Virat Kohli or AB de Villiers: Which of the two modern greats is the better batsman in ODI cricket?

AB de Villiers retired from cricket in 2018, while Virat Kohli is preparing to lead Team India in the 2019 WC.

Virat and AB de Villiers are fast friends having played for RCB in IPL for years | AFP

Whenever the history of modern day ODI cricket will be written, the names of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers will definitely be mentioned in the upper echelon in golden letters.

These modern masters from India and South Africa respectively have rewritten how batting is done in the One-Day International format of the game and their record suggests their greatness. Though, AB de Villiers retired from the game recently at the age of 34 years, after enjoying a 14-year long career with the Proteas; his absence will be noticed during the next year’s World Cup in England.

Virat Kohli, on the other hand, is still going strong at the age of 29 years and will most probably lead India in the 2019 World Cup in England.

Throughout their careers, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers have been the subjects of many comparisons between themselves. But the question has gone unanswered as most of the comparisons crunched numbers which came out almost equal for both batsmen.

Now team Circle of Cricket tries to answer the burning question of who is the better ODI batsman – Virat Kohli or AB de Villiers?

The beginnings

Young Ab de Villiers and Virat Kohli

AB de Villiers was a child prodigy, excelling at various disciplines of sports like table tennis, field hockey, swimming, tennis and of course cricket. In the end, cricket beat every other sport as De Villiers decided to make it his profession.

De Villiers made his Test debut against England in 2004 (in the same match as Dale Steyn) after playing just 16 FC matches. He also kept wickets in intermittent and excelled everywhere, as he got to bat from no.1 to no.8 positions.

Virat Kohli dedicated his life to cricket and focused every living minute of his life to becoming an India cricketer. Losing his father at the age of 18 was a big setback for Kohli, who became more motivated to realize his and his father’s dream. He took the first step by leading the Indian U19 team to World Cup glory in 2008 and made his ODI debut in the same year.

Path to greatness

AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli will be considered as one of the greatest ODI batsmen ever

In 2007 World Cup, AB de Villiers hit his first century in ODI cricket for South Africa, 146 against the West Indies and never looked back since. The real AB de Villiers was starting to blossom as he struck three consecutive centuries – two against India and one against West Indies in ODIs in 2010.

Virat Kohli hit his first ODI hundred against Sri Lanka and then struck his highest ODI score of 183 against Pakistan, leading India to win in a tough chase of 300 plus runs. Kohli specialized himself in chasing totals, something he has become scarily good at. He paces his innings brilliantly in chases, often switching between singles-doubles and boundaries with ease.

Already a World Cup winner in 2011, Virat Kohli might add another World title to his list of accolades, as he will lead India to 2019 World Cup in England.

The record speaks for itself

Both De Villiers and Kohli have plenty of records to their name in ODI format

AB de Villiers retired with 9577 runs in 228 ODI matches with 25 centuries and 53 fifties with an average of 53.50 and strike rate of 101.09. He owns the record for fastest fifty (in 16 balls), fastest century (in 31 balls) and fastest 150 in ODI cricket. His 31 ball century against West Indies at Joburg was a masterpiece in how to demoralize and destroy your opponents.

Each of his 25 centuries came at a strike rate of more than 100. He hit 16 sixes in an ODI inning, a record he shares with Rohit Sharma and Chris Gayle.

Virat Kohli currently has played 208 ODIs and scored an astonishing 9588 runs with 35 centuries and 46 fifties with an average of 58.10 with a best of 183 and strike rate of 92.14. He has placed himself amongst the greatest of chasers in ODI cricket history.

In chases, Kohli has 5772 runs in 117 matches with 21 centuries and average of 67.90 and strike rate of 94.05.

Impact on the game

Both De Villiers and Kohli have made the ODI game better with their talents

AB de Villiers’ 360 degrees game of cricket in ODIs and T20Is has forced others to innovate as well and we are seeing some brilliant and audacious shots being played by almost every batsman. De Villiers has changed how games are finished in ODIs and how one man can change the fate of a team when it comes to increasing the final total of the team.

He has the most centuries to his name in ODIs, coming in to bat after 35th over of the innings. His best innings by far was the 166* against West Indies in 2015 World Cup in Australia, when he single-handedly destroyed the Windies attack, taking 60 runs off the last two overs of Windies captain Jason Holder in death overs.

His audacious hitting saw him hit three centuries in five ODIs against India in 2015, including one that helped South Africa hit the highest ODI score in India -438 at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

AB de Villiers’ legacy will always be his innovation on the cricket field. He has shots all over the ground and wasn’t afraid to show his mettle against the best bowlers –spin or pace, on the fastest or rank turner of wickets.

Virat Kohli is still playing for India in the entire three formats and at just 29 years of age, has atleast 7-8 years of cricket left in him. Captaincy of the Indian team has not pegged Kohli back and has only increased his hunger for runs.

His legacy so far has been that of the best chaser in the ODI format and that of a fitness maniac. He has instilled the need of fitness in the Indian team and players have been dropped from the team if they have not been found fit enough to the set level.


AB de Villiers retired as one of the best all-around batsman; while Virat Kohli will continue to flourish in the format

The question of who is the better ODI batsman in between AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli will only be answered when Virat Kohli will retire from the game.

For now, we can see both have their own advantages and drawbacks. AB de Villiers was an amazing batsman in any format but was unable to break the South African omen of not reaching the finals of the World Cup, despite the best of his efforts. South Africa was ousted in the semis of 2007 and 2016 World Cups, while 2011 World Cup saw them crashing out at the quarterfinal stages.

Virat Kohli won a World cup in 2011, in his debut year, hitting a century in his first World Cup match against Bangladesh. He was one of the highest run-getters for the Indian team in the 2015 World Cup, where India was ousted in the semi-finals by Australia.

One has the advantage when it comes to batting first, while other is the master of chasing a total down. One has the command of hitting shots all over the ground, while another has made proper batting shots glorious again.

Finally, in conclusion, AB de Villiers retired as the greatest ODI batsman of this era with Virat Kohli not trailing far behind.

But with Virat Kohli having almost 7-8 years of cricket left in him, Kohli will not only surpass AB de Villiers in the race to become the greatest ODI batsman of this era; but he might as well, challenge Sachin Tendulkar for the crown of best ODI batsman of all time.


By Jatin Sharma - 19 Jun, 2018

    Share Via