Players/Officials: Rahul Dravid | Andrew Flintoff | Adam Gilchrist | Matthew Hayden | Sanath Jayasuriya | Jacques Kallis | Brett Lee | Glenn McGrath | Muttiah Muralitharan | Shaun Pollock | Ricky Ponting | Virender Sehwag | Andrew Symonds | Sachin Tendulkar | Shane Warne
This is delicate business, the kind that requires careful attention to statistics, quality and overall impact on the game. A decade is a long time, long enough for a sportsperson's career to run its entire course, and while the result of putting together world XIs for the 2000s may result in lists of 11 each, plenty of factors need to be taken into account to determine them.
Australians dominate both Cricinfo's Test and ODI teams of the decade. There are five in each XI. Three, along with Sachin Tendulkar, Muttiah Muralitharan and the South African all-round pair of Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock, find a place in both sides. There are no West Indians or New Zealanders, indicative of their teams' form this decade. And only one Englishman, Andrew Flintoff, made it to either side.
There were four unanimous picks in the Test side - Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Muralitharan, but none in the ODI one (Gilchrist came closest, with 12 votes; Ponting, Tendulkar and McGrath got 11 each).
TestsTest openers are not what they were 15 years ago, and this decade saw the emergence of strong, aggressive opening batsmen, capable of scoring at four runs an over. No more shouldering arms repeatedly and seeing off the new ball and the first session. Matthew Hayden was the man who paved the way for a change in attitude and mentality while opening the innings. He scored 8364 Test runs this decade from 96 games; his 29 centuries in the period were second only to Ponting, and his sixes tally behind only Gilchrist's.
Picking up 10 of 13 votes was Virender Sehwag, who took violence against the new ball a step further than Hayden possibly. Two triple-centuries and four doubles in 72 Tests. Sehwag's runs have come across the globe, with an appetite for destruction perhaps never seen on the cricket field. He averages 50 against all but three Test nations - England, New Zealand and Bangladesh - and over 50 in all but four countries.
With 9458 runs at 58.38, Ponting was the most prolific batsman of the 2000s. He may have lost the Ashes twice as captain, but the manner in which he churned out runs - 32 of his 38 hundreds came in this period - makes him the premier batsman of this decade.
Following Ponting at his customary No. 4 is Sachin Tendulkar, with 12 votes. Tendulkar just completed his 20th year of international cricket, and he isn't the batsman he was in the 90s, as is to be expected, but he did more than survive the decade, scoring over 7000 Test runs at 53.20 with 21 centuries.
Rahul Dravid got six votes fewer than Tendulkar, but many will argue, and not without reason, that he was the best Indian batsman this decade. Dravid was at the forefront of almost all of India's memorable Test wins in the 2000s: Kolkata 2001, Headingley, Adelaide 2003, Rawalpindi 2004, Kingston 2006 and Perth 2008 wouldn't have been possible without India's greatest No. 3. A tremendous dip in form - he went four consecutive seasons averaging less than 40 - lowered his average this decade to 54.85 but there's no denying his value to India during the 2000s. His 149 catches since the turn of the century are the most for any non-wicketkeeper.
Another epitome of class and solidity fills the first allrounder's slot. Over 200 wickets on top of 8500-plus runs this decade (second to Ponting), made Jacques Kallis, who polled 10 votes, a non-negotiable inclusion. A terrific slip catcher as well.
There was no better wicketkeeper-batsman than Gilchrist, who could turn a Test in a session and often. He too revolutionised the game, with a Test strike rate of 82 - best exemplified in Perth against England in 2006, when he made the second-fastest Test century, and by his audacious 204 in Johannesburg in 2002. Gilchrist hit more Test sixes than any batsman in history - 99 of them this decade - and by the time he departed the game he had raised the bar so high for wicketkeepers that they were forced to prove themselves as batsmen first.
Pollock was the second South African allrounder to make the list. His control of line and length got him 260 Test wickets at under 25 this decade, and though his pace dipped, inevitably, he still managed to extract a significant amount of seam movement in various conditions, and his unnerving accuracy made him hard to get away. Add to this a healthy batting average of 32.56, and an ability to savage bowling attacks, and Pollock is the ideal No. 8.
The bowling attack has two spinners, and rightly so, considering they are the top two wicket-takers of all time. Shane Warne took more than half his 708 wickets in the seven years he played this decade. Among the highlights: his 26 wickets against Sri Lanka in his first series after a year off for a drug ban, a record 96 the following year (24 more than in his show-stopping 1993), and 40 in the 2005 Ashes.
How can you keep Murali out of it? He took 565 wickets this decade, roughly 50% more than any other bowler did and his statistics are irresistible. The fact that he averages 20.97 for the 2000s after two poor seasons on the trot, is testimony enough. Murali's role in Sri Lanka's success has been unmatched, and thanks largely to him they entered the decade with 16 Test wins from 99 matches and ended it with 60 from 192, overtaking India and New Zealand in the win-loss column.
Rounding off the XI is that man McGrath, the fourth undisputed choice. Towards the end of his career he perfected his swing bowling, both traditional and reverse; a captain could throw him the ball any time and expect something to happen. He was rarely quick during the decade, because he entered it nearing 30, but 297 wickets at 20.53 speak for themselves.
Matthew Hayden, Virender Sehwag, Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Adam Gilchrist (wk), Shaun Pollock, Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Glenn McGrath
12th man: Andrew Flintoff
ODIsForget the fact that if they were to walk out together to open an innings today, the combined age of Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya, the openers in this XI, would be over 77 years. More pertinent is that they have a mind-boggling 30,822 ODI runs between themselves (over 17,000 of those scored this decade).
Ponting claims the one-drop spot here as well, having racked up over 9000 runs, with 23 centuries. He posted what was then the highest score in a World Cup final in 2003, and led his side to successive World Cup and Champions Trophy wins as captain.
The middle order has a combined career tally of a touch under 25,000 runs. Kallis, who got seven votes, can nudge and wallop in equal measure, and there's his bowling to consider as well. Andrew Symonds was similarly hard to overlook, having averaged 44.52 at a strike rate of 91.87 over 96 innings at No. 5 this decade, to go with 126 wickets and 79 catches. Yuvraj Singh (7249 runs at 37.36) and an erratic Shahid Afridi (3761 runs at 22.79 and 213 wickets at 30.30 this decade) were Symonds' nearest competitors.
At No. 6 is big Andrew Flintoff, who when fit was an irresistible force, as much for his hard-to-get-away bowling as his ability to clear the fence. Since 2000 he has scored 3294 runs at a strike-rate of 89.29 and taken 162 wickets, and just having him on the field is enough to lift a side.
No surprise who gets the wicketkeeper's spot. MS Dhoni and Kumar Sangakkara got six votes between them, but with twice as many, Gilchrist it is who takes the gloves (even if a few of the jurors who picked him had him down as a specialist opener). The vast majority of his innings this decade were as opener, but here he moves down to the lower middle-order territory he occupied with devastating effect in the longer game, so Jayasuriya can open.
As in the Test team, Pollock grabs the No. 8 spot, with eight votes, testament to the value of his containment skills with the ball. The third most successful ODI bowler this decade, his miserly economy rate of 3.62 from 220 ODIs was outstanding. Pollock was one of South Africa's most consistent players and key to their claiming the No. 1 spot from Australia before the 2007 World Cup.
The opening bowlers are an Australian pair with 705 ODI wickets between them: Brett Lee offers raw pace and hostility, and yet an average of 23.01; not to mention handy skills with the bat. And McGrath was parsimonious and successful with an average of 20.28 and economy rate of 3.78. Lee's 324 ODI wickets since 2000 have been crucial to Australia's domination, while the lasting memory of McGrath is the 2007 World Cup, when he took 26 wickets and was named Man of the Tournament.
There's room for only one spinner and Murali it is, with 10 votes. The leading ODI wicket-taker of the decade, he took his 335 wickets at a sub-4 economy rate. That spells shoo-in.
Sanath Jayasuriya, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Flintoff, Shaun Pollock, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Muttiah Muralitharan
12th man: Shane Warne
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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