Quality over quantity? Running over reputation? This year’s test team for men in 2021

Rohit Sharma (India)
11 tests: 906 @ 47.68, two centuries
Once thought of as a white ball specialist, the India opener has established himself as a bona fide test star. After failing to shoot in Australia, Rohit slammed his straps at home against England and was just as effective in the return series under English conditions. His 83 put victory on Lord’s and his tone turned the game India on The Oval, giving him the honor of playing the match.

Dimuth Karunaratne (Sri Lanka)
Seven tests: 902 @ 69.38, four centuries
The Sri Lankan skipper forced himself into the side through the tried and tested way of running, running and more running. Only Joe Root made more centuries than Karunaratne’s four in what was a career-best year for the left-handed opener. Admittedly, he was helped by some colossal scores on flat pitches at home against weak opposition, but a century in South Africa underlined his class. David Warner and New Zealand pair Devon Conway and Tom Latham missed out due to lack of playing time.

Kane Williamson (c) (New Zealand)
Four tests: 395 @ 65.83, a century
I can see what you’re already thinking. How can Conway and Latham miss anything but Williamson comes in? In this case, it is quality rather than quantity. Let me refer you to the final of the World Test Championship. He may have only played in four games, but fired in the one that mattered. In a low-scoring game, the Black Caps superstar made 49 and a nervous 52 who was not out under tremendous pressure to steer his country to the first title. He also gets a nod as skipper.

Australia's Marnus Labuschagne took number 1 for the men's batting ranking in 2021.

Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne took number 1 for the men’s batting ranking in 2021.Credit:Getty Images

Marnus Labuschagne (Australia)
Five tests: 526 @ 65.75, two centuries
It is a measure of his reliability and consistency that Queenslander was one of the first names to enter the batting line-up, despite playing so few games. The Australian No. 3 enhanced his already high reputation by topping the running list in the Border-Gavaskar series, including a century at the start of the year in Sydney, and was instrumental in his country’s success in Ashes. He was crowned in December as the world’s top-ranked dough, and he certainly belongs among the game’s elite darts players. Unless the captain wants to give up his place at the first drop, I’m comfortable with him at No. 4.

Joe Root (England)
15 samples: 1708 @ 61, six centuries
After three relatively quiet years by his exemplary standards, the England captain re-established himself as one of the game’s best batters. A minor adjustment of his technique, which now sees his back foot move more straight back instead of across the fold, strengthened his defense so he could enjoy one of the most productive years ever. At home or abroad, it did not matter to Root, whose epic tones in Galle and Chennai inspired his team to victory – yes, England beat India in India. His leadership in Australia has been questioned, but he has been one of the better performing players in Ashes. Where would England be without him?

Rishabh Pant gets hugged by Mohammed Siraj after India won the series against Australia at Gabba.

Rishabh Pant gets hugged by Mohammed Siraj after India won the series against Australia at Gabba.Credit:Getty

Rishabh Pant (India)
12 tests: 748 @ 39.36, a century
His position as wicketkeeper was almost locked in mid-January, so well he played in Australia. Pant’s fearlessness and enterprising fighting against Australia’s infamous attack drew comparisons to the great Adam Gilchrist. His 97 saved India from defeat in Sydney, while his rolling 89 not out in Brisbane secured India back-to-back series victories on these shores and broke Australia’s Gabba fortress for the first time in 32 years. In fourth place on the running list, his dynamic play got him ahead of Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan.

Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
Nine tests: 52 wickets @ 16.94, three five-wicket moves, 355 runs @ 25.35, one century
The Indian spin-wizard retains its place in the side after finishing 2021 at the top of the wickets list. Yes, he was helped by his team’s heavy home program, but his rivals also enjoyed playing on spin-friendly courses. His four wickets in the World Test final settled any doubts about his ability to play on the road. It was not his best year with the bat, but a century in Chennai and a game-saving battle in Sydney was enough to get him at seven to fit another spinner.

Kyle Jamieson (New Zealand)
Five Tests: 27 @ 17.51, three five-wicket moves
The giant Kiwi quick is another whose performance at Southampton pushed him into XI ahead of England veteran James Anderson and Pakistan’s Hasan Ali, who both took several wickets. Starting the year with a bang of 11 wickets against Pakistan in Christchurch, Jamieson sealed his place with an agenda-setting 5-31 in the decision. His bag included the large scalp of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant.

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Axar Patel (India)
Five Tests: 36 @ 11.86, five five-wicket moves
A controversial choice as his numbers, though dominant, are inflated by playing exclusively at home. Not a big turn, the left-arm finger spinner does not appear to be a dangerous opponent, but it is his ability to slide the ball straight on, leading the batter to their death. Eighteen of his 35 wickets (51 percent) came through bowled or lbw. By comparison, 25 percent of Nathan Lyon’s 411 test wickets came through these modes. He carries the drinks if we encounter a paceman’s paradise.

Pat Cummins (Australia)
Four tests: 21 @ 18.76, a five-wicket move
In a year where he has become his country’s 47th male test captain, this is without a doubt his best performance, right? While his pace cartel teammates ran out of breath against India, Cummins kept the form against strong opposition on unfavorable pitches in Sydney and Brisbane. Other bowlers have taken the prey in Ashes, but his first-day contribution put the game up for his side. One has to hope that Cricket Australia is more prepared to travel in 2022 as it would be a shame for him to play so little in his senior year.

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Shaheen Shah Afridi (Pakistan)
Nine tests: 47 @ 17.06, three five-wicket moves
The last berth in pace was the hardest decision to make. The Pakistani nodded in front of his new ball partner Hasan Ali, veteran Anderson and New Zealand swingman Tim Southee. Being a left-arm player adds variety to the attack, but it was the 198-centimeter-long sailor’s ability to extract jumps from lifeless pitches and precision that gave the 21-year-old his first appearance on this famous site. His opponents – Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and the West Indies – may not be the best in the world, but he also did not play in areas that promoted his bowling style.

Steve Smith (12th) (Australia)
Five tests: 430 runs @ 53.75, a century
We’re all prone to being skewed recently, so it’s easy to put more emphasis on his last month in 2021 than his first as he found a way through India’s stifling tactics. The Australian superstar man joins the squad in front of the likes of Abid Ali, Fawad Alam and Lahiru Thirimanne, in part because of the reputation and quality of his resistance. And if you were on a green mamba, would you then want any of them to fight for your life in front of Smith? He’s taking over Patel’s place in XI if we encounter such a track.

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