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Cricinfo staffers picked their XIs of the year in the three formats. Surprise, surprise, about a third of the slots on offer go to Australians
January 3, 2008
Cricinfo staffers picked their teams of 2007 in the three formats. We've tallied the votes and - surprise, surprise - players from a certain country feature rather prominently in the XIs of the year.
The highlight of the Test year was undoubtedly the new-year game in Sydney where the two greatest bowlers of the modern era, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, exited the stage in triumphant circumstances. Anything that followed was bound to pale into near-insignificance, especially with two months set aside in the calendar for the 50-over World Cup and the first Twenty20 version.
It's only when the time comes to sift through the year in Tests and decide on an XI that the surprises start to crop up. Had you suggested Wasim Jaffer's name before the game in Cape Town started almost a year ago, you might have had men in white coats chasing you about. But after 12 months in which he scored three centuries and 838 runs, he's a shoo-in.
The identity of the other opener is an even greater surprise. A few months ago, few outside Australia were even aware of Phil Jaques. But after such an assured and stroke-filled return to the side - he played a couple of Tests in 2005-06 - it's safe to say that we'll be hearing a lot more from him in the coming years. Back-to-back centuries against Sri Lanka highlighted his qualities, and his association with Matthew Hayden has meant that Justin Langer has barely been missed.
The first two slots in the middle order go to two men who have often been unfairly typecast as minnow-bashers. Jacques Kallis and Kumar Sangakkara have certainly piled on the runs against the likes of Zimbabwe, but they've also scored against formidable opposition in all conditions. Sangakkara's glorious 192 at the Bellerive Oval was perhaps the innings of the year, while Kallis's far-from-stodgy epics in Pakistan helped clinch a famous series win.
Kevin Pietersen may have ended the year poorly in Sri Lanka, but he was magnificent against India, scoring centuries of the highest class at Lord's and the Oval. But the man who likes the spotlight like few others has to cede it in this case to the game's ultimate renaissance man, Sourav Ganguly. Successive centuries against Pakistan, including his first on home turf at the Eden Gardens, were the crowning glory of a year in which he marched on to the MCG and a 100th Test.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni may be more known for his flair, but it's his grit and determination that get him the keeping gloves. The 76 no tout he made on the final day at Lord's may not have been pretty, but it undoubtedly turned the tide in a series that India then went on to dominate.
The bowling picks are straightforward. Brett Lee has been nothing short of immense since he took over the mantle from McGrath. In five of his last six Test innings, Lee has picked up four wickets apiece, and he has done so with hostile, accurate and furiously fast bowling. Dale Steyn, who blew away New Zealand's straw-like line-up, was even more of a revelation, and there certainly has to be a place for Zaheer Khan, whose return to the side and 18 wickets sealed a famous Indian victory in England.
With Warne out of the equation, the spinner's slot is a straight tussle between Anil Kumble and Muttiah Muralitharan. At the end of a year in which he put Warne in the shade and established a record that may never be broken, Murali is a more than worthy last man.
The Test XI
Wasim Jaffer, Phil Jaques, Kumar Sangakkara, Jacques Kallis, Kevin Pietersen, Sourav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Brett Lee, Zaheer Khan, Dale Steyn, Muttiah Muralitharan
Six Australians make it to the one-day XI. No surprise when you consider how they romped through an otherwise insipid World Cup. Matthew Hayden was as intimidating as any fast bowler, with his power-packed batting, and his 66-ball century against South Africa set the tone for world domination. His captain, Ricky Ponting, had five centuries and a mind-boggling average of 79.11, while Andrew Symonds terrified bowlers despite the pink handle on his bat.
Adam Gilchrist won the World Cup final with one of the great innings of all time, while Lee was part of a bowling line-up that cut a swathe through the opposition. The most illustrious member of that Australian pace line-up was the incomparable McGrath, who signed off with metronomic spells and a third winner's medal.
Despite their team's World Cup flop, two Indians also make it to the XI. Sachin Tendulkar may have fallen in the 90s six times in 2007, but he also averaged 47 - in a year where he faced the best bowling attacks in the game. There was also an upswing in Yuvraj Singh's fortunes: a year that started with a demoralising knee injury ended with some imperious knocks against Australia and Pakistan.
Another old stager, Shaun Pollock, illustrated the virtues of line-and-length bowling, while Mahela Jayawardene made over 1000 runs in the year, and led with flair and imagination as Sri Lanka made the World Cup final. The final place goes to one of the game's quiet stalwarts. Daniel Vettori took over from Stephen Fleming as New Zealand's captain, and his left-arm spin was as miserly and probing as ever.
The ODI XI
Matthew Hayden, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Mahela Jayawardene, Yuvraj Singh, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Shaun Pollock, Daniel Vettori, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath
Vettori and the colossal Hayden also find a place in the T20 side along with some lesser lights who shone bright in the southern cape. Six-hitting Yuvraj was the star of the tournament, but India were just as indebted to the captaincy of Dhoni and the opening batsmanship of Gautam Gambhir as they pulled off a scarcely believable victory.
Given how India and Pakistan were a class apart in the competition, it's no surprise that they account for seven places. RP Singh enjoyed some superb outings, while Umar Gul made a habit of scuttling opposition innings after coming on as late as the 13th over. There's place, too, for the destructive batting and canny legspin of Shahid Afridi, and for Misbah-ul-Haq, the unlikely 32-year-old hero who almost wrested the trophy from India's grasp. Jacob Oram's all-round talents win him a place, while it's impossible to ignore the claims of Symonds, who is worth a place in the side for his fielding alone.
Over 12 months that saw the game bid adieu to Brian Lara, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Langer, Warne and McGrath, the likes of Jaques and Misbah proved that the talent pools are far from empty. Familiar faces and old pin-up heroes may now be history, but there's life yet in the brave new world.
The Twenty20 XI
Matthew Hayden, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Andrew Symonds, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, RP Singh, Umar Gul
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
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