Kohli best in world, says Ponting
CRICKET: Steve Smith averages over 60 in Test cricket and Joe Root was the highest run-scorer in the format last year but neither man is the world's best batsman, according to Ricky Ponting.
That honour belongs to India's Virat Kohli.
Kohli sits second on the International Cricket Councils Test batting rankings behind Smith, third in one-day internationals behind AB de Villiers (second) and David Warner (first) and first in Twenty20 internationals.
Last year, across all three international formats he scored 2595 runs at 86.50, notching seven centuries across 41 innings.
Three of those tons went past 200 in the Test arena.
Is he the best batsman in the world?
"Yeah, he probably is," Ponting told Gulf News in Abu Dhabi.
"I thought he was six or seven months ago and he's probably taken it to another level since then."
However, the former Australian captain believes it is too soon to call Kohli a great of the game.
Only 29 years old, the Indian star already sits fourth on ODI crickets all-time century-makers list, with 27 tons from 179 matches.
However, it was only two months ago that Kohlis average crept past 50 (50.10) for the first time in Test cricket.
While Ponting concedes the Indian maestro is among the best batsman in ODI history, he is adamant Kohli has a long way to go in the Test arena before he is mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Sachin Tendulkar.
"Is it too premature to call him the best ever? You can probably say that right now as far as his one-day cricket is concerned," Ponting said.
"His one-day record is outstanding and probably better than anybody thats ever played the game given how many hundreds (27) he's made, but let's give him a few years yet in the Test series side of things.
"It's too early yet to be taking about him being one of the greats. I think the great players we always talk about, the Tendulkars, the Laras, the Kallises, those guys played 120, 130-200 Test matches.
"Virat's not even halfway along that path.
Kohli racked up 655 runs at 109.16 in his last Test series against England, hitting two centuries along the way.
If he produces a similar campaign in the Border-Gavaskar series Australia stands little chance of ending its nine-Test losing streak in Asia.
Ponting believes it is key that the Australians force Kohli out of his comfort zone.
"The one thing about Virat Kohli is whenever there's any confrontation, he does get a little bit outside of his comfort zone," he said.
"You can see that he gets ultra-aggressive, which may be a good thing for him or maybe good for the opposition.
"We will wait and see what happens.
"I think he's a similar sort of character to me as well. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Hes pretty animated. He's a very aggressive player.
"One thing I learnt about playing in India is the momentum that the home team can create, you have to try and stop that.
"Someone like Virat, you have to take his boundary-scoring areas away and make him score his runs in different areas or make him bat for a longer time to make his runs."