One could not have envisaged a 2009 International Test XI without Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson. An international 2000 Test team could have included eight Aussies (Slater, Hayden, Ponting, S Waugh, M Waugh, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath).
However, not a single Australian makes it in my 2010 Test XI which explains their current No. 5 Test ranking. Well, there is still one month and three Tests before 2010 ends and hopefully an Aussie emerges to prove me wrong.
Here is my 2010 Test XI based mainly on statistics for this calendar year as at 2 December.
We need two opening batsmen.
India’s Virender Sehwag walks in twirling his bat, looking for a six hit whether he is on nought or 99. In this calendar year he has smacked 1302 runs at 68.52 and a strike-rate of 91.62, hitting 5 centuries (top-score 173) and 7 fifties while belting 9 sixes. Only team mate Sachin Tendulkar has so far scored more runs than him this year.
Who will partner Sehwag?
There are three candidates, Graeme Smith of South Africa, West Indian hurricane Chris Gayle and England’s Alastair Cook, the hero of the recent Brisbane Test. These three left-handers have averaged over 50 (Smith 863 runs at 57.53), Gayle (525 at 65.62 with a top-score of 333) and Cook (1012 at 56.22).
It’s a toss-up but I go for the younger Cook whose confidence must be soaring after his 67 and unbeaten 235 in the last few days in Brisbane. Imagine converting a deficit of 221 into a huge 296 run lead with help from skipper Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott.
Ponting, South Africa’s Hashim Amla and England’s Trott are in the running for the No. 3 spot. My choice is for the bearded Amla who this year amassed 1060 runs at 81.53. Ponting averages 47.56 and Trott 61.41.
With most runs (1396 runs at 82.11) and most centuries (6) in 2010, Tendulkar is a certainty at No.4, no rival in sight, modestly acknowledging the crowd’s thunderous welcome home or away.
Commented Brian Lara in a recent interview in Gulf News: “Sachin is our period’s Don Bradman. Forget the difference in averages with Bradman, but whoever I have spoken to, who have seen very old players in action, they believe that he [Bradman] would not have averaged 99 in today’s cricket. So, I believe that Sachin is our period’s Bradman.”
South African Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara compete for the No. 5 slot. Kallis has amassed 970 runs at 74.61, de Villiers 834 at 83.40 with an unbeaten 278 last month and Sangakkara 695 at a Bradman-like average of 99.28. I select Kallis for he is an all-rounder with his medium-pacers.
India’s very very special VVS Laxman is my selection for the No. 6 position. A classy stroke-player he is at his best during a crisis, often converting a certain defeat into a cliff-hanging win. Despite injury, he was behind India’s miraculous one-wicket win over Australia in Mohali in October. This year he has aggregated 790 runs at 79.00.
Now to a wicket-keeper who can bat at No. 7.
Two nominations: England’s Matthew Prior and India’s MS Dhoni. They played 11 Tests each, Prior dismissing 42 including 2 stumpings and Dhoni 40 including 7 stumpings. A real toss-up! I go for Dhoni because the XI needs a captain and you can’t go past him as a leader. Under him India has emerged from a struggling unit to a champion nation.
Also he has outscored Prior by stroking 570 runs at 40.71.
Who will open the attack?
Dale Steyn from South Africa, England’s Jimmy Anderson and India’s Zaheer Khan have impressive figures. Steyn has captured 45 scalps at 23.02 with 7-51 as his best, Anderson 42 at 22.02 (best 6-17) and Zaheer Khan 41 at 22.92 (best 7-87).
Steyn and Anderson will share the new ball with Zaheer Khan reverse-swinging later in the session. Peter Siddle, the only one to perform a hat-trick in the last three years last month, will have to sit out. So would promising but controversial Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir (33 wickets at 22.33, best 6-84).
That leaves only one place for a spinner. England’s Graeme Swann wins on merit. The only one to take 50 wickets this year so far (53 at 25.24, best 6-65), he is way ahead of his Indian rival Harbhajan Singh (35 at 42.88) .
I dispute Harbhajan’s claim as an all-rounder despite scoring centuries in successive Tests last month and hitting most sixes this year (15).
So here’s my 2010 Test XI in batting order: Sehwag, Cook, Amla, Tendulkar, Kallis, Laxman, Dhoni (capt., wk), Swann, Zaheer Khan, Steyn and Anderson.
This makes it five from India and three each from South Africa and England.
I leave it to the Roarers to nominate the 12th man.
My man is ‘Punter’ Ponting.