READER REPORT:

World XI: Smith's a proven performer

GAVIN POOLE
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2014
graeme smith
GOOD WITH THE NEW BALL: Graeme Smith.

Pick your World XI for test cricket

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Our readers have been sharing their picks for a World XI for tests. Do ypi agree with Gavin Poole's line up? 

GAVIN'S WORLD XI

Graeme Smith - South Africa (c)

David Warner - Australia

Cheteshwar Pujara - India

Michael Clarke - Australia

Shivnarine Chanderpaul - West Indies

AB De Villiers - South Africa (wk)

Shakib Al Hasen - Bangladesh

Ravi Ashwin - India

Mitchell Johnson - Australia

Vernon Philander - South Africa

Dale Steyn - South Africa

12th Men: BJ Watling and Trent Boult - New Zealand

A test team needs to be compatible; this is done with the right structure.

I feel the best structure for any cricket team is five specialist batsmen, a wicket-keeper who can bat top six, a genuine all-rounder and four top class bowlers.

This team is based on form shown over the past couple of years.

For my specialist batsmen, we need two openers, a number three, followed by a reasonably quick scorer and a good accumulator of runs, this means you have all bases covered when it comes to your batting lineup.

You can't just have anyone opening the innings, facing the new ball is a trait not everyone can handle. My first choice would have to be Graeme Smith, a proven performer. The experience he brings to any side is invaluable, not to mention the runs he's scored all over the world. The past year he was prolific, averaging 50, with a mammoth 234 against a strong Pakistan lineup.

To partner him, I'm going to go with the pocket dynamo David Warner. He doesn't have the pedigree of Alastair Cook, but his performance in the Ashes was incredible. His 523 runs at 58.11 proved to me that he has turned a corner in his career and has finally found the balance between attack and defence.

I feel Warner is about to blossom, and the next few years he will be an integral part of the Australian lineup. 

There is a two horse race for the number three spot - Hashim Amla and Cheteshwar Pujara. Amla has all the talent in the world, but Pujara's recent form oozes class. Amla has been in fine form the past few years, and 633 runs at 57 last year backs that up.

Pujara though has my vote, as scoring 829 runs at 75 in 2013 was an incredible feat. But it was his performance against South Africa that had me convinced he's the real deal. A big century and a solid 70 against the world's best attack can't go unnoticed

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There are several options for the middle order, the likes of Michael Clarke, Virat Kohli, Ross Taylor, Kumar Sangakkara and the old master himself Chanderpaul. These were the hardest spots to pick, because the talent on show was extraordinary.

I've chosen to slot Clarke in at four. He may not have had the best Ashes series, but he did score runs at vital times, and his 2012 season was incredible with him scoring a triple hundred and two double centuries to average 106 over the calendar year. 

The next slot wasn't so easy and Sangakkara doesn't do it for me. The lack of tests for Sri Lanka didn't help, but I feel that outside the subcontinent he lacks the performance you need from your big players. Only six of his 33 centuries have been scored outside of the subcontinent.

Ross Taylor isn't good enough, give him a few years perhaps. We need to remember all his runs came against a West Indies' bowling attack that I probably could have scored runs against. For him to become world class like we all hope he needs to big runs against big teams.

Virat Kohli has the talent to become a superstar of world cricket, but he needs to smooth off the rough edges and tighten up his technique before that happens.

That leaves Chanderpaul to slot in at five, an average of 58 in 2013 shows he still has the talent to compete at this level, and also his ability to bat with the lower order came into consideration. 

I want my wicket-keeper to bat at six. No-one comes near AB De Villiers for this spot in the team. Since taking over the gloves, he has been more than tidy behind the stumps and his batting has only gotten better, averaging 57 in the 19 matches.

But being one of the team's top batsmen coupled with having to couch for days behind stumps, I feel I should have a reserve keeper in my squad.

Based on form I'm going to take a gamble and go with our very own BJ Watling. This young buck averaged a tick under 40 in 2013, which is the third highest average for a keeper behind De Villiers and MS Dhoni. I'm over Dhoni, his keeping has steadily declined over the last 18 months and bashing teams around on Indian highways loses its thrill. Watling scored hard runs against tough attacks since taking over the wicket-keeping role and I think he will outshine Dhoni in the upcoming test series against India.

In at seven is my all-rounder. With Kallis's retirement this spot was wide open. The likes of Ben Stokes, Corey Anderson are putting their hands up with good performances but I really can't go past the experience of Shakib Al Hasen. A lack of test matches in 2013 went against him but the ones he did play, he showed his class. An average of 45 in the calendar year with that bat along with 11 wickets at 33 showed his talent. At only 26, he averages 37 with the bat and has taken 113 wickets at 32 to go with that. For me, no-other all-rounder in the world has reached those standards yet.

The bowling attack is next. With Shakib there I feel I can go with either an all-out pace quartet or include another spinner. Much of this would depend on the pitch, but personally I like the tandem spin option, in any team.

The second spinner was a tough choice to make, but I've decided to go with India's Ravi Ashwin, his 104 wickets in 19 matches makes him the world's premier spinner just ahead of Saeed Ajmal. Another major factor in choosing Ashwin is his very handy batting ability.

The pace attack was relatively simple to choose. Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Mitchell Johnson. You have your left arm quick in Johnson, your swing king in Philander and the leader of the attack in Dale Steyn.

Steyn and Philander are the world's best bowlers and their class has been on show for the past couple of years. Philander became the fastest person in over 100 years to take 50 test wickets and currently has 105 wickets at an average of 18.

Steyn was just as much a dominant force in 2013 taking 51 wickets at 17.

As both are right arm bowlers, Johnson has the added variety of being a left-armer. He showcased his talent on his comeback Ashes tour taking 37 wickets at 14 against the Poms, at times hitting 155km/h.

In case my team decided to play just the one spinner in Shakib, and go for another pacer, personally Trent Boult is my man. The fourth highest wicket taker in 2013 showed his has the talent to compete with the top bowlers in the world, also being a left-armer is a variation which suits any team, so he'll be my fourth seamer.


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