ICC Test XI of 2013


With another year of Test cricket confined to the record books, Roman Barbera names his Test XI of 2013.

1. Cheteshwar Pujara | India

Few players in recent memory are as greater testament to their nation’s cricketing strength. To be the first batsman selected for your country is always an honour, but when there hundreds of millions aspiring to what you’re achieving, you’re a very special talent. Mature beyond his years, Pujara is as close to a direct replacement from Rahul Dravid as you could hope to find. His 204 against Australia in March was impressive, however in the context of that series, individual performances will likely never be remembered. The 153 he made against South Africa in December however was sublime, outside of the sub-continent, and should have guided his side to a 1-0 series lead.

For a player at his age and of his experience to have such an impressive 2012, yet to better it in 2013 gives us reason to believe that this current crop of Indian batsmen have the potential to surpass the great line-ups of old. Pujara is a key to that.

Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s Strike Rate
8 13 829 75.36 3 3 56.24


2. Hashim Amla | South Africa

Despite a technical concern emerging late in the year which threatens to derail his seemingly annual dominance, Hashim Amla is the perfect counterpart for Pujara. Aggressive, flamboyant and a consumate one-day opener, Amla finds himself up the order in the absence of other opening candidates and an abundance of middle-order stars from 2013. Dhawan struggled mightily against South Africa outside the sub-continent and whilst we feel David Warner will make this equivalent team for 2014, the behaviour and form that blighted the first 9 months of his year find him omitted.

Without a 2013-defining innings with which we can summarise Amla, it is his consistency that appeals so greatly – in his first 7 innings of the year, Amla scored 2 centuries and 3 half-centuries. To make this XI in your second-worst year since 2009 is testament to the sheer class of South Africa’s top-order batsman.

Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s Strike Rate
8 12 633 57.54 2 4 54.66


3. Kumar Sangakkara | Sri Lanka

Did Sangakkara exploit Sri Lanka’s incredibly favourable Test schedule? Are his statistics padded by four of his five innings being played against Bangladesh? The answer to both questions is yes, however a player can only perform within their own context. Compiling three consecutive centuries on flat pitches against a flat attack is all Sangakkara was asked to do in 2013, and he did it. The fact that we feel the need to justify his selection is just as much a blight on the ICC and their inability to provide Test-playing nations with equal opportunity as it is controversial on our part.

Averaging 56.98 and having averaged over 54 for almost a decade, it would be omissive to not acknowledge his efforts for what they are, the best one could possibly do given their circumstances. It is this ground that he beats New Zealand’s Ross Taylor to the first-drop given the New Zealander’s mediocre start to the year against England.

Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s Strike Rate
3 5 457 91.40 3 1 56.84


4. Michael Clarke (c) | Australia

The double-centuries may have subsidised but the aura has not. Despite experiencing a decline in production from his 2012 heights, Michael Clarke remains, validly, the best batsman in the world in the eyes of many. His ability to thrive in a losing environment is testament to his leadership, whilst the centuries compiled at the beginning of Australia’s ‘Return the Urn’ campaign set the tone for what has become one of the more incredible sporting comebacks of the last decade.

The pull-shot he played at the ‘Gabba when many believed short-pitched bowling would be his undoing as a player is reminiscent of the Steve Waugh vs. Curtly Ambrose battles of old and will go down in Ashes folklore. Doubling as the captain of the XI, Clarke’s aggression and ingenuity in the field almost cost Australia a dead-rubber 5th Test in England, however has provided a rebuilding side that needed to risk to get any kind of reward with not only a strong chance at next year’s World Cup, but also the Ashes urn and a rise in the Test rankings.

Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s Strike Rate
13 26 1093 47.52 4 3 56.39


5. A.B. de Villiers | South Africa

For a wicket-keeper so bat with such consistency and to justify the enormous expectation placed upon them is a feat unwitnessed since Sangakkara gave up the gloves. With 4 centuries and 5 half-centuries in 9 Tests and just 13 innings (12 dismissals), de Villiers lays claim to the title of ‘Batsman of the Year’ from our perspective and relegates Virat Kohli to what in many ways is an unjustified post at number 6. In a year in which genuine all-rounders were non-existent, de Villiers, alongside fellow keeper Brad Haddin demonstrated an incredible skill – the ability to contribute to a team in a capacity you weren’t directly selected for.

To make that contribution with the 3rd highest strike rate of the 14 most prolific batsmen of 2013 (behind Warner and Watson) doubles as a commentary on the game-altering fashion in which he compiles his scores. First innings runs, second innings runs, South Africa’s wicket-keeper was indiscriminate, and the fact that he averages 57.00 with the extra responsibility of the gloves is testament to his character and desire to contribute in all four innings of a Test.

Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s Strike Rate
9 13 933 77.75 4 5 58.42


6. Virat Kohli | India

As recently as last month we wrote about Virat Kohli being the face of India’s next generation. His first innings after that article was an aggressive knock of 119 off just 181 deliveries against South Africa, outside of the sub-continent. A dismissive dig that demonstrated all of the traits that endear the disrespectful 25-year-old to his fans, Kohli will be a fixture of these World XI sides for many years to come.

Almost unfairly he is relegated to the lower-order in our World XI, however the sheer class of those preceding him, an inability to thrive against Australia earlier in the year despite India’s dominance and his aggressive temperament being suited to the position all contribute to and facilitate this eventuation. Another member of our XI for 2014, Kohli will command accolades greater than this by the time his career is over.

Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s Strike Rate
8 12 616 56.00 2 3 54.65


7. Brad Haddin (wk) | Australia

The story of the year. From the wilderness and the struggles associated with having an ill child to the glory of being the 2nd best player in an Australia Test side that reclaimed the Ashes in emphatic fashion, Brad Haddin’s selection is our most fulfilling of the XI. His consistency with the bat, especially in Australia, in a year where Australian sides didn’t compile massive totals and averages are naturally deflated, rescued Australia on several occasions. Reverting to his natural aggressive game, his performances with willow in hand were Gilchrist-esque, and whilst his average of 38.05 doesn’t necessarily reflect it, his selflessness at the crease contributed to several of his dismissals, most notably running himself out just shy of a Test century.

With the gloves, Haddin recorded the most ever dismissals in a Test series whilst in England (29), surpassing the great Rod Marsh. That form hasn’t eluded him in Australia either, taking every chance a keeper would be expected to capitalise on and then some. The ability of de Villiers to keep made it possible for us to play Ross Taylor at the expense of Haddin, however the wicket-keeping achievements of the Australian vice-captain would render that an injustice and would insult the specialised position of wicket-keeper that is increasingly being overlooked in favour of a batsman who can catch (Jonny Bairstow).

Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s Strike Rate Catches Stumpings
10 18 647 38.05 1 6 59.68 51 1


8. Ravichandran Ashwin | India

Of all the positives to emerge from Test cricket in 2013, spin bowling was not one. Graeme Swann took the most wickets of any tweaker, however they came at 34.09 a piece and he eventually retired in arguably disgraceful and undeniably controversial circumstances. Nathan Lyon, as impressive as he is becoming, doesn’t deserve to be the 2nd most prolific spinner worldwide, given that his 42 wickets came at 34.02 a piece and he played 4 Tests on dust-bowls in India and a further 5 on spin-conducive decks in England.

Third on the list of highest wicket-taking spinners is Ashwin, and whilst a poor showing in South Africa meant that Ravindra Jadeja has usurped him in the Indian XI for now, it would be myopic to banish him from contention on the basis of one poor performance, outside the sub-continent at that. The catalyst for India’s 4-0 sweep of Australia, Ashwin took 41 scalps at 22.51 this year, claiming multiple wickets in 11 of his 14 innings. To boot, he scored a brilliant century against the West Indies to set up an innings victory.

In a year when Saeed Ajmal’s statistics were satisfactory but his performances were not match-winning, Ashwin gets the nod purely through necessity of a spinner and his ability with the bat. Becoming the fastest player to 100 Test wickets (matches played) in over 80 years doesn’t hurt your cause either.

Matches Runs Average 100s 50s Wickets Average Strike Rate 5 wickets 10 wickets
7 192 27.42 1 0 41 22.51 52.0 4 1


9. Mitchell Johnson | Australia

He bowls to the left, he bowls to the right, this Mitchell Johnson can bowl alright!

Jeered by opposition fans and much-maligned by his own countrymen, Mitchell Johnson rediscovered the form that saw him named ICC Player of the Year in 2009. Taking 34 wickets at 17.52, Johnson has the best bowling average and strike rate of any bowler to have taken over 10 Test wickets last calendar year. His ability with the bat, the variation associated with a left-armer and the ability for his pace to create discomfort even on the flattest of pitches make Johnson arguably the best and most valuable bowler of 2013. While we reserve that title for the ever-reliable Dale Steyn, Johnson has every right to feel aggrieved at being the 2nd bowler selected in this year’s Test XI.

Matches Runs Average 100s 50s Wickets Average Strike Rate 5 wickets 10 wickets
6 166 23.71 0 1 34 17.52 37.5 3 0


10. Stuart Broad | England

Brilliant in England’s defence of the Ashes and the only player to escape the ensuing capitulation ‘Down Under’ with any dignity, Stuart Broad’s statistical dominance as the leading wicket-taker in 2013, aggression and leadership thoroughly deserve recogtion. Another bowler who, like most this day, realise the necessity to be competent with bat in hand, Broad’s haul of 62 wickets at 25.80 with a strike rate of just 46.2 emulates the statistical achievements of the game’s greats.

Going into 2014, the national T20 captain must be looked at as a potential vice-captain to Alastair Cook given the skipper’s tactical incompetence and the lack of respect his passive nature commands. Last year will also be remembered as the year Stuart Broad usurped Jimmy Anderson as England’s attack leader.

Matches Runs Average 100s 50s Wickets Average Strike Rate 5 wickets 10 wickets
14 326 16.30 0 1 62 25.80 46.2 5 1


11. Dale Steyn | South Africa

The bowler of his generation, our admiration for Steyn is near boundless. With white ball or red he is near unplayable at his best (which is 90% of the time) and whilst some had the nerve to criticise after a below-par performance in the 1st Test at home against India, to return with match figures of 9/147 and to score 44 with the bat highlight his competitive nature and undeniable class.

Taking 50 wickets in a year for the 3rd time in his career, his best bowling of 6/8, average of 17.66 and strike rate of 42.0 elevate him to the level of Lillee, Marshall and McGrath in the fast-bowling Pantheon. Simply put, the best player in Test cricket.

Matches Runs Average 100s 50s Wickets Average Strike Rate 5 wickets 10 wickets
9 121 17.28 0 0 51 17.66 42.0 4 1


12. Ross Taylor (12th man) | New Zealand

Without his career-defining series against the West Indies, Ross Taylor would still be in the wilderness as far as quality Test batsmen are concerned. With 3 centuries in 3 Tests, including an unbeaten 217, Taylor is unlucky not to make the cut this year, and as mentioned above, could easily come in at the expense of Brad Haddin should (somehow), this XI be deemed to lack batting depth. Regardless, a fine year for Taylor who has emerged from 2013 as New Zealand’s greatest batsman of the generation, if not all time.

Matches Innings Runs Average 100s 50s Strike Rate
10 17 866 72.16 3 4 57.23


13. Vernon Philander (squad) | South Africa

A victim of Steyn’s success and his own team’s strength, Philander’s 38 wickets at 18.05 have him on par with Australia’s Ryan Harris. Both are unlucky not to make the cut, however Philander’s ability with the bat (averaging 28.85 including 2 half-centuries) elevates him above the competition. Ideally his potent combination with Steyn would be injected undisturbed in this world XI, however Stuart Broad’s statistical achievements this year are too great to ignore.

Matches Runs Average 100s 50s Wickets Average Strike Rate 5 wickets 10 wickets
8 202 28.85 0 2 38 18.05 43.8 2 0


Coach: Darren Lehmann | Australia

Just 12 months ago, Australia appeared to be on the up after, despite losing a 3-Test series 1-0 to South Africa, they more than held their own and deserved a series draw at the very least. A subsequent 4-0 whitewash in India, team unrest and the generation of a hateful sentiment towards incumbent Mickey Arthur understandably led to coaching change, however just days out from Australia’s Ashes campaign in England, the decision was met with confusion from the outside. Cricket Australia would no doubt have been nervous that that confusion would lead to controversy should the move backfire, however in hindsight, they could not be happer with the result.

Being thrust into a job with a squad he didn’t select and a team that resented authority, Lehmann mitigated ominous likelihood of a 5-0 defeat and despite losing 3-0, salvaged enough pride so that players believed a 2-1 scoreline would have been more befitting of the performance – and rightly so. Cricket was fun again and the players were motivated not by personal statistics but by team success, national provide and a love of the game.

Just a few months later, the Ashes were on the line in Australia, and the rest is history…


About Author

On twitter @rombarbera. Australian sports by day, international sports by night. Co-founder of Blindside Sport. Fantasy sport addict.

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