READER REPORT:

World XI: Traps in stats and hype

CHARLIE HANTLER
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2014
Mitchell Johnson
DAVID GRAY/ Reuters

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Selecting a World XI is never easy, be it for fun or in an ICC exercise, and is riddled with traps easily fallen into.

The first trap is basing selections solely on stats. Although this is my preference, it still leaves plenty of room for error.

Ross Taylor is currently number three in the test batsmen rankings, but was sitting seventh before the recently concluded West Indies test series.

Three good tests against a horribly depleted West Indian team (missing were Gayle, Roach, Edwards, Rampaul, Bravo, Pollard, the list goes on), no matter how glamorous those knocks may have been, is not sufficient for this ranking.

Don't get me wrong, Ross Taylor is certainly one of the premier batsmen in world cricket, however, one could easily think of at least three batsmen better- Amla, Clarke, and De Villers for starters.

Another trap I have seen a few fall into is picking Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh. Shakib played two test series in the year - at home against Zimbabwe and the might of New Zealand. Opposition must be counted.

The second major trap is hype. Just because a player has had one good, or bad, series, they are being jumped on.

Prime example is one Mitchell Guy Johnson. One good series and he's the world's best bowler apparently. I'll personally reserve judgement on him until after the Aussies have played South Africa, who I believe will deal to him big time.

With that in mind, here is my World XI for 2013, feel free to disagree with, and argue the point on, any of my selections, after all, that is the point of this!

CHARLIE'S WORLD XI

OPENERS

Despite many others moving players such as Pujara and Amla up to open the batting, that's not how test cricket works.

As the Black Caps have shown us with their numerous opening failures, you need batsmen who are definite openers, and are experienced at taking the shine off the ball.

1) Alastair Cook (England). Regardless of how dire Cook may have been in the recent Ashes, he still averages well above 40 for 2013, including an average of over 80 against a quality Indian team. As mentioned, hype shouldn't condemn a player, and Cook is still a batsman of the highest order. Those calling for Warner instead - Cook averages higher for the year, and as a New Zealand fan, I most certainly prefer to see two solid openers who blunt the new ball and set it up for their middle order to flourish. Cook is magnificent at this.

2) Graeme Smith (South Africa). Having captained South Africa for a decade now, Smith is one of the most experienced players going around, and his stats back this up, also averaging well above 40 for the past year. Possibly the most under-credited man in a ridiculously good South African team, he does his job in facing a lot of balls and making the job easy for the rock-stars - Amla, De Villiers, Kallis, Du Plessis etc. Although he and Cook are both left handers, they are the two best genuine openers going around and have certainly earned their spots in this team.

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MIDDLE ORDER

3) Hashim Amla (South Africa). The premier batsman in world test cricket at the moment, despite a sub-par (by his high standards) series against India, where he averaged 14, after averaging 64, 71.5 and 88 in his other 3 2013 series. Without a doubt owns the number three spot in this team.

4) Cheteshwar Pujara (India). Pujara's averages in his three 2013 series, against Australia, West Indies and South Africa were 83.8, 65, 70 respectively. He takes this spot ahead of New Zealand's Ross Taylor, without real argument for the contrary. Taylor's ridiculous 200+ average against the Caribbean Calypsos was somewhat skyrocketed by a couple of not outs, and hardly compares to the consistency of Pujara, constantly averaging over 60 against world class opposition. So far, a career average of 66.25 with six centuries and four 50s, a very promising career awaits the 25 year old.

5) Michael Clarke (Australia). Captained Australia to a 5-0 Ashes win and has been in impeccable form almost the entire year. An average of roughly 70 for 2013 tells us all we need to know. Also widely regarded as one of the best fielders in the world, not that that was really necessary.

6) AB De Villiers (South Africa). Also averaging roughly 70 for the year, and donning the pads and gloves behind the stumps for the world topping South Africans, AB is a shoe-in as the wicketkeeper here, regardless of how often he keeps. Fast becoming one of the more under-rated batsmen in world cricket, having a man of his calibre at number six means this is a very, very strong middle order.

7) Jacques Kallis (South Africa). Although he had one of his worst years in test cricket with the bat, averaging roughly 35, the luxury of having the wicketkeeper batting at six means that this team can employ an all rounder in the number seven spot. And to be frank, the number of pace bowling all rounders running round currently is skimp. Shane Watson is hardly adequate, Ben Stokes (although a great prospect) is a youngster in test cricket, as is Corey Anderson. Kallis earns the spot due to a combination of this scarcity and his legend, going down as one of the greatest cricketers of all time, and one of, if not, the best all rounders the game has ever had. As we saw his run flow start to dry up towards the end of his career, the number seven spot may be profitable for him in this team, coming in with probably little pressure on him. What a great shame to see him retire.

8) Ravichandrin Ashwin (India). With over 50 wickets in 2013, and coincidentally (he was picked in this team as the spinner) 435 runs at an average of roughly 40, this selection was without doubt. The only other spinners who came close were Herath (Sri Lanka) and Ajmal (Pakistan), but Ashwin takes this spot. The only question mark remaining is what his bowling outside of the sub-continent will be like. Ajmal took over 40 wickets, but it's worth remembering that 31 of these were either against Zimbabwe or at 'home' in the UAE. So if we're trying to discredit Ashwin on the theory he only performs at home or against weak opposition, then Ajmal is discounted also. Herath took roughly the same number of wickets, but 29 of them came against NZ or Bangaldesh, so Ashwin's stronger batting carries him home here.

9) Vernon Philander (South Africa). I would love to see people try and argue against this. Philander has burst on to the test scene in style, and is fast becoming regarded as a McGrath-esque bowler, due to his impeccable line and length. The perfect first change bowler after the two upcoming stars.

10) Dale Steyn (South Africa). The most menacing bowler in world cricket, 63 wickets this year. Only a true fool would argue against his selection here.

11) Ryan Harris (Australia). 46 wickets in only two series through 2013 shows what we already knew about Harris, he is pure class. Often losing out on the plaudits to Johnson through the recent Ashes, Harris still has the same amount of wickets as Johnson throughout 2013, and is the better, more consistent bowler. As brilliant as Johnson was during the Ashes, I will reserve judgement on him until after the South African tour. If he performs there, then sure, he gets this spot. History would suggest Harris is the more likely, however.

In a team such as this, I feel it would be harsh to name a sole 12th man, so here's a second XI.

David Warner (Australia)

Ian Bell (England)

Virat Kohli (India)

Ross Taylor (New Zealand)

Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)

Faf Du Plessis (South Africa)

Brad Haddin (Australia)

Mitchell Johsnon (Australia)

Stuart Broad (England)

Trent Boult (New Zealand)

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

12 Morne Morkel (South Africa)


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