Analysis: Virat Kohli vs Joe Root

Analysis: Virat Kohli vs Joe Root

Virat Kohli and Joe Root are undoubtedly two of the most talented players of this era. They have been the star performer for their teams for a long period of time.  

Human beings like to compare. When two batsmen are doing so well for their respective countries, comparisons between them are bound to happen. Let us see who is the better player according to the statistics in all three formats of the game.

Test format

Both Kohli and Root have played the same number of Test matches, 51.

The Indian Test captain has played 88 innings and accumulated 3959 runs at 48.28 with 14 hundreds and 14 fifties. On the other hand, Joe Root has 4402 runs from 94 innings at 53.03, notching up 11 hundreds and 25 fifties along the way.

Kohli has fewer not outs (six versus 11), but his runs per innings (rpi) of 44.98 is less than Root’s 46.82. Even if an extra five non-dismissals were added to his denominator, Kohli is 1.62 runs per dismissal shy of Root.

Both the batsmen play better at home than away, but the Yorkshire batsman has outperformed his opponent in both departments.

The difference in their performances away from home is not as marked (Root’s 40.93 rpi against Kohli’s 43.72), and the Indian has also scored a much greater percentage of his runs abroad (55.21% v 34.39%), but Root’s numbers at home greatly exceed those of Kohli.

With 52.02 rpi in England, Root has won 16 matches at home, while Kohli has tasted victory in a near-identical 17 home games and recorded 46.65 rpi.

If we go deeper, we can see that Kohli has been successful in Australia and New Zealand, scoring 1206 runs at 60.3 rpi with six centuries, nearly half of his total centruries

In South Africa, he has only played two games, but with a total of 272 runs at an above-average strike rate of 55.73.

By contrast, the southern hemisphere is something of a final frontier for Root; only 192 runs from eight innings in Australia, his most common career opponent, only one half-century and a slow strike-rate of 33.27.

Happily for the Yorkshireman, though, his performances in the West Indies where he scored 358 runs at 71.6 rpi and a strike rate of 73.21.

On the other hand, Kohli has scored 327 runs from nine innings, 200 of them in one outing against a listless Caribbean opponent. Root has good figures against South Africa (386 runs at 48.25 rpi) and the Middle East (287 runs at 47.83 rpi). He has five Test scores of more than 150 against Kohli’s four.

When batting in the first innings of his team, Root performs admirably: 2928 runs at 57.41 rpi, scoring 10 of his 11 hundreds in these opportunities, while Kohli has 2610 runs at 53.26 rpi.

When batting in the second innings, Root’s performance drops to 1474 runs from 34.27 rpi and Kohli’s reads 1349 runs at 34.58 rpi. The latter’s fourth innings numbers, notably, stand at 724 runs at 45.25 rpi, two hundreds and a strike rate of 61.25.

Importantly, most of Kohli’s runs have been scored from positions four and five in the batting order; 3447 runs at 47.87 rpi falls short of Root’s 2712 runs at 55.34 rpi from the same positions.

Root has also batted quite regularly at number three (where Kohli has batted in six innings); 1032 runs from 25 innings at a strike rate of 55.21, including his highest score of 254.

To conclude, the two batsmen’s performance in each other’s countries bears a look. Kohli, infamously, has mustered only 134 runs from 10 innings in England at 13.40 rpi, while Root has fared comparatively better in India, with 392 runs from eight innings at 49 rpi.

So, the winner of the Test format is Joe Root.

ODI format

For eight years, Kohli has wreaked havoc on bowling attacks in the shorter formats of the game. He has played 176 matches and has scored 7570 runs at a strike rate of 90.43, with 26 hundreds and 38 fifties.

By contrast, Root has, over the past three years, played 78 games to score 3017 runs with a strike-rate of 85.51, eight hundreds and 17 fifties.

Batting mostly at number three (117 games), Kohli has scored runs at a strike-rate of 91.31 in his favoured position. Root has batted more at number four (44 games), returning 1657 runs at 37.65 rpi and a strike-rate of 79.66.

Interestingly, when pushed to number three in the order, the English batsman’s figures get better to 47.73 rpi, a scoring rate of 0.915 runs per ball (rpb). In the same position, Kohli, renowned as a specialist, scores at 0.913 rpb.

Both batsmen enjoy playing against Sri Lanka; against no other opposition have Kohli (1856) and Root (825) scored more runs. Kohli has bested Australia several times – 1002 runs in 23 games at a 97.66 strike rate – while Root has struggled – 212 runs in 12 games at a 61.62 strike rate.

Against each other’s countries, Kohli (736 runs at 32 rpi) and Root (336 runs at 33.6 rpi) have comparable average, although the Indian (85.98 strike-rate) is quicker than his counterpart (81.55 strike-rate).

Batting second, Kohli’s numbers read 4701 runs in 95 innings (49.48 rpi) at 0.93 rpb. When batting first, they read 2869 runs in 73 innings (39.30 rpi) at 0.86 rpb. Root’s equivalent figures read 1217 runs at 33.80 rpi and 0.79 rpb (chasing) and 1800 runs at 48.64 rpi and 0.90 rpb (batting first).

In victories while chasing, Kohli has 3514 runs at 59.55 rpi and 0.97 rpb for his 62 wins and Root has 768 runs at 45.17 rpi and 0.86 rpb strike rate for his 21 wins.

The winner in ODIs is Virat Kohli.


In 45 matches, Kohli has 1657 runs, 16 fifties and a strike-rate of 135.48. His rate of scoring stands at 1.35 rpb. Root has scored 600 runs from 21 games. He has four fifties and a strike-rate of 137.29, plus a scoring rate of 1.37 rpb.

In their preferred number 3 position, Root scores at a quicker rate than Kohli. In home games, the Englishman has 196 runs in 6 innings at 1.39 rpb (Kohli: 526 in 14 at 1.44 rpb) while away from home, his figures read 103 runs in 5 innings at 1.17 rpb (KohlI: 563 in 14 at 1.39 rpb).

In the first innings, Kohli has 723 runs at 1.38 rpb and 34.42 rpi and Root has 352 runs at 1.30 rpb and 27.07 rpb. When chasing, Kohli’s figures get better to 934 runs at 46.7 rpi, although rate of scoring drops to 1.33 rpb.

Root’s performance enhances to 248 runs at 1.48 rpb and 41.33 rpi in less than half the total innings in which he batted first.

The Aussies are, yet again, a favourite opponent of Kohli’s. He has 401 runs in nine innings against them, a metric of 44.55 rpi and 1.44 rpb, plus four fifties.

Root also has 152 runs against the old enemy, but his strike rate (171.23) and rpi (47.5) show better health against the respective talents of South Africa and New Zealand, although he has yet only played thrice against the latter opponent.

Against each other’s teams, Kohli (184 runs in six innings) outperforms Root considerably, but it is worth noting that the Yorkshire batsman has only played against India twice and came to bat only once for a total of 26 runs against his current hosts in the T20 format.

The winner of the T20Is is Virat Kohli.


Even though Kohli wins in two out of the three formats, Tests are always more important than any other format and Root is the victor in that format.

So, it can be said that Root is the better batsman by a slight margin because of his performance in the all important Test format.


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