Ben Stokes has changed the face of England’s red-ball team in the space of 10 Tests. Under Stokes, they won nine of their last 10 Tests and you can’t think of a better man than him to lead this side. The flamboyant all-rounder has had better years with the bat than in 2022 (870 runs @ 36.25) but was always there when his team needed him. There was this counterattacking 120 at Bridgetown and then that century against South Africa in the second game after England had lost the first Test. On top of that, he also bowled 278.2 overs and claimed 26 wickets, the most for him since 2017.
Australia’s Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne were easy picks in the top-three, and so was Kraigg Brathwaite. The West Indies skipper scored 687 runs at an average of 62.45 and had the best balls/dismissal (154.6) amongst all openers. We have preferred him over the likes of Abdullah Shafique and Imam-Ul-Haq who scored the majority of their runs on flat tracks in Pakistan.
Babar Azam was this year’s leading run-getter and slammed at least one 50-plus score in eight of his nine Tests. Jonny Bairstow (1061 runs @ 66.31) too had an unbelievable year before suffering a freakish leg injury. No other batter smashed more hundreds than Bairstow (6) this year. Rishabh Pant (680 @ 61.82) was the best wicketkeeper-batter this year, with centuries in South Africa and England.
In the bowling department, we have two fast bowlers from South Africa - Kagiso Rabada and Marco Jansen. The former had a phenomenal year, picking up 45 wickets in eight Tests at an average of 20 and a strike rate of 32. Amongst bowlers who bowled in at least 10 innings, Jansen had the best average (17) and joint-best strike rate (32).
Of course, there is James Anderson as well. The 40-year-old took 36 wickets in 17 innings, including 11 in the three-match series in Pakistan. When it comes to control, Anderson is still one of the best. Lastly, we have gone with Nathan Lyon (43 wickets @ 29.2) ahead of Jack Leach (46 wickets @ 38.3) as our frontline spinner.
The 50-over format had to take a back seat due to the T20 World Cup in Australia but the focus has now shifted to ODIs with the 2023 World Cup on the horizon. However, we still had enough ODI cricket to come up with the best XI. So, who are our openers? The likes of Shai Hope and Shikhar Dhawan scored more runs but we have gone with Shubman Gill and Travis Head as our openers because they were more impactful. As an opener, Gill smashed 475 runs in 10 innings at an average of 67.86, while Head smoked 430 in just six innings at a strike rate of more than 120.
Then we have two scoring machines - Babar and Shreyas Iyer - at 3 and 4 respectively. The right-hander from Pakistan smacked five fifties and three centuries in nine innings, while Iyer (724 runs @ 55.69 and a strike rate of 91.5) was the leading run-scorer in this format. No other batters scored more runs than these two in middle overs and will complement each other very well.
While Babar can go after fast bowlers, Iyer has the game to take on any spinner. We also have Tom Latham (558 runs at 101.3 SR) and David Miller (289 runs at 111.2 SR) in the middle-order. We saw what Latham did in his last ODI innings, hammering 145* off 104 against India. Both him and Miller could easily dictate terms in the second half of the innings and the presence of Cameron Green and Mehidy Hasan will allow them to play with even more freedom.
Green and Mehidy are our two all-rounders, providing us with the right balance and stability. While Green managed 269 runs in 10 innings at an average of 67.25 and picked up 11 wickets at an economy of less than five, Mehidy had a year to remember. The spin-bowling all-rounder got 24 wickets in 15 innings and also slammed 330 runs at an average of 66. He was at his absolute best against India, first crafting 38* in a one-wicket win and then getting his maiden hundred in the second ODI to help Bangladesh win the series.
Mohammed Siraj (24 wickets @ 23.5) and Alzarri Joseph (27 wickets @ 25.7) are our two frontline seamers. 16 of Siraj's 24 wickets came in the first 10 overs, while Joseph got 14 at an economy of 5.8 in the death overs. Meanwhile, Australian legspinner Adam Zampa (30 wickets in 12) will control the middle overs.
1164 runs in 31 innings at an average of 46.56 and a strike rate of 187.4 - Suryakumar Yadav operated head and shoulders above the rest and these numbers are enough to tell you why he was our first pick while building this year’s T20I XI. When it comes to openers, the likes of Mohammad Rizwan, Babar, Pathum Nissanka, Rohit Sharma, Devon Conway and Ishan Kishan scored more runs but we have gone with the combination of Jos Buttler and Litton Das.
Buttler, who led England to their second T20 World Cup title, had the second-best strike rate (160.4) amongst openers who scored at least 200 runs. Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s Litton batted in three different positions this year but was at his best while opening the inning. The right-hander clobbered 248 runs in eight innings at a strike rate of 161. Who can forget that 27-ball 60 against India in the T20 World Cup?
Pakistan’s opening pair of Babar and Rizwan got lots of runs but their strike rates were in the 120s, and even lower if you are talking about the first six overs. The reason why we don’t need an anchor in this team is because we have someone like Shadab Khan at No. 9. In the middle-order, we have got Glenn Phillips (716 @ 44.75, SR 156.3), Miller (361 @ 60.17, SR 164.8), Hardik Pandya (607 @ 33.72, SR 145.9) and Moeen Ali (515 @ 30.29, SR 158.5). All four of them are clean strikers and can bat in any phase. Apart from Pandya against spin (128.23), their strike rates against pace and spin are above 148. This way we also have two left-handers and as many bowling options in our top-seven.
Mind you, the batting is not over yet. Sam Curran, who was named player of the tournament in Australia, has transformed himself into a superb death bowler. Amongst bowlers who bowled at least 20 overs at the death, the left-arm pacer and Pakistan’s Haris Rauf had the joint second-best economy rate (8). These two can bowl in each of the three phases, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar could be the powerplay specialist. The Indian seamer took 21 wickets in the powerplay at an economy of just 5.6 and could easily bowl all of his overs upfront. Then you have Shadab, who claimed 25 wickets in 20 innings at an economy of 6.8. He was clearly the best spinner this year and can also contribute with the bat.
* All stats till December 25, 2022.
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