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Team of the Year - Really?

by Bored Member

By Q

Do you first pick a team and then choose the best person out of the lot to captain them or do you first pick a captain and then fit him into a team?

That's what I thought when I took a glance at the 3 test teams of the year picked by the ICC, Vic Marks, and Peter Roebuck.

While the ICC chose Graeme Smith to captain their Test XI of the year, Roebuck picked Dhoni, while Marks shied away from naming his.

Dhoni had an 80% success rate in 5 tests as captain this year while Smith has a 66.67% success rate in 14 tests, which would be higher after this Melbourne test ends.

Based on that, both deserve it. I'll leave it till the end to decide on who it should be.

No two teams out of the 3 are identical thus leaving open the debate about which one is exactly the test team of the year.

Only Smith, Pietersen, and Steyn are common among all 3 teams.

Considering that Smith and Steyn head the leading run scorers and leading wicket takers lists respectively for 2008, their presence is a given.

But Pietersen, despite his awesome stature, has 11 batsmen ahead of him in the top run scorers for 2008, hence him being a unanimous choice in the XI is a bit bemusing.

Sachin makes the cut only for Marks' team, while the other two have left him out. Its difficult to leave a batsman of that reputation out of any team but when there are other batsmen who have done better, selection becomes a bit tricky.

But choosing KP when Sachin has more runs?

On the other hand Marks leaves out Shiv Chanderpaul, who is in the other two teams.

Chanders is the top ranked batsman currently. On top he's averaging over a 100 in 9 tests this year.

You can't leave him out!

Surely the three selectors had their own criteria but most runs or highest average is something even understood by the commoners.

Then how can you go wrong?

All three have picked different spinners.

Marks has gone for Harbhajan, Roebuck for Mendis, while the ICC have picked the best of the lot, Muralitharan.

Bhajji is the highest wicket taker among spinners this year followed by Vettori. So how Murali and Mendis are even considered is mind boggling.

Alright so Mendis averaged 18, but he played only 3 tests.

Murali averaged only 3 runs better than Vettori. When the difference in wickets is 15, I don't think 3 more runs per wicket makes much of a difference.

The choice of wicket keeper also makes one wonder.

Cricinfo picks Sangakkara, while the other two go for Dhoni.

They aren't even the highest run scorers this year.

McCullum is.

Even Haddin and Boucher have more runs than Sanga, while all 5 average around the same during 2008.

In terms of dismissals, Boucher and McCullum are heaps ahead of any other. Poor Sanga is right at the bottom.

They all got it wrong here IMO.

So how do you select a test team of the year?

The obvious way would be to pick the top 6 batsmen of the year, the top wicket keeper, and the top 4 bowlers.

Whether the top are the leading run scorers, wicket takers or those with the best averages is arguable.

Considering some play more than others during a year it shoud be fair to define a minimum number of matches and then select the ones with the best averages.

Lets say a minimum of 8 tests?

I think thats fair considering all top teams should have played that many in a year.

If they haven't the ICC need to revisit the FTP.

Besides Pakistan and Sri Lanka all teams played atleast 9 tests this year.

Even Bangladesh played more than the Lankans.

Pakistan is another story.

Going back to the team.


The top 6 batsmen in terms of averages (min 8 matches) are: Chanderpaul, Smith, Gambhir, Prince, De Villiers, and Katich.

It hurts me to leave Sehwag out but if Katich had played 3 more matches, as many as Sehwag, he would have gotten more runs.



Boucher had the most dismissals, McCullum the most runs, and Haddin the best average.

How do you choose?

McCullum has the most dismissals per match at 2.3, well above Boucher's 2.0 and Haddin's 1.9, hence he's the pick.


The leading spinner in terms of average was Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan.

With 29 wickets in 8 tests with four 5 wicket hauls he did better than Vettori and better than Harbhajan. He even had a better strike rate than both of them.

Murali and Mendis just didn't play enough.

On top Shakib also has runs against his name.

Pace Attack

The top 3 pacers in terms of averages were Steyn, Sidebottom, and O'Brien.

Sure Johnson, Lee, Ntini, Andersen, and Morkel had more wickets but O'Brien would have gotten there had he played another 2-3 matches this year. His strike rate was far better than any of them this year.

Then what makes Marks ignore players from New Zealand and Bangladesh? In a better set up they would be match winners.

And what makes Roebuck take matches against Bangladesh out? Prince scored where Kallis failed and batsmen scored against the likes of Shakib who troubled the best.

Based on pure performance and no bias, here's the Test XI of the Year:

1. Graeme Smith
2. Gautam Gambhir
3. Simon Katich
4. Shiv Chanderpaul
5. Ashwell Prince
6. AB De Villiers
7. Brendon McCullum
8. Shakib Al Hasan
9. Dale Steyn
10. Ryan Sidebottom
11. Iain O'Brien

Picking a captain out of that isn't so difficult then is it?


Anonymous said...

its been a strange year...with not much test cricket from pakistan so that takes out anyone from there...

but I ll comment on smith over Dhoni...a few more matches and it was dhoni for best captain...but smith has the bigger wins especially recently...

pietersen makes it because of his runs against which teams and which situations...he has become the go to guy in recent times...

Gaurav Sethi said...

Vested interests aside, Shakib's the guy.

Gotta say, picking a team of the year is one helluva time pass. I'd pick a team on gut, how players play outside their comfort zone - turn matches on their head - who comes to mind?

Sehwag, Smith, Gambhir, Chanderpaul, Duminy, MSD, Flintoff, Steyn, Mendis, Murali, Zaheer.

- they are the players of the year for me, and they're exciting too. Never mind the three openers, I want closure here.

Q said...

Shakib should be the guy for us here at BCC! NC ;-)

I agree with you if u talk about the gut feeling. Picking a team on gut and I wouldn't leave Sachin out of it at all.

But the thing is all those who picked the teams, i.e. Marks, Roebuck, ICC committee, all said they did on the basis of performance, i.e. stats and in that case they got it wrong.

Q said...

Not much UTP? None at all from Pakistan :-)

Dhoni has big wins but as I said if u pick a team of the year Dhoni doesn't make it as keeper - niether in terms of dismissals nor in terms of runs.

Pietersen, yes great player, but many above him this year. U can't pick KP ahead of Sachin ever. Not yet atleast.