This has been the trickiest World Test XI of a calendar year yet. There are a few reasons for this; the difference in number of tests played is more pronounced than ever; 11 each for the nations that control the sport, seven for New Zealand, and six for Pakistan.
Surprisingly Sri Lanka (13) played the most tests.
New Zealand played all their tests at home, and India did not venture out of the subcontinent which skews their players’ results. The revamped Cricinfo site does not make this exercise any easier.
Traditional rules around the selection of this team are normally more anal than, say, the ICC official Test XI. If you don’t bat in a certain position then you can’t be part of this side. That is really good news for those batting at number 5. However, there are ways around this.
As previously both figures for the year and historical pedigree are taken into consideration.
One gets it on form for the year, the other one on carry through reputation. South Africa’s Dean Elgar may not be the most attractive to watch but he averaged in the mid 50s for the year with five centuries.
David Warner was ten runs off that this year (Latham averaged slightly higher) but nobody else did enough to dislodge him.
There has been much talk about the Big Four of world batting over the last three or so years that positions 3 to 5 in the order must come from team captains Kohli, Root, Smith and Williamson.
The two standouts were Kohli and Smith. Playing 11 tests at home certainly helped Kohli, but over 1,000 runs at over 75 say a lot. The stats keep rolling in for Steve Smith. He now has 18 tons in his last 37 Tests.
Williamson averaged more than 10 runs above Root so he gets the third spot. Luckily Kohli payed one innings at number 5 so, strictly, no rules have been broken.
Ross Taylor averaged more than all of them though
The most subjective selection of them all. Subtracting the bowling average from the batting average is the brute force way of doing it, and Boult tops that list. But it does narrow it down.
Jadeja (batting 41; bowling 54 wickets @ 23) is impressive by any historical benchmark but, once again, the absence of tests outside the sub-continent for India counts against him.
The incumbent Shakib Al Hasan (665 & 47.5, 29 wickets @ 33) did it in all sorts of conditions and retains his place.
As an aside, a guy playing T20 cricket for Canterbury (527 @ 44, 16 wickets at 31) went OK.
It has been a strange years for wicket keepers with half the sides using more than one keeper during the year. Five keepers were in the running here.
Saha had a solid year for India and it is telling how dominant they are at home that he only for that bat 14 times (with 4 not outs) in 11 tests at home. That home town bias counts against him.
Bairstow was slightly off his best this year, but that two-gingers-raised century at Perth this week was a thing of beauty
It would be tempting to suggest Dickwella just edges de Kock; largely because it is fun to type that sentence.
But those who watched Mushfiqur Rahim calmly assemble 159 at the Basin Reserve in January won’t have forgotten it in a hurry. He averaged 69 for the year which is 25-30 more than the rest.
The most successful seam bowler (quite comfortably) in test cricket in 2017 is…. Jimmy Anderson. 47 wickets at under 18; the stats don’t lie. The other stat is that 7/10 tests were at home.
He shares the new ball with incumbent Kagiso Rabada (54 wickets at 21).
The third seamer spot is closer with, in order, Trent Boult, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Neil Wagner and Mitchell Starc all averaging between around 25.
Since he is a specialist third seamer specialist and made the side in 2016 that slot goes to Wagner.
The GOAT acronym is as annoying as anything, but Nathan Lyon; most wickets, best average, home and away, most “Bowled Gary”s is a lock-in.