Decade Review 2009

Aussies and others

Five Australians figure in each of the two XIs of the decade picked by Cricinfo's jury

Jamie Alter

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A trio of winners: Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist with the World Cup trophy, Bridgetown, Barbados, April 29, 2007
Both sides have five Australians each, and Gilchrist, Ponting and McGrath are in both © AFP

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).


Test 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.

The jury

  • Sambit Bal, editor, Cricinfo; Harsha Bhogle, sports presenter and writer; Ian Chappell, commentator, writer, former Australia captain; Peter English, Australasia editor, Cricinfo; Jayaditya Gupta, executive editor, Cricinfo; Gideon Haigh, cricket historian, writer; Sanjay Manjrekar, sports presenter, former India batsman; Andrew Miller, UK editor, Cricinfo; Dileep Premachandran, associate editor, Cricinfo; S Rajesh, stats editor, Cricinfo; Christian Ryan, writer; Rob Steen, writer; Telford Vice, writer

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.

Test XI
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

Muttiah Muralitharan appeals, Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Dhaka, 5th day, December 31, 2008
Even after a couple of poor seasons, Murali remains an irresistible world XI pick © AFP


Forget 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


Comments: 327 
Posted by Adnan on (January 3, 2010, 7:55 GMT)

It is quite incredible that Mohammed Yousuf has been left out of the test side. I mean he has averaged more than Ricky Ponting this decade.

don't take my word, look for yourself:;spanmin1=01+jan+2000;spanval1=span;template=results;type=allround

How he has been overlooked is amazing. Maybe even more amazing than the fact that no Pakistani shows up in either list.

Osman Samiuddin, please knock some sense into these guys.

Posted by Arosha on (January 3, 2010, 5:41 GMT)

The notable absense is Biran Charles Lara, the prince of West Indian Cricket. He may not be the one in the ODI XI for the decade, there may be batsmen who could bring more influential batting into ODIs, but his test credentials cannot be denied. He scored pretty heavily during this decade too, from early 2000s to end of his career in 2007. The fact that he didn't last the entire decade may be one argument. Also pretty hard to find a slot in the test side given the nature of other batsmen in (especially Ponting, Dravid & Tendulkar), the runs they scored & also the fact that they lasted the entire decade.

Posted by Jake on (January 3, 2010, 4:26 GMT)

Hi every one, just a few of my opinions, and im sure that most of you will say i am australian biased, but lets face it Australia was the team of the decade and will always have the most players in the Team of the Decade, next decade will be different. My first and arguably the most controversial of picks is Steve Waugh, although he only played for 40% of the decade lets face it, he is the one player who has shaped the decade all be it after the ground work was laid in the 90's. With out Steve Waugh's influence on the game of test cricket there would be no players like Matthew Hayden, Virender Sehwag, and lets not forget that it was Steve Waugh who had the idea of opening the batting with Adam Gilchrist, we all know how that story unfolded. The long and short of it is that Steve Waugh is a more complete player than Rahul Dravid. I feel he is unlucky to have shared his career with Steve. The world class team of the Decade needs a world class Class captain, and that captian is Waugh.

Posted by Brett on (January 3, 2010, 2:48 GMT)

The judges were right to leave Brian Lara out. The idea of the team of the decade is just that," TEAM". As far as i'm concerned Brian was a player who played for himself and statistics. As soon as his record was broken he was hell bent on getting it back as soon as possible as evidence in his 13 hour batting marathon to get it back at the cost of the team winning the game. If he was a team player he would of declared sooner to try for a result( like Mark Taylor did when he could of batted the next day and broken Bradmans record for australia). Good player but many ahead of him who also missed out!

Posted by Anneeq on (January 3, 2010, 2:08 GMT)

Also i wanted to add that Jayasuria doesnt deserve to be there, infact i have no idea how he got there in the first place! averages of 40 in tests and 32 in ODI's surely cant put him on the same team as Tendulkar Hayden and Gilchrist!! Hes just on there for the sheer volume of matches hes played.

And to the Sehwag bashers! He is a fine batsmen, he is a fine all round cricketer, its not just his batting!! I must say Mohammed Yousuf not being on the list is mind boggling, he should be there instead of Ponting, for the reasons iv already stated

Posted by Ambrose on (January 3, 2010, 2:07 GMT)

After reading most of the comments(307) at time of writing, what is abundantly clear,is that the majority of cricket fans and thinkers agree generally that BC Lara should have been included in the test team.This list becomes void of any substance if Lara is not included. If Lara were and Indian or Australian we wouldn't be having this conversation. Although Lara was the fastest to 11000 runs, a record which he broke against Australia, I find that too many Australians and other cricket followers do not tend to give Lara the due respect he DESERVES.Talk about someone who annhilates the opposition into submission once he passed 1 hundred and you could only speak of one man. I read of injustices to Sachin, Lara has gone through a lot, and I mean A LOT of dodgy decisions. Ask S Waugh about dodgy catches, Alec stewart about dead ball stumpings(having the ball about 20 secs in his gloves) and the countless blatant blunders on his last Aus tour.It's not new,just anger at past dominance.

Posted by Ambrose on (January 2, 2010, 23:58 GMT)

To not have Brian Lara in the test team XI is really a major insult to any WIndian reading this article. The same way that Tendulkar is a god to so many indian fans, Brian Lara is a genius and commands his pick on any test side for any decade or century. Just ask Mc Grath, Warne, and even Muralidaran whose wicket they valued more: Lara in a WI side or Tendulkar in an indian side. Obviously these selections are biased and we know for a fact that achievements by WIndians are trivialized and made a mockery of. Anyone remembers the Aus series in the WIndies when Lara scored 3 consecutive centuries and singlehandedly won a match with Courtney Walsh at the other end? I would rank this innings as one of the best of all time(should be available on DVD or something).Added to him breaking a world record twice, scoring 501 in first class cricket and scoring 277 as his maiden test century, not even mentioning his heroics against Muralidaran.Don't tell me that anyone in Lara's slot is better.

Posted by Narendra on (January 2, 2010, 22:45 GMT)

The test team is good on the whole, but I have some misgivings about the choices for the ODI team. In the test team, I'm uncertain about the choice of Ponting and Dravid over Lara. Although Lara's best years were in the 90s, he was still a world-class batsman until about 2004; and until 2003, he was better than Ponting & Dravid. Although Ponting has the higher averages, I think Dravid and Yousuf were technically superior. As Shaun Pollock's bowling had declined by the early part of this decade, I'd be inclined to pick Lee over him, despite Pollock's batting. The ODI team has many more all-rounders than necessary. I'd replace one of them - either Jayasuriya or Symonds - with a better bat like Sangakkara, Hayden, Jayawardena or Pietersen.

Posted by Kyle on (January 2, 2010, 21:38 GMT)

So basically,, you make a team of the decade without Trotty? The man has scored a century in a third of his tests! What more can you ask from middle order? I think he'd come in for SRT 'cos we should really ignore all the good things he does. :| Are you lot mad who are saying he shouldnt be in? How can you just ignore the good bits cos you dont wanna admit he's the man. Same with ricky,, in reality the contentious places have gotta be rahul and virender. Was virender the best opener for the whole decade and not just the last 3 years? Was rahul better than Lara? How can people talk about not picking Sachin and Ricky. Ricky for a start is the only man to go past 9000 runs in both formats this decade and if SRT hadn't been injured we all know he would've done aswell. Let's stop the nonsense about RTP and SRT and let's work out if Virender should open and whether Ian Bell Should be there and maybe Ashley Giles? I'm just saying,, he bowled that one good ball once....:) x

Posted by Navi on (January 2, 2010, 21:14 GMT)

And lastly, Sir Donald bradman said that sachin reminds me of him. His style matches me and he met Sachin later on. He never said those words for anyone else. Warne rated him no.1 cricketer in his best 50 players of all time which he has seen. Sir Richard hadlee said that we know Don but never saw him play. He was good at test but despite Sachin having just more than half of his avg., his adaptability to diff. format, his capability to play in any condition against any attack, makes him greatest. Allan Donald said in recent interview that he used to make strategy only one day before for other batsmen but for Sachin, he used to start making strategy one week or even before that. Richie benaud said that he is to batting what shane warne is to bowling. Barry Richards "Sachin is Cricket's God". I hope you guys don't consider that u guys know better than these all time greats

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Jamie AlterClose
Jamie Alter Senior sub-editor While teachers in high school droned on about Fukuyama and communism, young Jamie's mind tended to wander to Old Trafford and the MCG. Subsequently, having spent six years in the States - studying Political Science, then working for an insurance company - and having failed miserably at winning any cricket converts, he moved back to India. No such problem in Bangalore, where he can endlessly pontificate on a chinaman who turned it around with a flipper, and why Ricky Ponting is such a good hooker. These days he divides his time between playing office cricket and constant replenishments at one of the city's many pubs.
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