Who is the best Test batsman who has dominated in recent times? COVID-19 Epidemic? The list is long and not surprisingly filled with many deserving players, but everyone has a mess. Data for last three years [Jan 1 2019 to the present] Covers both normal and abnormal times so I accept them as a good range of scoring trends. Statistics aren’t my specialty—I favor players who are aggressive and aesthetically pleasing—but they are a guide to getting on the right track.
The big four on the list include; Joe Root, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. However, two young players in Babar Azam and Marnus Labuschagne deserve to be included.
Root scored the most innings and topped the list with both centuries comfortably. Root has an alluring desire to score and collect runs around the wicket with a wide range of shots. He is famous for compiling centuries, but he is the only player to reach double digits in that period.  in that department. Yet Root’s inability to score a century in Australia despite playing 27 innings is damaging. Root’s Australian struggles include reaching fifty on nine occasions, without converting any. A series of low scores at home against South Africa’s strong pace attack is also a warning.
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Smith is a very unconventional player but he is extremely difficult to stop or dismiss. Had this list been compiled before the pandemic, it would automatically be number one. However a recent tactical change that included a direct line of attack with the occasional short-pitch barrage and appropriate field placings has uncovered a dent in his formerly impenetrable armour. At least he looks human now.
Marnus Labuschagne; (right) Babar Azam
Kohli is a fine player with great stroke range, a highly competitive nature and a thoughtful approach to batting. When asked why he is not involved in the typical short-form risky shots, he replied; “I don’t want him to come to my Test match.” Be it the aging process or retiring as captain – Kohli’s output has started to wane and he needs to rekindle the magic.
Ken’s Simple Technique
Williamson is a staunch competitor, having a good back-foot game as well as a penchant for running the ball to third person. Williamson has a tendency to be underestimated because of his simple technique, but he has a stellar record despite suffering a serious elbow injury.
Since playing as Smith’s substitute at Lord’s in 2019 and then establishing himself as a valuable number three, Labuschagne has evolved into a running machine. Like Smith, Labuschagne is a prodigious batsman, but highly effective as he is right to the point of contact. Labuschagne has been extremely fortunate in a short period of time as the opposition has not only abandoned many of his proposed opportunities, but some of them are sitting full. How he performs when his luck returns to normal will determine the value of this innovative player.
Azam, a complete player
Azam is a complete player with his flowing drive and all round shot range. His footwork is neat and there is a captivating artistry that makes his batting stand out. To complete the picture, Azam has a game that fits all three formats, but his Test batting stands apart with the ability to compile centuries. Josh Hazlewood has dominated Azam in Australia and this has raised some concerns about his ability on bouncy pitches. However on his second tour of Australia he produced some gems to enhance his reputation as a player.
It’s tough to pick the best player from that talented group. However when you consider that some old-timers preferred Victor Trumper’s artistic style over the best batsman acknowledged in Sir Donald Bradman, the difficulty is not surprising. It is hard to beat the highly competitive Kohli in his best days. His double century in a failed but valiantly winning effort at the Adelaide Oval in 2014 is my favorite innings out of that group.
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