As 2017 comes to an end, The Ring Side View picks the Test XI of the year. Steven Smith leads the team that comprises his contemporary Virat Kohli among others.
Important Note: Statistics as on December 20, 2017.
- Dean Elgar (Matches: 11, Runs: 1097, Average: 54.85, 100s: 5, 50s: 4, Highest: 199)
Only three batsmen have score five Test centuries this year. Dean Elgar is in that list along with the usual suspects — Virat Kohli and Steven Smith. Elgar even led South Africa for one Test in the absence of Faf du Plessis. He scored a hundred each in England and New Zealand. At home, he maintained with big knocks, which included a 199 against Bangladesh.
- David Warner (Matches: 10, Runs: 808, Average: 44.88, 100s: 3, 50s: 3, Highest: 123)
David Warner has shown growth as a Test batsmen this year although the numbers aren’t spectacular by his standards. He had a relatively quiet tour to India but the two centuries in Bangladesh affirmed the fact that he is a player for all conditions. Dimuth Karunaratne was in the hunt for this spot having score more than thousand runs this year but he averages below 40 and this line-up would need the attacking instinct of a Warner to complement Elgar’s more gritty approach.
- Cheteshwar Pujara (Matches: 11, Runs: 1140, Average: 67.05, 100s: 4, 50s: 5, Highest: 202)
Cheteshwar Pujara only played Test matches at home and in Sri Lanka but these numbers can’t be ignored. More importantly, he delivered with defining performances this year, particularly in the keenly contested series against Australia. At Bangalore, his innings of 92 tackled tough conditions to help setup victory for India. The marathon double-century at Ranchi denied Australia the advantage and helped India consolidate. At the time of writing, Pujara was the leading run-scorer in Tests in 2017 and the Aussie captain was only 13 runs behind.
- Steven Smith (Matches: 10, Runs: 1127, Average: 70.43, 100s: 5, 50s: 2, Highest: 239) – Captain
Smith continues to raise the bar with great performances every year and come the Boxing Day Test match, he should overtake Pujara to become the leading run-scorer this year. Such is Smith’s form that Kohli has to drop down one spot to make way at No. 4. The Australian captain’s double-century in the Ashes-clinching Test at Perth was a splendid show of batsmanship. However, his century against India on a dust-bowl in Pune truly showcased his abilities. On a pitch where most Indian batsmen struggled, Smith stood apart with a magnificent century in the second innings no less. Of those five centuries, three came in India. Need we say more?
- Virat Kohli (Matches: 10, Runs: 1059, Average: 75.64, 100s: 5, 50s: 1, Highest: 243)
Despite a lean series against Australia, where he also missed a Test due to injury, Kohli still managed to score over 1000 runs this year. Some may argue that these numbers have been inflated by taking on a weak Sri Lankan attack in six Tests but take into consideration the fact that three out of those five centuries have been doubles. That is a fantastic conversion rate and shows that he is batting on a different plane. He carried his form forward from last year and has now set himself up for good performances on the upcoming overseas challenges.
- Wriddhiman Saha (Matches: 11, Runs: 443, Average: 42.30, 100s: 2, 50s: 1, Highest: 117, Dismissals: 37) – Wicketkeeper
Jonny Bairstow and Quinton de Kock were others in contention for the wicketkeeper’s spot but Saha’s assured presence behind and in front of the stumps helps him win it. Saha’s glovework has largely been good and his batting has been stable, whenever India has needed him to contribute. He scored 117 and stitched a partnership with Pujara at Ranchi to help India remain in contention in the series against Australia.
- Ravindra Jadeja (Matches: 10, Runs: 328, Average: 41.00, 50s: 4, Highest: 70, Wickets: 54, Bowl. Average: 23.05, 5WI: 3, Best Innings Figures: 6 for 63, Best Match Analysis: 9 for 178)
Ravindra Jadeja’s stocks continue to rise in the Test cricket, even as his fortunes in limited-overs cricket dwindled. In August this year, he achieved the feat of leading the ICC rankings for both Test bowlers and all-rounders. At the time of writing, he is No. 3 in the rankings for bowlers and No. 2 in the all-rounders’ list. A batting average in the 40s and the bowling equivalent in the 20s suggests that he’s had an ideal year in the whites.
- Kagiso Rabada (Matches: 10, Wickets: 54, Average: 20.96, 5WI: 3, 10WM: 2, Best Innings Figures: 6 for 55, Best Match Analysis: 10 for 63)
In the absence of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada has risen to become South Africa’s prime fast-bowler. Morne Morkel too had a good year but Rabada’s numbers are stunning. The paceman has also shown the ability to stun the batsmen with pace and in the long run he could turn out to be a complete fast-bowler.
- Nathan Lyon (Matches: 10, Wickets: 60, Average: 22.91, 5WI: 5, 10WM: 1, Best Innings Figures: 8 for 50, Best Match Analysis: 13 for 154)
Nathan Lyon will most likely finish as the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket in 2017. With that, he pips Ashwin for the off-spinner’s spot despite the Indian finishing with 56 wickets. Lyon has bowled well in the ongoing Ashes and also made an impact on the tours to India and Bangladesh. On the strength of those numbers, he makes it into the XI by beating Ashwin in the race.
- James Anderson (Matches: 10, Wickets: 51, Average: 16.86, 5WI: 4, Best Innings Figures: 7 for 42, Best Match Analysis: 9 for 73)
The No. 1 bowler in ICC’s Test rankings, Anderson has had another good year in Test cricket. The bowling average under 20 truly reveals his dominance. He was particularly dominant at home against South Africa and the West Indies. During the ongoing Ashes, he has delivered with a couple of good spells even as England have struggled.
- Neil Wagner (Matches: 7, Wickets: 36, Average: 25.47, 5WI: 1, Best Innings Figures: 7 for 39, Best Match Analysis: 9 for 141)
Neil Wagner has quietly gone about his job this year. New Zealand haven’t toured as they have hosted South Africa, Bangladesh and West Indies. Wagner has delivered with crucial spells and has consistently picked up wickets. The numbers merit his selection into this side.
Honourable mentions: KL Rahul had a consistent year as an opener with numerous fifties. Rangana Herath has had another good year statistically but hasn’t had a consistent impact against India. Morne Morkel finished behind Neil Wagner in terms of wickets but had a good run this year.