The picking of an 11 to represent the best of 2011 is not an easy task, but here goes.........
The picking of Alistair Cook was a no brainer, but trying to find a partner that justified his place was about as easy as sprouting wings and flying to the Moon. The names I considered were Kirk Edwards, Hashim Amla and Taufeeq Umar, but I could not fully justify their place in the Test Team of the year. Duly in the knowledge, that the number three position is very similar to opening I settled on Kumar Sangakkara. Keeping in mind that he has been a virtual opener this year for Sri Lanka with their constant failures at the top of the order.
Alastair Cook ( England )
8 Tests, 11 innings, 927 runs, average 84.27, 4 centuries, 2 50s
A player that brings a smile to us old timers with his adherence to old style traditional batting.
Cook will find more satisfaction in a perfect leave than a flashy cover drive on the up that rattles the pickets at a million miles an hour
Duly with his no risk style of batting he is starting to dominate the Test arena
Kumar Sangakkara ( Sri Lanka )
11 Tests, 21 innings, 1034 runs, average 49.23, 4 hundreds, 4 50's
Down a bit on his recent exceptional years, but still reminded us that he is one of the best batsmen in the game.
His defiant century in the 2nd Test against South Africa sealed his place in this Team.
The Middle Order:
Rahul Dravid and Ian Bell pick themselves due to the respective performances for their Teams in the England versus India series. Dravid was like the little boy with his finger in the dyke that prevented the Indian batting from being completely washed away in the series in what was one of the Modern games best batting displays. A masterful combination of immaculate technique with Zen like unbreakable temperament. As for Bell, well he was reminiscent of Don Bradman for most of the year- do I really need to explain his selection?
Onto the 2 remaining middle order players. The Captain of the Team is Pakistan's Younis Khan in honour of his very sound batting that has been a major reason behind his Teams rise in the game. The selection of Shakib Al Hasan might be a bit contentious, but his figures speak for themselves from a batting sense, and then his very decent left arm spin provides a perfect balance to the Team.
Rahul Dravid ( India )
13 Tests, 23 innings, 1145 runs, average 59.27, 5 centuries, 4 50's
Sportsmen gain respect for their ability to perform in the face of real crisis.
In England, when all of the revered Indian batsmen were being made to look silly with the combination of the conditions and the English bowlers. Rahul Dravid stood alone with 3 centuries and an average of 76.83. In what was one of the most skilled performances by a batsmen in a good long while.
Duly gaining plaudits from all who had the privilege to witness it, and an automatic selection in the Team of the year.
Ian Bell ( England )
8 Tests, 11 innings, average 118.75, 5 centuries, 2 50's
A year that announced to the World his completeness as a batsmen.
We all bask in adulation of Bell's sublimely majestic batting, but the main criticism of him has been that he is so weak when the pressure is at its most intense.
2011 blew all those views away with him showing on more than one occasion a real steel and coolness in a crisis to add to his majestic attacking elegance.
Younis Khan ( Pakistan) ( C )
8 Tests, 12 innings, average 85.00, 2 centuries, 4 50's
It is more than just a coincidence that Pakistan's unbeaten time in Test Cricket has coincided with the recall of Younis Khan to the Team.
He has provided a spine to the batting with his combination of real skill and resoluteness both in his play and in the mind.
A perfect role model for the young Pakistani batsmen in partnership and a natural leader on the field.
Shakib al Hasan ( Bangladesh )
Batting: 5 tests, 9 innings, 451 runs, average 50.11, 1 century, 4 50's
Bowling: 5 Tests, 9 innings, 21 wickets, average 28.61
I am certain ill get criticism for this selection, but let me explain.
He plays in a Team that is bereft of quality making the focus from the opposition be mainly on him. Duly making it so much more difficult for him to perform with the pressure of that focus and the reliance his Team has on him.
Despite this, he still batted with real skill, flair and resilience. Then his left arm spin year after year puts up very respectable figures.
He was chosen on his performance, but also for the lovely balance he gives to the Team with his skill as a spinner. That would form a perfect partnership with Saeed Ajmal's off spin.
I am sure Indians will be outraged by the absence of M.S.Dhoni's name from the Team, but he is not a patch on Matt Prior in any regard in the Test arena.
Just compare the figures for those who doubt this.........
Matthew Prior ( England )
8 Tests, 10 innings, 519 runs, average 64.87, 3 centuries, 2 50's
In my view the most crucial player in the team that sits at the top of the Test arena in England.
He has transformed himself from being a liability behind the stumps to be a very adequate gloveman. Then as a batsman, he evokes memories of the great Allan Knott and Adam Gilchrist in regards to when his Team is in trouble you know Prior will perform, and head up the rescue mission.
Stuart Broad for his amazing series against India and Saeed Ajmal for his supreme excellence for 2011 pick themselves. In truth Dale Steyn is an automatic selection too on the basis that he is undoubtedly the best bowler in the game, and on a par with any in the games history. Plus in his 5 Test his results have more than justified his position in the Team.
The last place was more difficult to pick on the basis of so many newcomers that have made an instant impact in the Test arena like Vernon Philander, James Pattinson and Doug Bracewell. I decided to stick with the tried and true in James Anderson, who would form an awesome three prong pace battery with Steyn and Broad.
Stuart Broad ( England )
Batting: 7 Tests, 7 innings, average 39.83, 3 50's
Bowling, 7 Tests, 14 innings, 33 wickets, average 22.30
The 2nd Test versus India at Trent Bridge announced to the World of Stuart Broad's potential to end his career as a great all rounder.
Rescuing the Team in the first innings on a very willing pitch when they were teetering on the edge of the abyss at 124/8 with a countering attacking and match defining 64
Then with India coasting in reply at 267/5, and already 46 ahead of the England 1st innings total. Broad decided to evoke memories of Ian Botham in 1981 in a bowling spell of 4/5 that included a hat trick on his way to bundling India out for 288.
Awesome performance that facilitated a remarkable comeback on the way to a memorable win.
James Anderson ( England )
7 Tests, 13 innings, 35 wickets , average 24.85
Aside from Dale Steyn, the English spearhead is the best strike bowler in the game. In his 35 wickets for the year 26 of his victims were top 6 batsmen.
He has always been a very skilled swing bowler, but in the last few years has developed more strings to his bow in developing into a bowler of real smarts. Which has changed him from a bowler dependant on the conditions to help him into one that is a threat any where in the World
Dale Steyn ( South Africa )
5 Tests, 10 innings, 28 wickets, average 19.57
It seems bizarre to say this in a year where a bowler averaged 19.57, but in my view Dale Steyn had a down year.......
That statement alone says how good the guy is. His 2011 was exceptional by any mere mortals level, but not up to what the man known as the 'Steyn Remover' is capable of.
Still an automatic selection in the Team of the year.
Saeed Ajmal ( Pakistan )
8 Tests, 16 innings, 50 wickets, average 23.86
The best spinner in the game with arguably the most lethal delivery in the game in his 'Doosra'
Do we really need to explain why we chose Ajmal?