2012 has already got off to a blistering start with heaps of runs in South Africa and Australia. Before we come to that, however, we’re going to take a quick look back at 2011 and its star performers.
It was the year England became world number one, three internationals were imprisoned in England and the year that India won the World Cup on home soil.
There were debuts to remember and performances to forget, but we look back, from a Test cricket perspective, at the best players of 2011 and select our Team of the Year.
Bowling – Saeed Ajmal 50 wickets @ 23.86
Batting – Rahul Dravid 1145 runs @ 57.25
Wicket Keeping – MS Dhoni 50 dismissals inc 3 stumpings
Fielding – Darren Sammy 18 catches (really, look it up)
Umpiring – Rod Tucker stood in 10 Tests
There are four players from the cream of 2010’s crop to have merited inclusion in the 2011 roster. Sehwag, Iqbal, Trott, Tendulkar, Kallis, Swann and Amir have all fallen from grace or been usurped by superior performers these past 12 months.
We’ll start by highlighting those players who narrowly missed the cut:
Misbah ul-Haq – has been quietly brilliant for Pakistan
Younis Khan – his return has seen an upturn in Pakistan’s fortunes
Kevin Pietersen – back to something approaching his best in 2011
Shakib Al Hasan – became first Bangladeshi to score a ton and take five-for in same Test
Umar Gul – Another crucial member of a resurgent Pakistan side
Vernon Philander – dream start to his international career, but more to come
James Pattinson – same as above
Devendra Bishoo – has offered West Indies another option with his canny spin
So, onto our selection. Please feel free to leave your comments and argue for your players at the bottom!
Alastair Cook – 927 runs @ 84.27 hs 294
Cook carried his stunning Ashes form into 2011 and was instrumental in England pushing past India at the top of the ICC rankings. His 294 against India at Edgbaston was the highest score of the year.
Taufeeq Umar – 831 runs @ 46.16 hs 236
Another key component in an increasingly impressive Pakistan outfit. Taufeeq top scored for them in 2011, amassing three centuries along the way. He offers them some much needed stability at the top of the order.
Rahul Dravid – 1145 runs @ 57.25 hs 146*
All hail The Wall! Dravid was, by some distance, India’s stand out performer in 2011. As his team mates gave up the ghost, his defiant resistance of the inevitable sums this man up.
Kumar Sangakkara – 1034 runs @ 49.23 hs 211
As Sri Lanka’s winless stretch post-Murali expanded, former skipper Sangakkara remained a crucial figure in an increasingly fragile batting line up. Intelligent, calm and calculated Sri Lanka would be significantly poorer without him.
Ian Bell – 950 runs @ 118.75 hs 235
2011 was a year to remember for Bell as he stamped his authority on the highest level, finishing the year with the highest average going. The only selection headache around the wee Warwickshire man is where to place him in the batting line up now.
Darren Bravo – 949 runs @49.94 hs 195
Cousin and impersonator of the great Brian Lara, in Bravo, West Indians have a man to get very excited about. There is a panache about him that echoes the great man and his style and swagger are eerily similar. He’s also scoring the runs to fuel the excited comparisons
Matt Prior – 519 runs @ 64.87 hs 126 & 36 dismissals inc 2 stumpings
Still the best keeper in the world (at least at Test level) he comprehensively outperformed his opposite number, MS Dhoni last summer. There is no discussion about England’s number one keeper these days.
Stuart Broad – 33 wickets @ 22.30 & 239 runs @ 39.83
After a poor start to 2011 with injury and form Vs Sri Lanka, Broad burst back to life against India and demonstrated to everyone why he deserves his spot in the England side. A useful option with the bat, he looks to have finally sorted out his lines when bowling.
Dale Steyn – 28 wickets @ 19.57
Put simply, he is the best fast bowler in the world.
James Anderson – 35 wickets @ 24.85
His third consecutive year in our Team of the Year, Anderson is now the model of consistency that he threatened never to become. When the ball is swinging, he is the last man you want to see running in towards you.
Saeed Ajmal – 50 wickets @ 23.86
The only man to reach 50 Test wickets in 2011, Ajmal is arguably the most important player in Pakistan right now. He’s added discipline to his array of talents and I for one cannot wait to see his one-on-one battle with Graeme Swann in January 2012. That contest will settle the argument as to who is the best spinner in world cricket right now.
By Miles Reucroft