The eternal debate: Kohli or AB?

Is it float like a butterfly sting like AB or float like a butterfly sting like Kohli? Once and for all, let us try put to rest the debate of ‘Would you pick Kohli or De Villiers?’

Chris Gayle, the self proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’, compared Kohli and De Villiers to Batman and Superman. Like all the Marvel Comics nerds, we cricketing geeks too want to know who would win in a duel between these two.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have won just 50% of their matches in the 2016 Indian Premier League and that is without a doubt thanks to two men: Abraham Benjamin de Villiers and Virat Kohli.

Since the days of WG Grace, cricket has been blessed with the best in terms of batting superstars. Ranging from the likes of the Don to Graeme Pollock, Viv Richards, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara; cricket fans have been delighted by the sight of willow hammering leather for centuries. These are the headline acts, the Mumford and Sons to a Glastonbury Festival, the reason you buy a ticket or turn on the telly.

In Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, we are presented with arguably some of the finest players of the game. Modern day superstars, these natural born entertainers are set to one day lay rest in cricketing heaven alongside the game’s true greats. From a spectator’s perspective, it is pure gluttony to have these two in the same era, let alone the same team.

The duo have combined for 1349 runs in RCB’s 12 matches this season* at a ridiculous strike rate of 158.3. The rest of RCB’s team have managed just 848 runs between them – this in a lineup that features Chris Gayle, Shane Watson and two-time Test centurion KL Rahul.

Virat has already set the record for the most runs in an IPL season, notching up 752 runs at an average of 83.55 and a strike rate of 148.03. The previous record of 733 runs was set by fellow RCB teammate Chris Gayle in 2012 and with at least two matches in the regular season remaining, expect Kohli to leave the record at some unachievable mark in excess of 800 runs. Yes 800 runs, that’s more runs than this writer has scored in regular, garden, pool and pencil cricket combined.

Kohli has a record three tons to his name this season to go with five half centuries and three Man-of-the-Match awards. However, the Indian demigod hasn’t gone complete Kygo and stole the show, as he has been equally matched if even overshadowed by his South African counterpart.

AB de Villiers is the man Kohli has on more than one occasion referred to as the ‘Batsman of our generation’. Wow, that is quite a compliment coming from someone whom many would feel the comment is most applicable to.

597 runs at an average of 59.70 and a strike rate of 173.54 places AB second on the runs list in this year’s IPL. One century, five fifties and three Man-of-the-Match awards is some pretty darn good going for a non-opener in T20 cricket.


The debate of Kohli vs AB became the topic of conversation in my living room on Monday night after the RCB vs KKR match. All of us were in agreement that it was Kohli, a simple decision it seemed. “Kohli has the BMT, he never lets the situation get the better of him and no one can control a chase like him.” That was the general consensus and off we went to bed after yet another sumptuous display from these two superheroes who chased down 183 with little fuss (Kohli 75*, AB 59*).

The following day I rang my father, an avid IPL fan and a partisan South African supporter. “Kohli is selfish, he prizes his wicket too much, bats too slowly and does not make the sacrifices AB does.” There may have been a few colourful expletives in there too, as the old man seemed upset that his own flesh and blood would opt against a fellow countryman.

Kohli is the king of the chase, that is undisputed in limited overs formats. He averages 83.97 in the second innings of ODI cricket when India have won, with 13 hundreds and numerous Man of the Match awards. His record in ICC Tournaments is fairly special too – averages of 50.83 at the recent 50-over World Cup, a whopping 86.33 in World T20s and 67.75 in the Champions Trophy. He has won a 50-over World Cup and an ICC Champions Trophy to date.

AB has not won an ICC event, but boasts a superior record in both Test and ODI cricket to Virat in terms of volume of runs, average and strike rate. Only Kohli’s T20 record is superior to that of AB ‘s at international level. Neither player has won an IPL title which helps level the playing field somewhat here.

In the current IPL, De Villiers’ strike rate of 173.54 places him third on the list of batsman who have scored 100+ runs with Krunal Pandya 192.56 and Chris Morrs 184.61 ahead of him. One has to climb down to number 10 on the runs list to find the next non-opening batsman in Ambati Rayudu (334 runs, 30.36 ave, 120.14 SR) and he leads the league in terms of sixes (32) with Kohli in second (28), despite having faced some 164 more deliveries.

All three of De Villiers’ Man-of-the-Match awards have come in a winning cause, whilst many could argue he was unlucky to not get another for his 35-ball 64 in Game 39 against Kings XI (Shane Watson claimed the award for his 2-22 in a tense 1 run win). Kohli meanwhile has just two out of three in terms of wins with his Man-of-the-Match awards after his first innings 63-ball 100* against Gujarat Lions in Game 19 proved to not be enough for a victory.

Now Kohli can measure a chase like no other, can amass runs like no other and rises to the occasion no matter what. AB is simply a freak – he can score runs anywhere on field, plays shots that no MCC manual possesses and has the ability to grow hair over a once barren bald spot. Like his Protea teammates, AB is believed by some to fold on the big occasion and choke, whilst Virat is seen in almost the opposite light.

So do we go for the arrogant, yet meaningfulness of Kohli? Or the humble, cavalier-like super-freak AB? Like a Batman vs Superman, Messi vs Ronaldo, Carter vs Wilkinson or Brady vs Manning, this is as tough as it gets.

Cricket has the beauty of statistics to support any argument. However, it is going to take someone with more than a Standard Grade matric mathematics ‘A’ to their name to work this out. So this will have to go down to a gut decision. In terms of the enjoyment factor I go AB, but if I could only pick one to play in my side it would have to be Virat.

Its easier said than done though. I rank this decision up there with “Both your kids are hanging from a cliff and you can only save one” or “What episode do we kill off Jon Snow?”

Maybe it is best to leave things with this quote from Kohli:“AB is the best batsman of our generation. It’s a pleasure to bat alongside him. The way he communicates, he’s a selfless person. He doesn’t care about his own plans, but helps people around him. He’s a better human being than a batsman.”

Perhaps my dad is right, Kohli is selfish and his slow batting costs RCB, whereas AB’s fluency allows Kohli to play with that ‘sluggish freedom’.

When RCB take on Kings XI on Wednesday afternoon, I can only hope that both AB and Virat continue on their merry way, plundering the hapless bowlers to all corners of the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

*Correct as of 18/05/2016 before the RCB vs Kings XI Punjab match. 

AB vs Virat Virat vs AB



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