Merge-ODI

The year 2015 saw a lot of highly competitive cricket being played. As good as the year was for Test cricket, it was One-Day Internationals (ODIs) that stole the show. Of course, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 played a large role in making this year a thrilling one for ODI cricket. Selecting the best team of the year proved to be an extremely tough task given that there was such intense competition for spots. Shiamak Unwalla and Suvajit Mustafi take on the nigh impossible task of narrowing down on the best XI of the year. NOTE: These are not necessarily the leading run-scorers or wicket-takers of the year, but those who have been the most consistent across trying conditions and in tough match situations. There were actually enough outstanding performances to fill two ODI XIs. Read more: 2015 Yearender: Test XI of the year

Suvajit Mustafi (SM): The year has been action-packed in ODIs. Given that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 took place, picking the ODI side will be tough.

Shiamak Unwalla (SU): I think we are going to have a task ahead of us right from the start. Most of the successful batsmen this year have been openers. Shall we start at the top? Who are our contenders for the opening slot?

SM: I have a few shortlisted: Martin Guptill, Hashim Amla, Rohit Sharma, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Brendon McCullum, and David Warner.

SU: Don’t forget Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Shikhar Dhawan, and Soumya Sarkar.

SM: Azhar Ali and Soumya Sarkar for sure, but barring the World Cup, Dhawan was pretty ordinary.

SU: And what about Tamim Iqbal? He was the mastermind for Bangladesh’s golden run at home.

SM: Tamim was excellent but was he good enough in the World Cup? I think others have done better overall. This has been a year of batsmen.

SU: Yes absolutely. Picking the top six will be a real task. How about going one by one? We can examine each batsman individually.

SM: Yes, let us do that

SU: I want to start with Sarkar. I have been really impressed with him this year.

SM: He has been really good. He was batting at No. 3 in the World Cup and played a few very good knocks.

SU: Yes, but while opening he was excellent. Looking at his stats purely as an opener, he opened batting 10 times, scored 499 runs at 62.37 and had a strike rate of 107.54. These are phenomenal numbers!

SM: Agreed. He is that one opener you would want to have in your side who will go all guns blazing from the word go. Also, he has put up big scores. How would you measure him against a McCullum, Dilshan and Warner? Read more: Yearender 2015: T20 team of the year

SU: Sarkar has not yet shown the ability to score those big hundreds, but he can bat quickly and looking at his talent I am sure he will get the hundreds in time. Let us keep him on hold, but I think he gets my vote. The problem with McCullum is he is too much of a hit or bust. He was an absolute demon in the World Cup, but given that we are likely to have an explosive batting order anyway I don’t think an average of 32.22 warrants a spot. That strike rate of 148.94 notwithstanding.

SM: I agree with you on this. Warner has pretty similar numbers to Sarkar but he has played most matches in Australia.

SU: Yes, Warner has been outstanding as well; 631 runs in 13 innings at 52.58 and a strike rate of 108.04, two centuries and two fifties. But as you say, he has played only four innings outside Australia. And do we really need two big-hitting left-handed openers? Between Warner and Sarkar I will pick Sarkar for the better average and given that this is his breakout year in international cricket. Read more: Yearender 2015: Top 10 ODI Batsmen in 2015

SM: We have to pick either of these two and I will go with Sarkar too. So we have one of our openers.

SU: Yes, Sarkar. Amla had a great year till the India series, and I think that’s where he loses out for me. It’s crazy how much competition there is this year; a guy with over 1,000 runs is probably not going to make it to the XI. But then Dilshan and Guptill have over 1,000 runs as well.

SM: Amla could have been a certainty had the India tour gone well. I will give Guptill higher marks on this. There is Dilshan and also don’t forget Rohit.

SU: My problem with Guptill is that he had some superb innings — the unbeaten 237 chief among them — but he also had a string of lacklustre scores. Still, 1,262 runs at 52.58 and a strike rate of 89.82 is hard to ignore. He had four tons and six fifties as well, but also three ducks.

SM: Yes, he has got three more hundreds. He got tons in South Africa and Zimbabwe as well. He was pretty consistent in England too and scored three fifties in five games.

SU: I like Guptill’s chances for being our other opener, but I also want Dilshan. Dilshan had a great year, and has a better average than Guptill. But he tapered off a bit toward the end of the year. That said, the innings of 59 off 32 balls while chasing against West Indies at Colombo came in an innings where Sri Lanka lost 9 wickets chasing 164. But given that two of Dilshan’s tons came against Bangladesh and Scotland I think it takes off a bit of sheen. He has 1,117 runs at 50.72 and a strike rate of over 90 though, with four centuries and five fifties.

SM: Though we are comparing them as batsmen this year, don’t forget Dilshan has 12 wickets too. He has bowled at crucial times and got his side key breakthroughs.

SU: Yes, that does tip the scales in his favour. As for Rohit, he was excellent this year as well. Probably India’s best batsman in ODIs; but if you look at most of his good innings, they came in losing causes. This is obviously no fault of his since he was not backed up in most of them. But again given the competition it will have to go against him.

SM: The same with Azhar Ali; it’s been a sort of re-incarnation for him in ODIs but it has to be either Guptill or Dilshan.

SU: Also, we are not even considering him but Ian Bell was great as well this year. He ended up retiring, but before he did he scored 509 runs in 11 innings at 56.55 and a strike rate of 88.06 with one century and four fifties.

SM: Yes, good numbers especially in England’s disappointing campaign in the World Cup. Guptill and Dilshan will face each other in three ODIs before the year ends but since we are selecting the side before those games begin, my vote goes to Dilshan. Tough on Guptill but the Sri Lankan veteran can’t be ignored. Who does your vote go to?

SU: Azhar and Tamim probably deserve at least a consideration, but given how well others have done I think they will have to miss out. Yes I agree that Dilshan deserves to go through.

Meanwhile, Guptill scores 79 and the 30-ball 93 not out against Sri Lanka at home, while Dilshan flops in both those matches. Guptill with 1459 runs at 56.11 and a strike-rate of over 96, is now the highest scorer in ODIs in 2015.

SM: Will be unfair to leave Guptill out. Dilshan must make way.

SU: Absolutely agree. So we have our openers now.

OPENERS: MARTIN GUPTILLSOUMYA SARKAR

 

Martin Guptill and Soumya Sarkar (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Martin Guptill and Soumya Sarkar (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

SM: Now on to No. 3.

SU: I don’t think there is any doubt about who will come in next. Kumar Sangakkara had 862 runs at 86.20 and a strike rate of 102.86 with five centuries and two half-centuries.

SM: Sangakkara is in without a doubt. This one is easy. We have the wicketkeeper here too.

SU: But there is one thing we have to consider; Kane Williamson is the leading run-scorer this year. And he has a fantastic average and strike rate to go with it.

SM: I will have Williamson at No. 4 in our line-up.

SU: The problem is neither Williamson nor Sangakkara batted anywhere but at No. 3 this year.

SM: True but given the fact that Williamson is pretty flexible and both are certainties.

SU: Sangakkara is nothing if not flexible. In fact if anything I would prefer Williamson staying at No. 3 and Sangakkara dropping to No. 4 here.

SM: That can be done too considering his experience. Also, having Sangakkara means there’s no MS Dhoni (640 runs at 42.80 at a strike rate of 86.83), Jos Buttler (642 runs at 42.80 at a strike rate of 118.88) or Mushfiqur Rahim (767 runs at 51.13 at a strike-rate of 101.58).

SU: We can always have Sangakkara as a pure batsman and bring in Buttler or Dhoni or even Mushfiqur as our ‘keeper. Of course, we could also have our No. 5 keep wickets given that he will almost certainly be AB de Villiers.

SM: Sangakkara was very good behind the stumps and has kept in all matches he played. Also there have been a few good all-rounders, so having an extra ‘keeper doesn’t make much sense. We can go for a specialist lower-order batsman or an all-rounder instead.

SU: Fair point. And our No. 5 is de Villiers. He has 1,193 runs at 79.53 (is anyone even surprised?) and a strike rate of 137.91 with five tons and five half-centuries. So we have Nos 3, 4, and 5 in Williamson, Sangakkara, and de Villiers, with Sangakkara also keeping wickets. I know No. 6 will be a bit too late in the order, but I really want to see Shoaib Malik in this side as well. He has had a great year; 607 runs at 67.44 and a strike rate of 108.39 with one hundred and four fifties. And he is a useful bowler as well, especially in helpful conditions.

SM: I was coming to that. Though Ross Taylor too has had a good year; 1041 runs at 61.23, I think if he isn’t batting in the top 5, it makes no sense to have him. Shoaib Malik has had an excellent comeback.

SU: Yes, Taylor has been exceptionally consistent, but a strike rate of 81.96 really doesn’t cut it especially since we have an abundance of riches anyway. Read more: Yearender 2015: Top 10 ODI innings in 2015

SM: Also there is Steven Smith and Faf du Plessis.

SU: Again, given the kind of form our top five batsmen are in, they cannot be displaced. Both Smith and du Plessis would be wasted at No. 6, unlike Malik who can play the big shots early.

SM: Don’t forget Smith is an excellent finisher too though he is now batting higher in the order. But fair point, with those batting numbers along with nine wickets, he deserves to be in the side.

SU: So we have our middle order set.

MIDDLE ORDER: KANE WILLIAMSON, KUMAR SANGAKKARA (WK), AB DE VILLIERS

Kane Williamson, Kumar Sangakkara and AB de Villiers (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Kane Williamson, Kumar Sangakkara and AB de Villiers (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

SU: Our all-rounder at No. 7 is also a fairly straightforward pick: Glenn Maxwell is perfect for the role. He has scored 644 runs at 46 and a strike rate of 135.86 with one ton and four half-centuries, in addition to his haul of 19 wickets at 29.52.

SM: Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott and even Shakib Al Hasan have done well. Even James Faulkner in limited games has come up with brilliant shows but Maxwell seals it. My vote here is with Maxwell.

SU: Corey had a good World Cup with the ball, but was a bit too expensive for my liking. But he also scored crucial runs in the Semi-Final against South Africa. Still, I’m not sure he makes it.

SM: Corey picked up 25 wickets at 21.32 and scored runs at 33.92 at a strike-rate of 103.27. Good numbers as an all-rounder. But in Maxwell, we have a complete package and there’s no looking beyond at this point.

SU: And besides, Maxwell is a guy who can turn the game in a matter of overs. He isn’t too shabby with the ball either, remember that epic last-over maiden against Pakistan? Though I personally prefer pace-bowling all-rounders we have to go with Maxwell.

ALL-ROUNDER: GLENN MAXWELL

Glenn Maxwell (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Glenn Maxwell (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

SM: Now for the bowlers.

SU: Even the bowling attack is going to be tough to pick. Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult have been outstanding, as has Mustafizur Rahman. Imran Tahir makes it as the lone frontline spinner, but he has Maxwell, Malik, and Dilshan as backup. I really want to see Kagiso Rabada and Wahab Riaz as well though. And let us not forget Josh Davey’s fantastic year.

SM: Yes, we have a left-arm pace dominated attack. Boult, Starc and Mustafizur are automatic selections. Imran Tahir has a competition in Ravichandran Ashwin. If we go with four pacers, Rabada faces some competition from Mohammed Shami and his own teammate Morne Morkel.

SU: Yes, but Tahir had an outstanding year in ODIs with 37 wickets at 25.18 and an economy rate of 4.68, which are all quite close compared to Ashwin. However, Tahir also has two four-wicket hauls and a five-for, which proves his ability to rip through line-ups. It is something Ashwin, with just one four-for this year, lacks.

SM: Yes, also Maxwell, Malik and Dilshan are all off-spinners.

SU: Shami and Morkel were excellent, but I will back Rabada completely here. With 21 wickets in 10 matches at 20.23, his numbers are good enough; but what impressed me the most was his death bowling. I do not remember anyone managing to get him away.

SM: The way he kept one of the best ODI finishers — Dhoni — in check repeatedly during the slog overs was phenomenal. Also he can bowl at close to 150 kmph consistently. I agree with having Rabada, it gives us a variety in pace attack, but are we ready to keep Tahir out? He is the second-highest wicket-taker of the year. Leg-spin is an attacking option. Read more: Yearender 2015: Top 10 ODI bowlers

SU: Absolutely. I think Starc, Tahir, and Boult are in for sure. That leaves Mustafizur and Rabada. It’s hard to argue with Mustafizur’s numbers, but he played exclusively in Bangladesh, while Rabada has played in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa. Tough on Mustafizur, but I will pick Rabada ahead of him. Tahir has to be there as well.

SM: That’s again not his fault. A 19-year-old performing against line-ups like India and South Africa, I think Mustafizur’s numbers can’t be ignored.

SU: We can’t have so many left-arm pacers, it will blunt the attack. I think we might have to pick one between Boult and Mustafizur.

SM: If our three best bowlers are left-armers, it makes sense having all three of them play. I think we can switch between Tahir and Rabada depending on conditions.

SU: I will want Tahir in the side, but Rabada too. I also do think Mustafizur deserves to be there. Is it too late to replace remove Malik and move everyone up a slot?

SM: That can be done considering the side has Maxwell and also Starc is pretty decent with the bat. But Malik deserves to be the 12th man at least.

SU: It is a bit of a risk, but given the record of these guys, if they can’t score the runs then one more batsman isn’t going to cut it. Besides, they have a good enough bowling attack to defend anything. So we remove Malik, and move everyone up a slot, and play with four pacers. This team gives me a very ’80s West Indies vibe. Read more: 2015 Yearender: Top 10 ODI spells

SM: Yes, I agree.

BOWLERS: MITCHELL STARC, KAGISO RABADA, TRENT BOULT, IMRAN TAHIR, MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN

Mitchell Starc, Kagiso Rabada and Trent Boult (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Mitchell Starc, Kagiso Rabada and Trent Boult (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Imran Tahir and Mustafizur Rahman (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Imran Tahir and Mustafizur Rahman (Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

SM: And our captain is AB de Villiers?

SU: Yes I think so. Apart from the fact that there’s no other option barring Williamson, de Villiers has done brilliantly as captain this year. If for nothing else then at least for taking South Africa to the Semi-Final and winning their first-ever knockout game.

SM: And don’t forget he led South Africa to their first ever ODI series in India. Our 12th man is Shoaib Malik.

SU: Yes. And our coach has to be one of Darren Lehmann, Mike Hesson, or Russell Domingo.

SM: I go with Lehmann. Australia have won everything they have played this year. The World Cup win carries the most weight.

SU: I agree. Hesson and Domingo did well, but you can’t argue with a World Cup title.

CricketCountry ODI XI of 2015:

Soumya Sarkar – Bangladesh

Tillakaratne Dilshan – Sri Lanka

Kane Williamson (vc) – New Zealand

Kumar Sangakkara (wk) -Sri Lanka

AB de Villiers (c) – South Africa

Glenn Maxwell – Australia

Mitchell Starc – Australia

Kagiso Rabada – South Africa

Trent Boult – New Zealand

Imran Tahir – South Africa

Mustafizur Rahman – Bangladesh

Shoaib Malik (12th man) – Pakistan

Darren Lehmann (coach) – Australia

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)