a batsman is no less significant. As a batsman, he is a steady and calming influence in this Australian batting line up. He has been in imperious form since 2014 and his consistency has been the hallmark of his batting. His phenomenal run has seen him catapult to the top of the Test batting charts and Australia will undoubtedly rely heavily on the No.1 Test batsman in the world to pile on the runs. As a captain he leads from the front and has a mature head on his shoulders. He too thrives under the responsibility that captaincy brings, and the manner in which his Test batting average has been super charged from an already impressive 51.83 to an astounding 73.73 is symbolic of this. He too had an impressive start to his captaincy, stringing together an 11 Test undefeated streak, the most by any Australian captain at the start of their captaincy. He also has a winning percentage of 55, which is much higher than some of his more illustrious predecessors. His ability to motivate his team and his tactical acumen will be tested to the fore and will be vital if Australia are to compete, let alone win, in what is presently considered Mission Impossible in Test cricket.

Both teams will undoubtedly look to their young leaders to show them the way, and it is this riveting contest between the No. 1 & 2 Test batsmen in the world, and captains, that holds the key to the fate of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. They have had a similar trajectory in their cricketing careers thus far, both as batsman and captains, and each will look to script another exhilarating chapter to add to their ever-growing legacies. This series could well define who inches ahead in what is seen as one of the most highly anticipated contests of the year.

The wait is over. Let the battle begin!

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