Test cricket witnessed a lot of change in this decade (from 2010 to 2019) – From a change in mentality to change in colour of the ball. Another major change that took place was the shift in mentality and approach towards the game, with cricketers becoming a lot more aggressive and audacious courtesy the shortest format of the game.
No matter what the world would say, Test cricket puts up the truest test of an individual’s character and makes everyone feel the emotions a cricketer goes through while facing some outrageous music. Thankfully, the one thing that did not change significantly is the thrill we associate with this format.
To round off what has been an eventful, controversial, colourful and momentous decade of Test cricket, let’s take a look at the best XI in this span of time.
Here’s the best Test XI of this decade (2010-2019)
1. Hashim Amla
A monk who made batting look effortless and easy, Hashim Amla was perhaps the finest South African batsman of this decade in the longest format. On the most complicated of pitches to bat on, he made runs for fun and showed the world how one can muster runs at a good pace without playing the toughest, nonexistent shots from the textbook.
Amla mustered a whopping 6695 runs in this span of time at an average of 49.96. He struck 21 centuries and 27 half-centuries, with a highest score of 311 coming against England. He batted at different positions for the side, moving up and down the order whenever there was a necessity. But predominantly, Amla opened the innings or came in at number 3.
Away from home, his record was pretty impressive against most teams. He scored 2,612 runs in 61 innings at an average in excess of 47. The level of consistency he showed no matter where the Proteas played helped the side establish a great level of dominance in the longest format. Amla retired from all forms of the game earlier this year.
2. Dimuth Karunaratne
Dimuth Karunaratne’s legacy cannot be measured by his statistics. At a time when the Lankan side was struggling to cope with the absence of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, Karunaratne was made the Sri Lankan captain besides trying some other options like Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews.
Karunaratne was the pillar of their batting lineup, which was pretty vulnerable and prone to succumb to the weakest of efforts. It was difficult to see a nation with such rich cricketing history go through this phase, but the left-handed batsman did a great job to keep the side alive whenever he could.
He scored 4,321 runs for Sri Lanka in the last seven years of his service at an average just under 37. This includes 9 tons and a career-best score of 196 coming against Pakistan. He scored 1,642 runs away from home, which includes a couple of tricky hundreds coming in New Zealand and Zimbabwe. He really has been an inspiring figure in these dark hours for the side and has also managed to win the series in South Africa this year as the captain.
3. Kane Williamson
Kane Williamson made his debut in the Kiwi tour of India in November 2010 and made an instant mark, scoring a hundred in Ahmedabad. The cricketing universe had very little idea of what was to come as this fine gentleman ended up being one of the most loved and adored international cricketers of all time, besides being a skilful leader and an astonishing batsman.
Williamson was a pillar of the revolution brought under Brendon McCullum. Once the great man retired, Williamson carried the torch forward and led the country to much greater heights as a captain. He currently has a side that is good enough to go all the way in the Test championship and that could perhaps be a great consolation for him after what happened in the World Cup 2019 final.
Thus far, Williamson has represented his country in 76 Test matches and is already their highest century-getter. He has 6,322 runs to his name at an average in excess of 52 and it also includes 21 hundreds. Away from home, he hasn’t been very bad as well, scoring 2,623 runs at an average just shy of 45. This includes some good performances in the tricky sub-continental conditions as well.
4. Virat Kohli (C)
Right after the 2011 World Cup success, Virat Kohli made his Test debut against West Indies in June. While not a lot of cricketers had believed he was the true heir to the Tendulkar throne, it didn’t take long for people to start taking him seriously and eventually, he became a name which we take in the same breath along with the greatest the game has seen.
Kohli’s astonishing rise not just as a batsman, but also a captain is worth mentioning. After becoming the Test captain in December 2014, Kohli started reigning supreme across this format and ended up scoring 7 double-centuries in a span of 4 years. In the 53 matches he led India, they won 33 times, making him the most successful Indian captain of all time.
84 matches, 7202 runs, an average of 54.97 to go with 27 tons – The stats speak for itself leaving nothing else for me to write. He has had a staggering record away from home as well, scoring 3,644 runs at an average in excess of 46 and that includes 14 tons, six of which came in Australia. He also scored two centuries each in England and New Zealand.
5. Steve Smith
A lot of experts have already rated Steve Smith as the finest batsman of this generation (in the longest format) and perhaps the best the game saw after Sir Donald Bradman. It could seem like a bit of an exaggeration but what this man achieved in his career is nothing short of spectacular. Despite being a central figure of some controversies, he managed to reign supreme in the hearts of fans with his unmatched batting skill.
He moves around the crease like he’s taking a walk in the park and the way he shimmies down the track with such ferocity, he is one of the most watchable cricketers that are playing currently. His technique, according to many, wasn’t good enough to help him succeed but what he achieved within these few years was truly remarkable, scoring centuries in every tricky country there is. He is also the only cricketer to win ICC Test cricketer of the year award twice.
Getting to his outrageous statistics, he recently went past the 7000-mark in his 70th Test against Pakistan at an average of 63.75 (Second only to Sir Don). He has 26 centuries to his name in this span. The most significant of all stats is that he averaged more than 60 away from home, scoring 3609 runs in this span and that includes 6 hundreds against the arch-rivals England and 3 in India.
6. Kumar Sangakkara (wk)
Kumar Sangakkara played international cricket for just five years in this decade, but that was perhaps enough to make him the keeper-batsman in this XI. One of Sri Lankan cricket’s and world cricket’s cult heroes, Sangakkara was one of the classiest batsmen to have played the game and he made even the most unorthodox shots look like an extract from a purist’s textbook.
His stint as a leader had some mixed experiences, but that barely takes anything away from his achievements. While Sangakkara averaged 57.4 in his Test career, it is important to notice that he averaged a staggering 61.40 in this decade, scoring 4,851 runs in 46 Tests. In this period, he registered 17 three-digit scores as well.
He was Sri Lanka’s pillar batting away from home as well. Very much alike Steve Smith, he had a staggering record in foreign lands, averaging in excess of 60. He also got his only triple century in Dhaka during these years, a game where he matched up Graham Gooch to be the only two players in history to have scored a 300 and a 100 in the same Test.
7. Ben Stokes
Every generation had some all-rounder who kept contributing with some crucial runs with the bat or one vital spell in the game. While their performances could not appear very vast in numeric terms, they hold as much significance as the ones who average above 60. Ben Stokes carried the legacy of English all-rounders’ flag with great pride and valour.
Having made his debut in 2014, Stokes got off to the worst possible start in his career in the India series, registering too many single-digit scores. It took some time for the world to notice his audacity and technical superiority, but he ensured the runs came when it mattered the most. His century against Australia in the recently concluded Ashes could perhaps be the finest knock of this decade.
In 59 Tests, he scored 3,738 runs at an average of 35.94, which also includes one of the most breathtaking double-centuries scored in history coming against South Africa. He also picked 137 wickets with the ball. Interestingly, he is one of the few cricketers to have a better batting average outside home conditions, scoring 1960 runs at 38.43 per innings.
8. Ravichandran Ashwin
A career in Indian history which was as significant as that of Virat Kohli in this decade, we cannot begin to express what Ravichandran Ashwin achieved in his career. The spin magician is hailed as one of the finest spinners of all time, contributing profusely with the bat as well, whenever there was an opportunity.
Ashwin played a crucial role in helping India maintain their dominance on home soil. India never lost a Test series since the 2012 disappointment against England and it has been more than 9 years since a foreign cricketer has scored a double century on this land and a chunk of its credit goes to Ravichandran Ashwin. Despite facing a harsh axing from the limited-overs squad, he still has some years left in him to contribute in white clothing.
In the 76 Tests he played for India, he picked up 362 wickets at an average just over 25. He scored 2,385 runs with the bat as well, which includes 4 centuries. A lot of people think his performances outside India are not very good, but that isn’t true. He picked up 108 wickets in the 27 Tests Ashwin played away from home, making him a serious threat for any country.
9. Rangana Herath
Rangana Herath spent so much time in the shadow of Muttiah Muralitharan, but when the time came, he took over and stamped his authority with a touch of grace. One of the nicest gentlemen the game has witnessed, Herath is one of the top-10 wicket-takers of all time, despite becoming a regular so late in his eventful career.
Although he made his debut way back in 1999, he played just 21 Tests from 1999 to 2010. His legacy started building after Muttiah Muralitharan’s retirement as he was beginning to relish the responsibility of being Sri Lanka’s most important bowler. He played 73 more Tests in the coming years and in November 2018, he hung up his boots.
He has 363 wickets to his name in the given span of time at an average just over 26. This also includes 30 5-wicket hauls and nine 10-wicket hauls in a match. Away from home, he was still quite a threat for the opposition, picking up 89 wickets in 28 Tests. Herath finished with 433 scalps in his Test career at an average of 28.07.
10. James Anderson
The fourth highest wicket-taker in Test history, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding his caliber and ability to bowl outside home conditions, but not many can really match up to the class of this gentleman. It is still doubtful if we’ll see him again in international cricket having suffered an injury during the recent Ashes but what a career it has been for the 37-year-old!
James Anderson could become the first fast bowler in history to touch the 600-mark in terms of wickets, given he makes an astonishing comeback. In the last 10 years, his performances away from home have been under severe scrutiny but if we go through them, the stats aren’t very bad. He has 141 wickets in the 42 away games they played this decade at an average just over 30 – These are stats which more than decent for any bowler in the world.
He picked 427 wickets in these 10 years in 105 matches and is the only player besides Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad to have played more than 100 Tests in this period. He also maintained a sensational bowling average under 25, which includes some fine duels against the two best batsmen of this decade – Virat Kohli and Steve Smith.
11. Dale Steyn
A career plagued by injuries, yet as iconic as it gets, Dale Steyn was a conqueror, not just on the field, off it as well. The South African speedster terrorized so many top order batsmen with his gruesome pace and metronomic accuracy and in the process, he provided many moments which made the game more beautiful. While out swinging deliveries to the right-handed was his stock ball, there was nothing he couldn’t do with that red cherry.
Steyn recently called time on his career, which means he finished as the highest wicket taker in South African history, overtaking Shaun Pollock in the process. He picked up 439 wickets at an average just under 23. In these 10 years, Steyn has been far more lethal, picking up 267 wickets in 59 Tests at an average of 22.29.
No matter where he played, his pace always helped him have an edge on the batsmen. Away from home, he picked up 92 wickets in just 23 games, once again at an impressive average of 24.14. Steyn is currently focusing on prolonging his white-ball career and he certainly has a lot more to offer in the coming few years.
Honourable mentions: Nathan Lyon, Cheteshwar Pujara, David Warner, MS Dhoni, Michael Clarke, AB de Villiers, Stuart Broad, Ross Taylor
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