Well, it is that time of year again. The time where obsessed cricket fanatics (such as myself) sit down, ponder for hours, and then finally write some sort of scribble about the top players for the year.
This is a first for me, and I’ve decided to pick 13 players worldwide who will make up my inaugural World XIII. They are in no particular order.
When some of you read this, you might ask ‘where’s Brendon McCullum, or perhaps Hashim Amla?’ Yes, I did consider them, but in my mind didn’t make the cut for 2012. Their years were both excellent and helped lead their teams to some great victories, but in my mind they were beaten by others for consistency and other similar factors. Add to the fact that picking just thirteen players is extremely difficult.
Amla was ahead of McCullum in breaking into the squad however.
1. Chris Gayle (WI) (8.5/10)
Gayle just exudes coolness. I didn’t choose him just on his attitude. Gayle can play. He hit the first ball of a test for six against Bangladesh this year. Watching him play, I’m mesmerised when he gets his eye in and just destroys bowling attacks. His bullish and brutal style is what most teams come in awe of; Gayle is simply the fan’s cricketer, in a sense. His style might be suited to the shorter forms of the game, but his test form hasn’t diminished. Is one of the biggest faces in West Indian cricket, and I can see Gayle powering on for several more years.
2. Michael Clarke (AUS) (C) (9/10)
The Australian captain will exceed a tally of 1500 runs in this calendar if he plays in the Boxing Day Test. Clarke’s 2012 record, combined with his batting prowess and performance, makes him an easy candidate for my side. Since taking over the reigns from Ricky Ponting in August 2011, Clarke has found a new spark in his form. He looks confident at the crease, is playing his full array of shots, and his form harks back to that of the early years of playing in the Australian team. Has the right brains for a cricket captain, and despite a series loss to South Africa, is leading by example, and is also part of ushering in a new generation of Aussie international cricketers.
Since taking over the captaincy from Andrew Strauss, and even prior to that, Cook has been accumulating runs. His 766 runs in the 2010-2011 Ashes series here in Australia was evidence of a batsman at the top of his game; Cook was man of the series as England dismantled a somewhat bewildered Australian side. His recent tour of India saw him pass the previous record number of centuries from an English batsman (22) and accumulated 572 runs in that series. Turning 28 on Christmas Day, Cook not only has many years ahead of him, he has been one of the best batsman in the world of late, not just in terms of runs. His technique is one to watch; how a lot of batsman should play. Is still piling on runs after beginning his captaincy reign.
4. Kumar Sangakkara (SL) (WK) (8.5/10)
While his form may have dropped a bit of late, Sangakkara still looks extremely composed at the crease and is still scoring runs. Watching the last time he was here in Australia (at the time I was 14), I was a little in awe of the way he played his strokes. I still am today, and Sangakkara is helping usher in a new era of youngsters. Gave up the wicketkeeping duties a few years ago, but is still a stubborn rock of the Sri Lankan side.
5. Dale Steyn (RSA) (8.5/10)
Steyn continues to amaze with his terrifying bowling. He has lost some pace in the last 12 months, but he more than makes up for it in swing and accuracy. Has stayed so consistent over the years it is hard to believe he has not completely broken down. His action is nothing fancy; again a bit like Siddle, workhorse like, and has plenty of aggression. Hasn’t seen all the rewards in 2012, but it certainly has not stopped him from giving it his all.
6. James Anderson (ENG) (9/10)
After the likes of Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff departed the England cricket team, it was Anderson’s turn to step up and take charge of the bowling attack. In the 2010-2011 Ashes, he exploded, and his ability to use the ball as a swinging weapon really put him up an echelon in my bowling “books.” Can swing the ball both ways, absolutely fantastic to watch, and looks even better since taken on the “captain’s” role of the bowling attack. Come the Ashes next year, Anderson could be very, very potent.
7. Jacques Kallis (RSA) (9/10)
Is there anything this guy can’t do? Perhaps stand on his head with ten beer bottles on his feet?
Kallis has been a huge stalwart of the South African team for many years now. When he is batting or bowling, I’m glued to watching him, or listening on the radio. His ability to bat in the top order (and rack up some large scores) then come out in an innings, test matches especially, and possibly bowl 25 overs is testament to a man who just keeps going. He can do a bit with a ball too. While he is 37, and his career may be drawing to a close, signs of it are not evident as yet. Batting, he plays his shots incredibly well, and hits them damn hard.
8. Virat Kohli (IND) (9/10)
The main thing that gets my attention with Kohli is his batting. It is fluent, aggressive, and great to watch. When he was here in Australia last summer and crunched a beautiful century against Sri Lanka in Hobart, I knew Kohli was one to watch. His one-day career has flourished (almost 4,000 runs at 52), and his batting technique is just beautiful. Kohli does not look artificial in the way he plays his shots either. Add to the equation he is only 24 with 90 one-dayers and 14 tests under his belt, I see Kohli being a huge part of the Indian squad for a long time to come.
9. Peter Siddle (AUS) (9/10)
Many cricket fans, journalists and the like describe Siddle as a workhorse who never gives up. I agree. He puts 110% into his game to give Australia every chance to win. He runs in, bowls, smiles, and then does it all again. I admire him for his perseverance and determination. With a lot of injuries to the Australian fast bowling contingent, Siddle has taken the reigns in style, and can keep going for a few more years.
10. Graeme Swann (ENG) (8/10)
Swann has now found himself a regular in England’s test line-up, and debuted in 2000 in one-day colours. During the last two Ashes series, Swann was instrumental with pace bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad in creating a lethal bowling line-up. After a shaky start in the England line-ups and in county cricket, Swan began to make a name for himself in the match winning stakes, and since then has been on the up and up. Has had plenty of series being the lead wicket taker, and unlike the majority of spinners, does not bowl a doosra, instead opting for more common arm balls and top spinners combined with attacking flight.
11. Saeed Ajmal (PAK) (8.5/10)
Ajmal has proven himself to be a shining light in a Pakistan team that in recent years has been hit by all sorts of troubles and setbacks. A genuine off-spinner, despite making his debut at the age of 31, Ajmal has shone on the international stage with his career in tests boasting 122 wickets in just 23 tests. Known for his control and being able to vary his deliveries, Ajmal’s status has risen in the past 18 months to the point where he sits at number three on the ICC test bowling rankings. It is his stunning consistency that makes him a fantastic strike bowler for Pakistan.
12. Lasith Malinga (SL) (8/10)
The tearaway fast bowler from Sri Lanka leaves those watching stunned at his bowling, and possibly his hair. Absolutely destroys most sides with searing yorkers and simply frightening bowling. Gave up test cricket to focus on shorter forms after body didn’t want to hold up. Boy, is he a gem. His round-arm action creates a bit of unpredictability with bowling; it might be a standard outswinger, the next will be a searing yorker at 145 kph. Could not miss out on my team.
13. Faf Du Plessis (RSA) (9/10)
A little known quality here in Australia, South African du Plessis was brought in for the injured JP Duminy during their recent test series. He saved the Adelaide test for the Proteas, and helped South Africa on its way to a win in Perth. Why do I like him? Du Plessis came in to bolster the batting line up after the loss of Duminy, and he did in Adelaide what most of the batting order couldn’t do; stick around long enough to deny the Australians victory. Sure, it was incredibly frustrating, watching the match slip away, but it stamped du Plessis asa South African player of the future. He did the same in Perth and gave the Proteas a series win.
Overall team ranking: 9/10
Comments and discussion would be greatly appreciated.