'Fab Four' of the modern generation: A comprehensive career review

Sahil Batra

Enter caption

The 'Fab Four' of the current generation are dominating world cricket now. The Fab Four includes Team India captain Virat Kohli, former Australia captain Steven Smith, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, and England Test captain Joe Root.

These four players are the mainstays of their team's batting line up and are the considered best batsmen in today's generation. All these batsmen bat at either number 3 or number 4 position which is considered as a very important batting position for the team to post a competitive score.

While there is a constant debate over the standings of these four players among them, there is no denying in fact that all of them are match-winners for their respective formats and can win the team matches irrespective of the format and match situation.

The journey of these players from their debut to the highest level has been phenomenal which is described as following:

#1 Virat Kohli (India)

India v Pakistan - 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup

The current Indian captain came into limelight as the skipper of the Indian team that won the U-19 World Cup in 2008. His leadership qualities were noticed along with his intensity in the field. He also earned IPL contract in the inaugural season of IPL with RCB and continues to play for the franchise till now.

He made entry to the national squad against Sri Lanka as a replacement for unavailable openers and performed decently at the opening position, but was left out of the team after the regular openers Sachin and Sehwag were back.

However, he continued to impress in the domestic circuit and forced the national selectors to call him back again in the squad in 2009. He repaid the faith of selectors by scoring his maiden ODI hundred against Sri Lanka in a successful run-chase.

He continued to be part of the team and was also included for the World Cup 2011 squad. He scored his first hundred in World Cup against Bangladesh in his first ever WC match and then stitched an important partnership with Gautam Gambhir in the finals after the fall of two quick wickets.

After performing consistently in limited overs cricket, he was handed his debut in Test cricket in 2011 against West Indies as many players were rested.

After that, he was selected for the tour Down Under against Australia. He was not able to score much in the first two Tests and was being criticized for his poor technique. But he came back strongly in the next two Tests, scoring 75 in the third Test at Perth and then scoring a century in the fourth Test at Adelaide.

Moreover, he continued to impress in the limited overs format and went to make innumerable records for fastest to multiple-of-thousand runs in ODIs and went to become the highest run-scorer in a calendar year many times.

One of the most remembered innings of Kohli came in the tri-series in Australia against Sri Lanka in 2012, where he scored 133* and helped India chase the target of above 320 in less than 40 overs and kept India alive for the tournament. This innings had announced the arrival of the greatest chase master of the game.

He was also handed the captaincy of RCB for IPL 2013 and continues to do it till now.

He continued his good form further in the year and became the mainstay of the Indian middle order and contributed largely with his extraordinary fielding skills. He also played decently in Champions Trophy and played very well against Australia at home, scoring fastest hundred by an Indian in ODIs and helped India chase targets of 350 above continuously.

He carried his form in the tours to South Africa and New Zealand. The lowest point of his otherwise astonishing career came in the tour of England in 2014, where he scored runs at the average of less than 20 and was getting out again and again against the out-swinging deliveries and was criticized largely for his poor batting techniques in foreign conditions.

But he soon proved his worth in foreign soil by batting solidly in the 2014-15 tour to Australia and was also handed the captaincy of the Test team by Dhoni in the last Test of the series. Although he was not able to win the series for India, he made a solid testament to his solid batting technique. His wrists and bottom hand were the strongest point in his batting technique and helped him play flicks and pick-up shots very easily and he scored runs heavily in the leg-side.

He continued his good form in limited overs cricket and performed well in WC 2015, but failed to perform in semi-finals against the eventual champions Australia. After the IPL, he led the Test team first time for a complete series against SL and won his first test series as a captain after storming back into the series after the team lost the first Test at Galle.

He did not scored heavily in the 2015-16 home series against South Africa on the dreaded turning tracks but batted enough and led the team well to win the series. He played well in limited overs against South Africa and also against Australia in Australia. This was the series when his purple patch started and he scored heavily in both ODIs and T20s.

He also dominated as a batsman in the T20 WC in 2016 and played one of the most remembered innings in the must-win match against Australia.

The 2016 IPL was the best IPL for him as he scored 4 centuries, the only batsman to do such till date, and took the team to finals single-handedly, but was unlucky to not able to lay hands on the silverware.

He continued his form in the Test format and soon completed his fourth double century in Tests against the England side at home and scored very heavily in the whole series, batting out the England team in each match.

He was then handed over the reins of limited overs team by MS Dhoni and this did not affect his batting much as he continued to pile plethora of runs in the ODIs and T20s against England.

However, he did not have a great series against Australia at home and also the IPL as he was suffering from injuries. But he came back strong in the 2017 Champions Trophy and led India to finals, where they were shockingly defeated by Pakistan. Recovering from the loss, he continued piling on runs against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and then against Australia and Sri Lanka at home.

Then came his first tour in the SENA country as a captain and also as a batsman after that forgettable tour of England. Although team India was not able to win the Test series in RSA, Kohli continued improving his game and scored heavily in both Test and limited overs cricket and helped India win the ODI and T20 series.

He had a decent outing in IPL 2018 by his usual standards, but after IPL he had probably the most important tour of his career till date, in England as he had to prove his critics wrong. He did so and scored a huge amount of runs in the Test series and it clearly showed great improvement in his technique. He played Anderson well and the series seemed to be England vs Virat Kohli.

He continued his form in limited overs cricket and erased all the memories of his previous tour of England and showed that why he is considered as the current best batsman in the world. This shows that Kohli learns quickly and no one can beat his urge to improve.

He also further continued his form vs Windies at home and is the player to watch out for the tour of Australia and New Zealand and most importantly the 2019 World Cup.

The performance of Indian team in these tours and WC 2019 will largely depend on Virat Kohli and we hope that he continues his purple patch and helps India lift the WC for the third time and that too under his captaincy.

2. Steven Smith (Australia):

South Africa v Australia - 2nd Test: Day 3

The young boy with golden hair came to the international scene as a leg-spinner who could bat a bit lower down the order but who knew that destiny had the other way for Smith who went on to become the best batsman in the world, especially in Test Cricket.

Smith made his debut in domestic cricket in 2007-08 across all formats for New South Wales. He was believed to be a good leg-spinner who would give enough flight to the ball and turned big. Moreover, the young bowler action was similar to that of Warne and people started comparing him with Shane Warne.

Smith talent was still raw then and he had to wait for another two years to make his international debut in February 2010 in limited overs format. He was also handed his Test debut on the tour of England.

He batted at 7 or 8 and bowled leg spin, but still not had enough skills and had raw talent. He was selected for Ashes 2010-11 and his selection was criticized a lot and after Australia lost the urn.

Moreover, many people believed that he had more skills in batting than bowling and Greg Chappell even went on to say that Smith was the best batsman in the country.

Smith took this seriously and started to work hard on his batting. After good performances in domestic cricket Smith was called back into the squad for Ashes 2013, and he showed that he has improved as a batsman by a long way.

He possessed an unorthodox technique and he also developed his trigger movement across the off-stump, but this unorthodox technique proved effective and he scored a lot of runs. This was the arrival of Smith 2.0.

He continued his good form in the return Ashes series later that year and helped his team regain the Ashes urn. He followed it up with an equally impressive tour of South Africa.

He continued his form next season as well and the India tour of Australia made him one of the best batsman in the world, especially in test cricket as he piled a plethora of runs against a tired Indian bowling attack.

He also continued his good form in WC 2015 and scored five consecutive fifty-plus scores and helped Australia to lift the World Cup for the fifth time.

Even though Smith scored a lot of runs and was at the top of his form, many experts felt that he still did not have the technique to play well in seaming and spinning conditions. But he was quick to prove them wrong by performing exceptionally well in the 2015 Ashes in England and also scored a double century in the Lord's Test.

As expected he was given the captaincy of Test and ODI team after the tour of England, while the T20 leadership came after around six months.

He continued to pile on runs as captain also. He was in great form towards the end of 2015 when India toured Australia for the limited overs format and scored a heavy amount of runs. He continued his good form in series against New Zealand and South Africa across all formats.

He also performed decently in the T20 WC in 2016, the format in which he is still not considered to be best suited for.

The tour of Sri Lanka was not that well for Smith according to his standards, although he scored a century and a couple of half-centuries. But his team was not able to play well in spinning conditions and eventually went on to lose the test series.

He did not have a great tour of South Africa for the ODIs later that year. But he had a decent outing at home against New Zealand, South Africa, and Pakistan towards the end of the season in both Test and ODIs.

He was able to prove his batting credentials in spinning conditions in the subsequent tour to India in 2017 where he was the only batsman of the team who was able to score runs against the Indian spinners on the Indian pitches.

He also replaced MS Dhoni as captain of the Pune franchise in IPL 2017 and played well and helped the team to reach the finals only to lose the match towards the end of the innings after dominating for the most part of the match.

He was not able to perform to the expectations in the Champions Trophy as two out of the three group matches of Australia were abandoned due to rain. He then continued his good form in test cricket by performing well in the tour of Bangladesh and also performed exceptionally in the limited overs formats in the tour of India.

He was the main pillar of the Australian team for the 2017-18 Ashes at home and helped his team regain the urn by winning the series 4-0. He also batted decently in the limited-overs leg of the tour.

Everyone was impressed by his leadership and great batting technique which helped him to be at the helm of Test batting rankings for a long time. However he continued his great batting in the tour of South Africa, the third test of the series in Newlands led to a great downfall in his career as he was found guilty of ball tampering. He was banned for one test by ICC but Cricket Australia was taken aback by his action severely and they banned Smith for one year. Smith accepted his mistake and is now serving the ban while also taking part in some T20 leagues like CPL and APL to keep himself involved in the Cricket.

We hope that this incident does not take a toll on his batting and he continues to pile on runs in each format for his team after coming back to the team after serving his ban. The performance of the Australian team in the coming years, especially the 2019 WC will depend on the form of Smith and also Warner upon their return to the team after serving the ban.

#3 Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

Pakistan v New Zealand - 1st One Day International

Coming from a family where all of his family members were involved in different sports, be it cricket, volleyball and football, it was no surprise that Kane also had an interest in sports and he chose cricket following his father and by now has established himself as a most important player for New Zealand Cricket Team.

The greatness of Kane was predicted from his U-19 days where it was expected that Williamson would become the backbone of the New Zealand batting line-up one day. He also had leadership skills in abundance from his U-19 days and as expected he became the captain of New Zealand team.

Rising to all the expectations, Kane Williamson made his international debut at the age of just 20 in 2010 in Sri Lanka for tri-series that also featured India. His white ball career started as a tragedy as he registered ducks in his first two matches.

But he soon proved his mettle by scoring a century against Bangladesh later that year. His red ball debut came soon but it was on a tough and challenging tour to India. But Williamson rose to the occasion and made a statement by scoring a century on debut that too in subcontinental conditions.

Williamson continued to pile on runs but not at that consistency that was expected from him. He changed that in 2014 tour to India where he scored five fifty-plus scores in five ODI matches and broke a heap of records.

He became only second batsman to score fifty-plus scores in all five games of a series. He became only fourth New Zealand batsman to score five consecutive fifty-plus scores and also holds the records for most number of the fifties in series by a New Zealand player.

2015 is considered to be the career-defining year for him. He notched up 1172 runs in tests in that year at an unimaginable average of 90 and also scored 1376 runs in ODIs at an average of 57. He was instrumental in New Zealand's journey to the finals of WC 2015. He scored runs again different bowlers effortlessly and made the bowling attacks look blunt against him.

Soon he was given the responsibility of captaining the team in all three formats after the retirement of Brendon McCullum from all forms of international cricket in early 2016 just before the T20 WC in India.

He has performed fairly well as captain but still needs to learn a lot as captain. One thing that stands out in his captaincy is his tactical smartness and awareness of the game situation.

He is not rated very highly as a T20 batsman. But he performed decently in 2017 IPL for SRH whenever he got an opportunity. But he changed the perception of people to a great extent in IPL 2018 where he led his team to final and also won the Orange Cap for scoring 735 runs at an average of above 52 and at 140+ strike rate.

He is a completely flawless and classical batsman who is a delight to watch with a perfect footwork and strokeplay. He mainly plays the role of anchor in limited-overs cricket. If he can score runs little more quickly in white ball cricket, he would become a phenomenal batsman.

Kane Williamson is an irreplaceable player for New Zealand both as a batsman and as a captain and the team would largely depend on him to get hold of the ICC World Cup for the first time in 2019.

#4 Joe Root (England)

Joe Root

Joe Root, current Test Captain of England cricket team, was born on 30th December 1990. He belongs to a cricket family where his grandfather played in Yorkshire league and his younger brother is an MCC young player.

Root received various scholarships also involving cricket scholarships. He made his debut for Yorkshire second team in 2007 at the age of just of 17 years and also scored a fifty.

Root continued to perform well in U-19 matches and was considered to be the next wonder boy of cricket. He soon signed a 3-year contract with Yorkshire and made his debut in 2011. He scored 222 in his second season which was the breakthrough season for him. Root was performing consistently in county cricket and soon got his maiden call-up for the Test team in the historic 2012 tour of India where England won the Test series against host India.

He batted very well in Nagpur against India spin quartet of Ashwin, Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha, and Piyush Chawla. He helped England recover from a tough situation and played for more than 4.5 hours and scored 73 runs to bring out a draw.

He also performed decently in ODI series scoring a half-century and a couple of scores of above 30. Then against New Zealand, Root and his Yorkshire teammate Bairstow stiched a century stand at Headingley to bail out England from a tough situation and also scored his maiden test century in the process and helped England win the match.

Root was ready for another stern examination, Ashes 2013, in which he performed exceedingly well and also scored a monumental 180 in the second innings of Lord's Test. He performed well in the series and England defeated their arch-rivals by 3-0. He continued his form in Champions Trophy and was the highest scorer for England.

Just before the Ashes, he was involved in an altercation with Warner, in which Warner allegedly punched him. As Michael Carberry was selected as an opener with Cook, Root moved to his previous position of No.6 though he later moved to top order as Trott pulled out due to stress-related illness.

He did not have a great Ashes but selectors showed faith in him and selected him for ODIs against West Indies. Root repaid selectors' faith and performed well in the series and also scored his maiden century in 4th ODI. But after his stellar performances, he had to leave the tour midway and also missed the World T20 due to injury in his hand.

He continued his great batting in 2014 by performing excellently against Sri Lanka when he scored an unbeaten 200 at Lord's.

He raised in performances further in the 2015 ashes and scored 460 runs at an average of 57.5 with two centuries. Root truly arrived when he scored his best score of 254 against Pakistan at Lord's and was considered to be part of Fab Four.

Root was the player on which England depended most on their 2016 tour to India alongside Cook. Although he scored a century in the first Test, he was not able to convert his fifties to centuries in the further matches and scored 491 runs at an average of 49.10 in the five-match series.

Root was then handed the captaincy of test team in February 2017 after Cook decided to step down completing his four-year stint as captain. He was successful in his first series as captain against South Africa as he scored a fair amount of runs and also led the team to victory.

He also led the team to the series victory against West Indies. Though experts were not sure about his strong influence on the field and the best way to test it was an away series.

Ashes, an important series for any England captain, was Root next series and that too in Australia. Following the trend, the Home team, Australia, went on to win the series and Root's captaincy was questioned and also his inability of converting 50s to100s which also continued in India's tour to England.

Root is regarded as one of the best players of red ball cricket but he still needs to prove his credentials in limited overs cricket. He mostly plays the role of anchor in limited overs format due to the presence of the other explosive batsmen in the XI.

He still needs to improve his limited overs cricket and pace at which he scores the runs which may also help him in earning an IPL contract, which he has been unable to do till now.

He is the mainstay of England's middle order and he soon needs to improve his limited overs performance with the World Cup 2019 not too far and help England end their drought of 50 over WC trophy.