The inaugural edition of the World Test Championship had some flaws, but the tournament has surely added a lot of context to the longest format of the game. On Wednesday (June 23), New Zealand defeated India by eight wickets in Southampton and were crowned as the World Test Champions. There were some astonishing performances in the two-year cycle, and based on that, we have come up with the best XI of the tournament.
(Matches 12 | Runs 1094 | Average 60.77 | 100s 4 | 50s 2)
The stylish right-hander from Mumbai was arguably India's best batsman in the WTC cycle. Rohit's Test career was going nowhere before he was asked to open the innings and the 34-year-old grabbed the opportunity with both hands, just like he did in white-ball cricket in 2013. Rohit smashed 176 and 127 in his first two innings against South Africa, and was the only opener to score more than 1000 runs in this competition. Rohit dominated every team in home conditions and scored runs at an average of 75.08. His 161 against England on a turning surface in Chennai was one of the best knocks of the tournament. He didn't get a massive score in overseas Tests but kept getting those 30s, 40s and 50s. He is the man who could turn the game on its head in one single session.
(Matches 13 | Runs 935 | Average 42.50 | 100s 2 | 50s 4)
The likes of Dimuth Karunaratne (978 at 57.53) and David Warner (948 at 47.4) might have scored more runs than Elgar but the batter from South Africa has got some runs in difficult conditions. Elgar operated at an average of almost 50 in home Tests, which is way lower than Warner's 85.3 and Karunaratne's 96.43, but has better numbers than the two in away Tests - 36.5 v 9.5 and 29.45 respectively. The left-hander crafted 160 against India in Visakhapatnam and then also managed to score a fifty each in Pakistan and West Indies. He was recently appointed as South Africa's Test captain and straightaway led them to a 2-0 series win in West Indies. With a stroke player like Rohit at the other end, you need a grappler like Elgar who could bat long and tire out the bowling attack.
(Matches 13 | Runs 1675 | Average 72.83 | 100s 5 | 50s 9)
"You're not gonna be the first concussion sub to be ruled out for concussion. Yeah, that's not happening!" If you have watched The Test: A New Era for Australia's Team, you know this was arguably the best quote from the TV docu-series. Labuschagne came in as a concussion substitute in the second Ashes Test at Lord's and was greeted with a lethal bouncer from Jofra Archer. He got hit on his head, but quickly stood up and scored vital 59 runs to help Australia pull off a tough draw. That was only his sixth Test and the solid right-hander hasn't looked back since then. He has become the linchpin of Australia's batting line-up and has scored more runs than any other batsman in the WTC cycle. Four consecutive fifties, three back-to-back centuries, Labuschagne was arguably the best batsman of the tournament.
(Matches 13 | Runs 1341 | Average 63.86 | 100s 4 | 50s 7)
The man Labuschagne replaced at Lord's was Smith. The same man who had just made his comeback to Test cricket in the previous game after being banned for 12 months for his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. And boy, that was some comeback! The right-hander from New South Wales scored 144 and 142 respectively in the two innings of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston and "redeemed" himself in some style. Smith missed the third Test due to concussion but still finished as the highest run-getter in the Ashes 2019, amassing 774 runs in seven innings at an average of 110.57. He did struggle a bit against Neil Wagner and R Ashwin at home but managed to bounce back in his last two Tests of the WTC cycle, finishing as the third-highest run-scorer.
KANE WILLIAMSON (C)
(Matches 10 | Runs 918 | Average 61.20 | 100s 3 | 50s 2)
The New Zealand skipper will also be the captain of our side. There are many stars in this XI and you need someone with a calm head to ensure everything stays in order. Now, let's not forget Williamson the batsman. The right-hander will provide solidity in the middle-order. He didn't have a great start to the tournament and struggled to score runs in Sri Lanka and Australia. Williamson got 89 against India in Wellington and that gave him some momentum. The 30-year-old then slammed 251, 129 and 238 in the space of four innings against West Indies and Pakistan and helped New Zealand cement their place in the finals. There were some doubts regarding his form in overseas Tests but the second-ranked Test batsman brushed aside all the concerns by playing match-winning knocks of 49 and 52* in the final against India.
(Matches 17 | Runs 1334 | Batting Average 46 | 100s 4 | Wickets 34 | Bowling Average 26.3)
That famous century at Headingley against Australia defines Stokes as a cricketer. He is the one who would win you big games with his sheer brilliance. The flamboyant all-rounder smoked 135* in the fourth innings and single-handedly helped England chase down 359. The left-hander slammed three hundreds in England and also slammed 120 against South Africa in Port Elizabeth. Apart from that, he also managed a couple of fifties on the turning tracks in India. In the bowling department, Stokes (47.9) had a better strike rate than James Anderson (51) and Jofra Archer (52.9) and even got those big wickets. Stokes is someone who can make things happen and you need a player of his calibre in your side.
RISHABH PANT (WK)
(Matches 12 | Runs 707 | Average 39.27 | 100s 1 | 50s 4 | Catches 35 | Stumpings 6)
India wouldn't have probably made it to the finals if not for Pant. The wicketkeeper-batsman was India's most impactful batter in the tournament. The left-hander has often been criticised for playing too many reckless shots, but Pant is exactly the kind of game-changer you would want at No. 6 or 7. He didn't do anything outstanding in the tours of West Indies and New Zealand but was brilliant in Australia. His counter-attacking knock of 97 helped India pull off a memorable draw in Sydney and then who could forget his match-winning 89* on the final day at the Gabba. Pant managed scores of 91, 58* and 101 against England in India and also kept growing behind the stumps. If Stokes and Pant get going, the two could wreak havoc!
(Matches 7 | Wickets 43 | Average 12.53 | Strike Rate 34.3 | Five-fors 5)
The tall paceman from New Zealand made his Test debut during the WTC cycle and hands down was the find of the tournament. Jamieson scored 21 runs and picked up seven wickets in the all-important final and was named Player of the Match. The 6'8" fast bowler picked up at least four wickets in every game and already has five five-wicket hauls in Test cricket. He was ruthless against India, West Indies and Pakistan in the home series and also made his presence felt in the final in Southampton. On top of that, Jamieson also scored 247 runs in seven innings at an average of 49.40.
(Matches 14 | Wickets 71 | Average 20.33 | Strike Rate 46.4 | Five-fors 4)
The ace offspinner from India ended the tournament as the leading wicket-taker. Ashwin scalped 52 wickets in nine home Tests... but we all know how good he is in the subcontinent conditions. So, let's talk about what he did in overseas Tests. Ashwin has always been criticised for not delivering in overseas conditions, but that wasn't the case this time around. Ravindra Jadeja was preferred over him in West Indies but Ashwin showed his class in the only Test he played in the tour of New Zealand. He took three wickets in Wellington and then had a phenomenal series Down Under. The offspinner took 12 wickets in three Tests and got the better of Smith and Labuschagne. Ashwin even stamped his authority in the seaming conditions of Southampton and was India's best bowler after Mohammed Shami.
(Matches 14 | Wickets 70 | Average 21.02 | Strike Rate 47.6 | Five-fors 1)
Cummins would probably be the first bowler you would pick if you are selecting the best Test XI of the modern era. The top-ranked Test bowler might have picked only one five-wicket haul in the entire competition but went wicketless only twice in 28 innings, which tells you something about his consistency. Cummins took 29 wickets in the Ashes 2019 and also did well against Pakistan, New Zealand and India in the home series. He bowled 555.3 overs in the entire cycle, while none of the other seamers bowled more than 500. No matter what the conditions are, Cummins will always put his hand up and deliver.
(Matches 12 | Wickets 39 | Average 19.5 | Strike Rate 51 | Five-fors 3)
The right-arm seamer from Lancashire is almost 39, but is still going strong. Anderson has always done well in English conditions, but this time around, he has a way better record in away Tests. Anderson took 16 wickets in six home Tests at an average of 25.6, but managed to get 23 in as many away Tests at an impressive average of just 15.3. And, four of those six Tests came in Sri Lanka and India. He took 6/40 in the second Test at Galle and helped England whitewash Sri Lanka. He was also super economical and bowled with a lot of discipline. Amongst bowlers who bowled at least 100 overs in overseas Tests, Anderson had the best average. In the batting department, Anderson is not as capable as Jamieson, Ashwin and Cummins, but could surely play those entertaining reverse sweeps.