Sunday, 11 December 2011

The ODI Team of 2011

With the conclusion of today's India v West Indies ODI comes the end of ODI cricket in 2011. It's been a fairly decent year for the moody middle-child of the formats, with a surprisingly good World Cup, lots of records broken, and some closely fought series. Yes, there have also been some one-sided humblings, but it wouldn't be the ODI cricket that we all know and sort of love without it, would it? Anyway, with the end of 2011 ODI cricket comes the chance to name a 2011 ODI team of the year, and here it is.

1) Shane Watson

While it may still be cool to massively hate him, 2011 has been the year that I've begrudingly given respect to Shane Watson. Yes, the occasional histrionics and highlights still remain, but his cricket this calendar year, especially in ODIs has been nothing short of astonishing. Starting with a record high for an Aussie at home with an unbeaten 161 at the MCG against England. He then followed that with a solid-enough World Cup with both bat and ball in a tough Aussie campaign, before unleashing hell on the poor Bangladeshis in the ensuing series. The 185 not out from a mere 96 balls contained a monstrous 15 sixes, and underlined Watto's capacity as an incredibly dangerous hitter. (His 2011 ODIs have seen 42 maximums clear the fence, more than anyone else, and he also boasts the best strike rate of 109 to boot). Add to that his ever improving bowling, and hawkish fielding and he's not far off the perfect ODI player. Comfortably the best all-round all-rounder in cricket at the moment.

2) Virender Sehwag

Sehwag has only played in 12 ODIs since the turn of the year, but he got quite a bit done in them. Setting the tone for India's victorious World Cup campaign with an imperious 175 against Bangladesh, he then went a few better and smashed every record going by reaching 219 against the West Indies only last week. While he was a little bit up and down at times, he remains the ultimate ODI master blaster, and to not include him in the year that he achieved so much would be cruel.

3) Jonathan Trott

Say what you like about Jonathan Trott's technique or strike rate, he scores runs. Lot of them. Until last week, he was 2011's top ODI run scorer (having played less games than eventual run winner Virat Kohli), and his strike rate of 80 isn't as woefully bad as many think (in fact, of the top 10 run scorers of the year, Trott has the 5th fastest strike rate). With two hundreds and ten fifties, Trott oozes consistent scoring, and provides support and backbone to his teammates, especially when wickets are tumbling at the other end. A shoo-in for my team of the year.

4) Virat Kohli

A coming of age year for Kohli, where his growing maturity and confidence has been reflected in his performances. Finishing the year with 1381 ODI runs, including four hundreds, Kohli has nailed down a spot in India's middle order and made it his own. The frightening fact that he is only 23 should see him become a staple part of India's teams for many years to come.

5) Brendan Taylor

2011 has seen something of a resurgence in Zimbabwe cricket, with a test return being greeted with a new found competitiveness against the bigger nations, and no other player has embodied that as much as their new captain, Brendan Taylor. A remarkable series against New Zealand that saw scores of 128*, 107* and 75 followed a World Cup where he was Zim's standout batsman, and finishing the year with an average of 49.53 is very handy indeed.

6) Yuvraj Singh

While 2011 has been up and down for Yuvraj, it would be impossible to miss him from this team after the World Cup that he had. Starring with the bat (averaging over 50 from his 14 games), and surprisingly with the ball (picking up 20 wickets at 26), Yuvraj was key to India's victory, and was deservedly named Man of the Tournament.

7) MS Dhoni

Captain, keeper, all-round hero, MS Dhoni (in ODI colours at least) can do no wrong. Taking the mantle as the ultimate ODI finisher, Dhoni's cool-hand has been seen throughout the year, but not as much as in it's biggest game, where his 91 not out in the World Cup final saw India to victory, and his name into Indian folklore. As exceptional a leader as they come, Dhoni has arguably been THE one day international player of 2011.

8) Shahid Afridi

A couple of retirements, a couple of comebacks, a loss of the captaincy, a lot of wickets and a few runs - 2011 has been another normal year in the life of Shahid Afridi. The leading wicket-taker during the World Cup, where his super-quick leg-spin accounted for far too many batsmen, he then retired, before returning in a blaze of glory to destroy Bangladesh in the UAE at the end of the year. While his batting was even more hit and miss than usual, his bowling (where he took an incredible four 5-fers) was easily the best of anyones in 2011.

9) Mitchell Johnson

Yes, he bowls to the left and the right, but Mitch's form in 2011 ODIs was surprisingly good. 39 wickets at 20 (with a more remarkable economy rate of just 4.4) sees cricket's biggest enigma make it into the team of the year.

10) Lasith Malinga

There is simply no bowler more frightening to face than Lasith Malinga. Working on the simple theory of getting it full and straight, the slinger took the most wickets (48) this year, and despite retiring from tests, is still as deadly in ODIs as he's ever been.

11) Zaheer Khan

An injury ravaged second half of the year saw 2011 peter out for Zaheer, but after the first half he had, he won't mind a bit. India's go-to bowler throughout the World Cup, he was instrumental in both taking wickets and strangling the run rate, both with the new ball, and the older one. His incredible spell at the start of the World Cup Final, where the normally free-scoring Dilshan and Tharanga were unable to get him off the square set up the win for India, and his 30 wickets from just 14 games see him into the team of the year, dodgy hammy or not.

My ODI team of 2011:

Shane Watson
Virender Sehwag
Jonathan Trott
Virat Kohli
Brendan Taylor
MS Dhoni
Yuvraj Singh
Shahid Afridi
Mitchell Johnson
Lasith Malinga
Zaheer Khan

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