Happy 2014 to you all! With the New Year having just been ushered in, we thought we’d have a quick glance back at the old and select our team of the year from 2013.
The selection is made, as usual, solely based upon Test cricket. T20 may be glitzier, ODIs may be wealthier, but Tests are our favourite and sort the wheat from the chaff. The undisputed Kings of this format right now are South Africa. This makes them an easy selection as our Team of the Year. Graeme Smith’s men played nine, won seven, drew one (which they could/should have won) and lost one. To Pakistan.
Pakistan remain an enthralling prospect to the neutral. They played seven, won two, drew none and lost five. Four of those defeats were to South Africa. Fair enough. One was to Zimbabwe.
That result gave rise to our Performance of the Year. The figures were exactly the same – 5/61. In the first innings it was Brian Vitori who achieved it, in the second it was Tendai Chatara. Their efforts and combined 10/122 led Zimbabwe to a famous 24 run win over Pakistan in Harare in September. Such is the state of the country, let alone its cricket administration, that it was a result to savour – a result for the ages. We almost certainly will not witness its likes in 2014. Or 2015… or possibly ever. It was that spectacular.
Our Player of the Year is, once again, Australia captain, Michael Clarke. He scored more runs than anyone else and was a central figure in turning around a side that received two hefty kickings in the course of 2013. First, there was a 4-0 whitewash in India, then there was Ashes humiliation as England claimed the spoils 3-0. So far down and out were Australia, so far had they sunk, that their turnaround to win four in a row against England at the year’s end is nothing short of miraculous. For that, they can thank their top scorer and innovative captain. In Clarke, Australia always have someone to turn to.
That also sorts out one position in our XI of 2013. Please feel free to argue with us at the bottom and make your suggestions. We can’t please everyone, but we’ve selected those players that have mose efficiently beaten what’s been put in front of them.
David Warner 909 runs @ 39.52 two hundreds HS 124
The volatile Aussie opener has settled down from his bar room brawling early 2013 antics to play a vital role in Australia reclaiming the Ashes. His rollicking strike rate also means that he can quickly take a game away from the opposition and he’s growing into another left-handed bullying opener for Australia.
Graeme Smith 651 runs @ 50.07 one hundred HS 234
This has not been Smith’s finest year, but competition for the opening spots is scarce and he has led his South Africa side further ahead atop the ICC Test rankings. He’s a reliable figure both with bat and at first slip and is still one of South Africa’s most important players, even if his batting is so ugly that it makes small children cry.
Cheteshwar Pujara 829 runs @ 73.36 three hundreds HS 204
We said he was unlucky not to be in our team in 2012 and it wouldn’t be long before he is… http://www.thecricketblog.com/team-of-the-year-2012/ Another outstanding year for Pujara, meaning the loss of Rahul Dravid hasn’t been keenly felt by India. There is no higher compliment one can pay the man. He’s not just a subcontinent bully, either, as he showed with a masterful 150 in Johannesburg.
Michael Clarke 1093 runs @ 47.52 four hundreds HS 187
A remarkable cricketer. His batting has matured to levels that stand comparison with some of the finest to have played the game. His captaincy is also innovative and forward thinking and he has been just the tonic to Australia’s woes. Without Clarke, it’s not impossible to imagine that Australia would have slipped into the abyss.
Ian Bell 1005 runs @ 41.87 three hundreds HS 113
It’s easy to dismiss England’s cricketers after the way they ended 2013, but Ian Bell had a terrific year before heading to Australia. He was largely responsible for rescuing England from tight spots in the summer, most notably at Lord’s when he racked up a consummate century after an iffy start to lay the foundations of an emphatic victory. How long ago that must feel to him now…
Ross Taylor 866 runs @ 72.16 three hundreds HS 217*
It was a difficult year for New Zealand in which they won only two of their 12 Tests. It has also been a difficult time for Taylor with him being removed from the captaincy in 2012. He has batted excellently despite this and has at times held New Zealand together, his being the prize wicket. He only really encountered difficulties against England, failing to notch a century against them in five attempts.
AB de Villiers 933 runs @ 77.75 four hundreds HS 164 & 46 dismissals
Selecting the wicketkeeper was easy; as many Test centuries as Clarke, second most dismissals behind the stumps after Brad Haddin – AB de Villiers was under no threat. Mark Boucher’s unfortunate career ending eye injury left a huge hole in the South Africa XI. Not only did de Villiers fill it, but his move to keeping has made South Africa stronger, since he is a vastly superior batsman to Boucher and not far off being as good a wicketkeeper. He is one the of the best players of his generation and is on top of his game right now.
R Ashwin 41 wickets @ 22.51 four 5-fers and one 10-fer
His efficiency outside of India is clearly open to question, but Ashwin can only play where the fixtures are scheduled. Since being blunted by England at the end of 2012, Ashwin ran riot against Australia and West Indies. He’s also a very handy number eight batsman, something that, combined with a better wicket tally, puts him ahead of Saeed Ajmal here.
Stuart Broad 62 wickets @ 25.80 five 5-fers and one 10-fer
No one took more wickets than Broad in 2013. He has consistently popped up with excellent spells of fast bowling that suggest his game is maturing with age. Even in England’s Ashes humiliation Down Under, Broad has been a rare positive with spells that have threatened to question Australia’s dominance.
Mitchell Johnson 34 wickets @ 17.52 three 5-fers no 10-fers
If you’re looking for a difference between Australia in the English summer and Australia in the Australian summer, this goofy-looking, oddly-moustachioed, artistically emblazoned and hyper-aggressive left-arm seamer is what you’re after. He has bullied every Englishman he’s bowled at. He’s sworn at them, too. He’s tried to physically fight them. Most importantly, he’s terrified them. Whilst he hasn’t claimed many top-order wickets, England’s tail hasn’t wagged in so much as it has been butchered off by Johnson. It’s old-school and aggressive. I like it.
Dale Steyn 51 wickets @ 17.66 four 5-fers and one 10-fer
There had to be a South African in here somewhere, and there’s none better than Steyn. Just look at that average! One luxury Steyn enjoys is that there is no respite against South Africa. You can’t relax. Morne Morkel is at the other end, if not, then Vernon Philander will have a go. So a batsman can’t just weather the inevitable Steyn storm. Not that he’d be able to at any rate, for this is a man who is the undisputed king of fast bowling.
Agree with all of that? Probably not! There were a few players who came under careful consideration but failed to make the cut. Alastair Cook had a good summer, but struggled with the captaincy in New Zealand and very obviously in Australia. His batting average was only 33. Younis Khan had a stellar year, as did Murali Vijay, who nearly nipped in ahead of Smith. Hashim Amla wasn’t quite as good as Pujara and nor was Virat Kohli quite as good as Clarke or Bell. He matured wonderfully as a Test batsman, though, and I expect to see him make the 2014 XI.
Brad Haddin deserves a mention, too. Ditched by Mickey Arthur, reinstated by Darren Lehmann, he has scored a bucket load of runs and has more Test dismissals than any other keeper. His only crime is being second best behind de Villiers.
Of the bowlers, James Anderson was the only other to get past 50 wickets in 2013. Ajmal, as mentioned, had another impressive year and ran Ashwin close for the spinners berth, as did Shane Shillingford after a series of impressive performances in India. His subsequent ban for his dodgy action was the final nail in his coffin here. Philander and Ryan Harris were also unlucky, but neither has had the impact of Steyn or Johnson, nor the volume of wickets taken by Broad.
Here’s to hoping for an equally enthralling 2014…
By Miles Reucroft