Melbourne: Former Australian skipper Ricky Ponting believes India captain Virat Kohli is currently the best batsman in the world only because Steve Smith is serving a year-long ban for his role in ball tampering at a Cape Town Test.
Asked who is the number one batsman in the world, Ponting said: "Right now, he (Kohli) is because Steve Smith is not there.
"(But) if Steve Smith was playing now, I'd have him as the number one player in the world," he said at Channel Seven's cricket season launch.
Ponting believes Smith's contribution in Australia's many victories, especially at the Ashes, makes him a better batsman than Kohli.
"That's how high in regard I hold Steve Smith — what he's done the last three or four years with his game and (he's been) able to lead an Australian team to so many wins the way he has (batted)," Ponting said.
"The Ashes summer last year was just some of the best and purest batting as you're ever going to see. To do it on the big stage in an Ashes series, and to do it on the first day of an Ashes series when it counts the most, says a lot about him."
Smith, who was banned for a year by Cricket Australia for his role in the ball tampering scandal that rocked the third Test against South Africa at Cape Town, has so far scored 23 Test hundreds at an average of 61.37. He amassed 687 runs, including three hundreds, during the last Ashes series.
Kohli, on the other hand, has hit 21 hundreds at an average of 53.40.