Birmingham: Australia coach Justin Langer feels Steve Smith is at par with Indian captain Virat Kohli as the world's best batsman after the comeback-man struck consecutive hundreds in the first Ashes Test against England.
Langer said it's credit to Smith that he began his career as a spinner and later transformed into the best batsman in the world.
"Let's face it; when he (Smith) first came in, leg-spinner, unorthodox... (everyone thought) 'I'm not sure this kid's going to make it'. Then he goes away (and decides) 'I don't want to be a leg-spinner; I want to be the best batsman in the world'.
"Then he transforms himself and he is the best batsman in the world with Virat. It's a great credit to him," Langer said.
"I said during the summer that Virat Kohli is the best player I have ever seen but that (Smith's knocks) is just another level," the coach said.
Kohli currently leads the ICC Test rankings, while Smith has moved up to second with his performance in the ongoing Ashes series.
Returning to international cricket after serving a one-year ban for the infamous ball-tampering episode in South Africa, Smith struck twin centuries -- 144 in first innings and 142 in second -- to help his side register a thumping 251-run win against England in the first Test.
In the second Test, he once again steadied the ship for the Aussies by scoring 92 runs in the first innings. His duel with Jofra Archer in this test was worth-watching. But, due to a concussion suffered by a bouncer hitting his neck, he was substituted for the second innings and as a result, he couldn't come out to bat.
Langer said Smith's knocks at Edgbaston showed his mental toughness and traits of a great player.
"You have in different teams, different eras, great players but for someone like Smudge (Smith), who is averaging over 60 and the way he played in this innings with all the pressure and everything that is on him, it was not only great skill but enormous character, enormous courage, very brave, unbelievable concentration, unbelievable physical stamina, unbelievable mental stamina, all traits of great players," he said.
In Tests, Virat Kohli has played 131 innings and scored 6613 runs at an average 53.76 and Steve Smith has played 119 innings and scored 6577 runs at an average of 63.24.
The numbers suggest that Smith has a slight advantage over Kohli in Test cricket. But, between the battle of these two greats, cricket will emerge as the real winner....