Mike Hussey snubbed Steve Smith.
Mike Hussey snubbed Steve Smith.

Sorry Huss, Smith is the real top dog

Australian legend Michael Hussey knows all the stats are in favour of Steve Smith but he can't go past Virat Kohli as the best Test batsman in the world.

Smith plundered his 27th ton at the SCG and backed it up with 81 in the second dig as Kohli watched the action from home, having returned to India after the first Test in Adelaide for the birth of his child.

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As Smith chugged along on Sunday, conversation in the Fox Cricket commentary box turned to the best willow-wielder among the supposed Big Three of Smith, Kohli and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.

Numbers often tell the story in cricket and Hussey admits on data alone, Smith is at the top of the pile. But the likeable left-hander just can't shake the belief Kohli is the real No. 1.

"(Going by) numbers and the averages, you would say that Smith is No. 1 but in my mind I've felt that just by watching, on the eye, Kohli is probably the best of those three," Hussey said on Sunday.

"It's all very close, don't get me wrong. But he stands out to me as the best."

Hussey is one of the most respected figures in the game, having played his entire career with passion and integrity, but we think he's missed the mark here - not something you can often say about Mr Cricket.

On numbers alone, you can argue there shouldn't even be a debate about the Big Three because Smith stands alone as the Big One.

He has 7449 runs and averages 62.75 from 76 Tests compared to Kohli's 53.41 with 27 tons (87 Tests) and Williamson's 54.31 with 24 centuries (83 Tests). The Aussie isn't just playing in another league, he's in another stratosphere.

Smith has the second-best average of all time (minimum 20 innings), behind only Don Bradman. If he retired today, he would be one of only seven batsmen to have averaged more than 60.

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Then you've got Smith's record away from home. Plenty of batsmen can score runs in comfortable conditions they've grown up with but how they go in enemy territory often best reflects their true worth.

Again, it's not even close. Smith has more runs (3883) at a significantly better average (57.1) than his counterparts when he hops on a plane, having scored 13 centuries from 39 Tests on foreign soil.

In comparison, Williamson has 3327 runs at 45.5 with 11 tons from 42 Tests overseas, while Kohli has 3760 runs at 44.2 with 14 centuries in 48 matches.

Those are mighty impressive figures from the pair, but Smith is still streets ahead.

We'll accept there are mitigating circumstances. Kohli's classical technique is beautiful to watch and may appeal more to cricket purists than Smith's eccentric dance moves at the crease.

Plus he's captain, and carries the weight of more than a billion people in cricket-mad India every time he walks out to bat. Boasting a record like Kohli's when most mere mortals would be suffocated by the pressure means you need to look beyond aggregates and averages to gain a true appreciation of his output.

As skipper, Williamson has led the Kiwis to the No. 1 Test ranking and is clearly the best player in the country's history. Although population-wise he's not facing anywhere near the same burden as Kohli, his team's fortunes rely so heavily on him and New Zealand's success is intrinsically linked to his run-scoring feats.

You can argue Smith too deals with the pressure of being Australia's best player, but in recent times has been blessed with partner in crime David Warner - and now Marnus Labuschagne - to share the load.

Numbers can lie but in this instance they do all the talking - and they're saying Smith is top dog.

Originally published as Sorry Huss, Smith is the real top dog



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