Year after year, we form a Test XI based on stats and numbers and see which were the players that performed the best. However, there are times when certain teams play only in certain conditions. There are a few players who consistently perform well across all kinds of conditions.
There are batsmen who score big runs and show great temperament irrespective of the pitch and conditions. Be it a turner or a green deck or a bouncy one, they step up to the challenge. The same is the case with the bowlers. There are quite a few bowlers going around who’ve done well across all conditions.
Hence, here we form the best XI from the current crop of players who can and have done well in all conditions:
1. Tom Latham
There are very few openers who have a better average than Tom Latham in Test cricket opening the batting since 2016. In fact, there are only three batsmen (who have played at least 10 games) who average more than Latham. He has amassed 2546 runs at an average of 43.89.
The New Zealand opener has been very good across conditions. Be it turning tracks in the subcontinent or the moving ball at home or in England, Latham has always been up for the challenge. He has scored runs in almost all conditions and has become one of the top openers in world cricket at the moment.
2. Dimuth Karunaratne
There were a few players competing for this spot. Mayank Agarwal has done well in the recent past but is just 11 Tests old while Dean Elgar and David Warner were the other ones that contested for this spot. But Dimuth Karunaratne pips them to make it to this XI.
The Sri Lankan opener has been among the best openers from the subcontinental countries. He has scored 2881 runs since the start of 2016 which is the second-most for an opener. Karunaratne has registered 23 fifty-plus scores and has been pretty consistent.
His ability to play spin and pace well makes him stand out. He is patient and can bat for long periods of time. Hence, Karunaratne is the second opener in this current best XI which can do well in all conditions.
3. Steve Smith
There’s absolutely no doubt about Steve Smith’s place in this side. He is arguably the best Test batsman going around in world cricket at the moment. His numbers are simply outstanding and mind-boggling. The former Australian skipper averages a staggering 62.84 in his Test career.
In fact, since 2016, no player has a better average in Test cricket than Smith. He has aggregated 3637 runs at an average of 68.62 in the mentioned period. In this time, he’s also got 13 hundreds and 15 fifties.
Smith is a run-machine and has scored runs everywhere. Be it England, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, he’s got hundreds everywhere. The only two places he hasn’t a ton is UAE where he last played in 2014 (and got two fifties) and Bangladesh. Moreover, the No. 1 Test batsman in the world averages more than 40 in each of the countries he’s played barring Bangladesh. Thus, he will bat at No. 3 in this line-up.
4. Virat Kohli (C)
If Steve Smith is arguably the best Test batsman, but if there is one man who can challenge him for that, it is Virat Kohli. He is arguably the best all-format batsman in world cricket. Irrespective of the format, the Indian captain has always stepped up. He’s more often than not risen to the occasion and delivered when the team needs him the most.
Kohli has become a beast in Test cricket only since January 2016. He’s amassed 4246 runs at an average of 63.37. He has smoked 16 Test tons along with 10 fifties and has one of the best conversion rates in modern-day cricket. And he’s proved that he can bat in all conditions and get big runs. In fact, the Delhi lad has shown that he can get runs in the toughest of conditions as well.
Kohli has scored a ton in every country he’s played in barring Bangladesh where he’s played just one Test which was back in 2015. He has been the No. 1 Test batsman on and off in the recent past and that baton has been switching between Smith and Kohli. Hence, with the two batting at 3 and 4, it cannot get better than this.
5. Kane Williamson
Kane Williamson has been quietly going about his business and churning out runs consistently across formats in the last few years. He’s been New Zealand’s best batsman and has topped most batting charts for them.
Among the Fab Four (Kohli, Smith, Root and Williamson himself), the New Zealand skipper has played the least Test matches and least number of innings. Yet, he’s made 2581 runs at an average of 52.67 since 2016. He’s scored eight hundreds as well.
Moreover, Williamson is one player who plays the ball really late. He has excelled in all conditions. Barring South Africa, he’s got a Test ton in every country that he’s played. The New Zealand skipper usually bats at 4 but with Smith at 3 and Kohli at 4, he will slot in at 5 in this XI.
6. Ben Stokes
There is no one that can have an impact like Ben Stokes can. There’s hardly anything that he cannot do. Be it with the bat or ball, he is one player England always look up to if they need inspiration. Stokes is a real game-changer and X-factor. He is someone who can turn the game on its head.
The England all-rounder can bat, bat and bat and take England home from the dumps or just lift the team with vital breakthroughs with the ball and may well wrap up the game as well. He can bat in any gear and according to the team needs. With the ball, he can make it talk and get it to jag around. He can even get the ball to reserve.
Thus, there’s absolutely no debate on who should be slotting in at 6. Stokes can walk in solely as a batsman or a bowler as well.
7. Quinton de Kock (WK)
There may not be a better wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock going around across formats. He has scored 2661 runs in Test cricket since 2016 which is the second-most by a wicket-keeper batsman. He averages 40.93 in this period and has scored five hundreds and 19 half-centuries.
Moreover, largely batting at No. 6 and 7, de Kock has a strike-rate of 72.80. He can score runs at a rapid pace and can bat really well with the tail too. He can score runs in all conditions.
His wicket-keeping is top-notch as well. The South African stumper has taken some acrobatic catches and is safe as a house behind the stumps. There were a couple of players like Mushfiqur Rahim and BJ Watling pushing him for this spot. But de Kock’s ability behind the stumps and also his ability with the bat that works in his favour.
8. Pat Cummins
It was only in March 2017 that Pat Cummins made a comeback to Test cricket. Injuries have plagued his career but not from the time he’s come back. He’s been absolutely magnificent for Australia in the longest format and has become their premier fast bowler across formats.
He is 10th on the leading wicket-takers list since 2016 despite having played a mere 29 Test matches. He averages 22.08 with the ball and that is the fourth-best average among bowlers who have taken 50 or more wickets since 2016. Cummins has picked up 136 wickets and strikes once every eight overs.
The New South Wales quick can work up a batsman and bowl in any conditions on offer. He can tirelessly run in all day and keep up with the consistency as well. Be it swing, seam, bounce, reverse, Cummins can extract anything on offer. Moreover, he is also a handy batsman down the order.
9. Kagiso Rabada
Kagiso Rabada is another bowler who can bowl in all conditions. He can make the ball talk and make a big impact. He made his debut only in 2015 and in no time, became the premier South Africa fast bowler. He is the leader of the Proteas attack.
The ace South Africa pacer has picked up 195 wickets since 2016 which is the second-most by any bowler in this period. He even has a wonderful average of 22.62 with the ball. Moreover, his strike-rate of 39.5 is the second-best by any bowler in the mentioned period.
In fact, his Test career strike-rate with the ball is 40.6 which is the fourth-best for any bowler who has more than 50 Test wickets. Hence, Rabada walks into this side and could play an attacking bowler’s role.
10. Nathan Lyon
There could well be a big debate for this spot. There were a few options for this spinner’s spot. Ravichandran Ashwin has been very good and Ravindra Jadeja can offer great variety across all three facets of the game. Yasir Shah presents a leg-spinning option. However, for his consistency across conditions, Nathan Lyon gets the nod.
The Australian off-spinner has been excellent across all conditions. No other bowler has more wickets than Lyon since 2016. He has taken 208 wickets in this period. Moreover, he has picked up 11 five-wicket hauls which is the joint-most as well.
Lyon is someone who can plug away all day and get nothing away. And if there is something on offer, he will exploit it. He gets nice drift on the ball and he generally gets the ball to come out as an over-spinner which gives him good bounce as well. Hence, Lyon will be the spinner across conditions.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah rounds up this XI and there may not be too many question marks over his place in the side. He has gone through a small phase recently where he’s struggled to pick wickets but he’s largely been excellent in all conditions. Before he made his debut, there was a lot of criticism over his ability with the red-ball but he’s put them all to rest.
He’s played Test matches in South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia and has picked wickets everywhere. He has become India’s leading fast bowler across formats. Bumrah has the third-best average for any bowler since 2016 who has picked up at least 20 wickets in Test cricket.
Bumrah has taken 68 wickets across 14 Test matches at an average of 20.33. Add to that, a strike-rate of 45.3. Bumrah hasn’t played Test cricket in the subcontinent but there’s no doubt he’ll succeed there as well.
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