2011 XI

After an all-too-few 39 matches, 2011 is over. Well not really, but the next Test is at the SCG on 3 January, so the year is over for all intents and purposes. As my final look back on the year I have compiled an XI for 2011. It’s a generalised lineup; I have given no thought to specialised conditions such as a spinning Indian wicket or a seaming English one. Doing so would also be an interesting exercise, but this is a good place to start. For the balance of the side I went with four bowlers and six batsmen. It’s not one with which I entirely agree, but England were undefeated with it this year so there we are. My XI is thus:

Alastair Cook*
Rahul Dravid
Kumar Sangakkara
Kevin Pietersen
Ian Bell
Younis Khan
Matt Prior†
Stuart Broad
Dale Steyn
Saeed Ajmal
James Anderson

12th Man: Misbah-ul-Haq

Cook is an obvious choice. He started the year by scoring 189 runs at the SCG (in one innings, obviously) and barely slacked off after that. He scored 927 runs in only eight matches this year at an average of 84, including 294 at Edgbaston to form the base of England’s 710-7 declared. I also selected him as captain. Although he does not have a lot of experience none of the players in my XI are currently captain and Cook is being groomed as Strauss’ replacement. This XI should not need a particularly strong captain, however, just look at how successful Ponting was. The selection of his opening partner was much more difficult. Few other openers stood out and none came close to matching Cook. Dravid is not a regular opener, and has said that he does not like to open, but did so with aplomb in England. He was lead run scorer this year and averaged better than 57, but in the five innings in which he opened he averaged almost eighty. Although it’s not his regular position, there are no other openers who impressed in the same way that he and Cook did, so they are my opening pair.

By selecting Dravid as an opener it opens up the number three spot and the choice of Sangakkara is an easy one. He scored over a thousand runs this year (only Dravid scored more) and has just come off a match winning century in Durban. He averaged over fifty batting in the middle order as well, and often seemed to carry his side. Ian Bell, although he has preferred batting at number three, spent a lot of the year at number five, so that is where he goes into this XI. His selection was as easy as Sangakkara’s though; he scored 950 runs at 118 apiece this year. He was the only batsman this year to average over 100 after playing in more than one match. Younis Khan was the last pretty straightforward selection. He scored 765 runs at an average of exactly 85, the second best amongst all middle order players. It was a very good performance, especially as he would have had to put a lot of politics out of his head. The last middle order place went to KP, but it was a very difficult decision between him and Misbah-ul-Haq. In the end I though KP had a better year, making a spectacular resurgence against India. Misbah scored a lot or runs, and did a brilliant job captaining the side, but KP had a better average and also provided a good explosive option after the top three who would have built a solid base. Although he was the last selection he goes in at number four as that is his usual spot.

The selection of a wicket-keeper was easy, Matt Prior has been peerless for some time now. He averaged 64.87 with the bat and 2.25 dismissals per innings. The former is far and away the highest, whilst the latter is second by 0.02 to MS Dhoni. Unfortunately Statsguru doesn’t seem to let me sort wicket-keepers by byes, so I don’t know how he ranks in that regard.
Edited to add: John Townsend very kindly sent me some bye totals for this year on Twitter: Prior 122 (16 innings), Dhoni 103 (22 innings), Carlton Baugh 65 (19 innings). This surprised me somewhat. I knew Dhoni was a good gloveman, but I thought the combination of Prior’s skill, the accuracy of his bowlers and the fact that he played in fewer matches would give him a better total. The weight of Prior’s runs with the bat still gives him a place in the side (he averaged 37.98 runs better than Dhoni with the bat, so an extra 2.94 per innings conceded is not problematic) but it’s interesting that he has farther to go with the gloves than I thought. —

Dale Steyn and Jimmy Anderson share the new ball in this XI. Both have led their respective attacks brilliantly this year. Steyn finished amongst the top ten quick bowlers in terms of number of wickets despite the fact that South Africa only played five matches and he was also the only full time bowler (Mike Hussey absolutely does not count) to have an average under 20 this year. Anderson had the second highest wicket tally amongst quicks this year, and achieved that in only seven matches (as he missed the Lord’s Test against Sri Lanka). He and Steyn were the only two bowlers to average better than five wickets per match this year. First change is Stuart Broad who finally remembered the importance of pitching it in the batsman’s half of the pitch. His overall numbers this year are quite impressive, 33 wickets in seven matches at an average of 22.30, but he actually did not have a great series against Sri Lanka at the start of the summer. He was still pitching the ball short and trying to be the ‘enforcer’. Against India he went back to the fuller length of the Oval 2009 and took 25 wickets in the four matches at an amazing 13.84 apiece. It was one of the best bowling performances in a series one will see, and he also chipped in by scoring 182 runs at 60.66 against India. As much as it pained me not to give the spinner’s slot to Graeme Swann, the fact is that he had a very quiet year. He only took 27 wickets in eight matches, though a large part of that was because the seamers were cleaning up at the other end. Even if he had had a fantastic year, however, it would have been impossible to ignore Saeed Ajmal. In eight matches he took 50 wickets at just shy of 24. It’s true that they were against weak teams, but statistically he was the best bowler, paceman or spinner, of the year.

I expect there are not a lot people who would agree with every one of my selections. The batsmen were particularly difficult, but amongst the bowlers Umar Gul made a very good case for selection as well. The biggest flaw is probably that there are three proper tailenders after Stuart Broad. The top order is such that those three are very unlikely to have to bat at all though. I doubt many would think the players selected are undeserving, but I would still greatly like to see your XI in the comments.

2 thoughts on “2011 XI

  1. I have a big question mark over selection of Kevin Peterson. Simply put, he’s overrated. I’d personally give the spot to Sachin Tendulkar or secondly to England’s Mr. Dependable, IJL Trott. Also, Younis Khan doesn’t deserve the spot because his performance came mostly against lower ranked teams. I’d recommend either Shakib al Hasan or AB de Villiers.


    1. I agree that KP is overrated, although his place started to be properly questioned after the Ashes, but I’m only looking at matches in 2011 and he had a resurgent year and averaged 73. Trott had an off year, and missed the last two matches with an injury, and by his lofty standards Tendulkar had a poor one too, especially in England. KP also gives some firepower after Cook and Dravid build a large base.

      The point about Khan is a good one, but his performance was so good that I thought he deserved it even given the opposition. Shakib al Hasan is not undeserving, but three of his five matches were against Zimbabwe or the West Indies so his opposition was not much better than Khan’s. Khan’s best innings did come against a good Pakistan side though.


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