South Africa, England and India are three of the four superpowers of Test cricket, yet combined they have just two players in my World XI for 2014.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan together have five inclusions.
1. David Warner (Australia) – 1136 runs at 63, including six centuries and three 50s from nine Tests.
2. Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) – 1492 runs at 71, including four centuries and nine 50s from twelve Tests.
3. Younis Khan (Pakistan) – 1213 at 71, with six centuries and two 50s from ten Tests.
4. Steve Smith (Australia) – 1146 runs at 82, with five centuries and four 50s from nine Tests.
5. Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka) – 1317 runs at 88, including three centuries and eight 50s from twelve Tests.
6. Brendon McCullum (Captain) (New Zealand) – 1164 runs at 73, with four tons and no 50s from nine Tests.
7. Sarfraz Ahmed (Pakistan) – 743 runs at 68, with three centuries and four 50s from nine Tests.
8. Mitchell Johnson (Australia) – 47 wickets at 23, including two five-fors from nine Tests.
9. Dale Steyn (South Africa) – 39 wickets at 20, including three five-fors from eight Tests.
10. James Anderson (England) – 40 wickets at 22, including one five-for from eight Tests.
11. Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka) – 60 wickets at 27, including five five-fors from ten Tests.
Why only one South African, some may ask? The Proteas remain the world’s best Test team, despite their home series loss to Australia, so it is a fair question.
Only Hashim Amla could reasonably be considered unlucky not to make my side. With 700 runs at 64 he had yet another prolific year. But did he have a better campaign than any of the guys in my top six? No, he did not.
AB de Villiers is the ICC’s top-ranked batsman on the planet and a perennial inclusion in World Test XIs.
That doesn’t make him an automatic inclusion in my side though, particularly when he’s had what, for him, is an under-par year. With just 631 runs at 49 he was no chance of dislodging guys who had scored twice as many runs at far higher averages.
I did consider de Villiers for the wicketkeeping position. Sarfraz Ahmed had an extraordinary year though and aside from his three tons and average of 68, his runs came at breakneck pace as indicated by his brilliant strike rate of 74.
Australian dynamo David Warner was a no-brainer to open the batting. India’s Murali Vijay and Sri Lankan JK Silva were the next best performed specialist openers, however both averaged only low-40s.
Silva’s teammate Kumar Sangakkara is a maestro at first drop and would have little trouble moving up one spot to partner Warner.
The other four specialist batsmen I chose all had career-best years in 2014. Younis belied his age to dominate attacks at will, Smith became the best young batsman on the planet, Mathews rose to incredible heights after taking on the captaincy and fellow new leader McCullum finally exploited his vast talent.
The bowling choices were quite straight forward. I tried to find a way to justify the inclusion of Australia’s talisman Ryan Harris.
Despite a rickety chassis, the Australia seamer has clawed his way to number two in the Test bowler rankings behind only all-time great Dale Steyn.
This achievement has come as a result of his remarkable consistency – rarely does he ever deliver an innocuous spell.
But with only six Tests in which to shine in 2014 Harris did not quite have enough time to edge out English swing merchant James Anderson.
After letting himself and his team down in last summer’s Ashes in Australia, Anderson rebounded wonderfully. Content to be back in home conditions he gained alarming swing in both directions in the series against Sri Lanka and India. It was masterful stuff.
A weak end to the year cannot erase the startling feats Mitchell Johnson achieved against England and in South Africa.
The final spot in my team went to the short and portly Sri Lankan tweaker Rangana Herath. A late bloomer in Test cricket, Herath snared 60 wickets for the year and proved that he can be effective on all manner of surfaces.
That’s my team Roarers, now feel free to berate me for who I overlooked.