Selecting The Best Test Cricket XI of 2017

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 13: Trent Boult of New Zealand bowls to Dimuth Karunaratne of Sri Lanka during day four of the First Test match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at University Oval on December 13, 2015 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

Another year of Test Cricket has passed by with only the showpiece Boxing Day Test Matches remaining and as everybody loves the year end, it gives us the opportunity to select a team of who we think were the eleven best performers in these twelve months. Here is my Test Cricket XI from 2017:
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Dean Elgar

If you are to select any opener for your lineup from this past year, look no further than Dean Elgar. The South African opener had a magnificent year with the bat. 1097 runs at an average of 54.85 with four fifties and five hundreds, Elgar operated at a class above any other opener in the world. A hundred in New Zealand and England, Elgar made runs in difficult situations in a year which was a mixed bag for the Proteas. The grit with which he made these runs was brilliant to see and he should be the first name when one needs to pick an opener from the year 2017.

Dimuth Karunaratne

If Dean Elgar was the obvious choice for the first opening slot, the second spot had no clear winner. David Warner of Australia scored two brilliant hundreds in Bangladesh, Alastair Cook and Kraigg Brathwaite had notewoerthy performances too but I have gone ahead with Sri Lankan opener Dimuth Karunaratne.

1031 runs at an average of 39.65 with four fifties and three hundreds, Karunaratne gave a good account of himself in a rather horrible year for Sri Lanka. While his average might not be huge, its his performances that make for great reading. A hundred and a 97 in adverse situations against India were followed by a 93 and a 196 against Pakistan in UAE where Sri Lanka won 2-0. Karunaratne had a year to remember.
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Cheteshwar Pujara

At number three, only two men could raise their hands for the slot. New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson and India’s Cheteshwar Pujara. While Williamson averaged 62.88 in seven Tests, Pujara gets the slot for a stupendous year. The highest run-getter this year (before the commencement of the Boxing Day Tests), Pujara rose to new heights with some marathon knocks. 1140 runs at an average of 67.05 with five fifties and four hundreds, Pujara shaped India’s middle order in such a convincing year for India. The Saurashtra batsman got a hundred in every series that he played this year barring the one-off Test against Bangladesh. Cheteshwar Pujara is the obvious choice for number three in my 2017 Test Cricket XI.

Steven Smith

While Pujara’s numbers are astonishing, Australian Captain Steven Smith has performed on an even higher level. 1127 runs at an average of 70.43 with two fifties and five hundreds, Smith has been head and shoulders above any batsman in Test Cricket this year. A gritty 109 in a Test win in Pune, 178 not out in Ranchi, 111 in Dharamashala, Smith proved his might even in the treacherous conditions of the Indian Subcontinent. A game-changing 141 not out in Brisbane and a 239 in Perth in the ongoing Ashes, he more or less blew England away on his own and ensured that the series is over by the third Test itself. Is there a better Test batsman than Steven Smith in this era?
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Virat Kohli (C)

Another spot which lacked an outright winner, I have gone with Indian Captain Virat Kohli, though he bats at number four. Kohli has had a record-laden year and though he only got the 46 runs in the home series against Australia, his performances against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were breathtaking. 1059 runs at an average of 75.64 with one fifty and five hundreds, Kohli converted four out of his five hundreds into double hundreds. He also becomes the Captain of my XI as his year as captain has been next to spotless barring one defeat. Dinesh Chandimal and Shai Hope were candidates and one could argue that Kohli got the bulk of his runs in slightly easier conditions, but it would be criminal to not pick him in my Test Cricket XI with the numbers he has registered this year.

Shakib Al Hasan

One more spot that would invite criticism. Currently out of the Ashes squad, Stokes did enough earlier in the year to warrant a place as the all rounder in the squad. 527 runs at an average of 43.91 with four fifties and two hundreds and 16 wickets at an average of 31.31. Shakib Al Hasan did slightly better in numbers in the same amount of Tests (seven) than Stokes. 665 runs at an average of 47.50 with three fifties and two hundreds and 29 wickets at an average of 33.38, Shakib’s experience is what has tipped the scales in his favour. A 217 at the Basin Reserve and a 116 at the P Sara Oval were hallmarks of Shakib’s brilliance. Twin five-wicket hauls in Dhaka scripted a historic Test win over Australia. Shakib is my Number Six for the Test Cricket XI.

Wriddhiman Saha(WK)

While there were players with better batting numbers than Saha, I pick Saha because of his excellent glove work which is arguably head and shoulders above any other Test wicketkeeper. Sri Lankan Test Captain Dinesh Chandimal, who does not keep wickets but is a wicketkeeper by trade, had a phenomenal year with over a 1000 runs. Sri Lankan wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella, West Indian Shai Hope and Bangladeshi Mushfiqur Rahim were all in the race but when pundits talk about giving Man of the Match awards solely on wicketkeeping performances, it is a huge compliment. 423 runs at an average of 42.30 with one fifty and two hundreds, Saha took 34 catches and effected three stumpings too. Saha is the wicketkeeper for my Test Cricket XI purely based on glove work.
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Kagiso Rabada

All of us love to see a youngster rise to new heights. Rabada has done just that. With South Africa’s regular seamers Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander missing matches with injury, the young seamer took the reigns in his own hands and had a magical year. 54 wickets at an average of 20.96 with three five-wicket hauls and two ten-wicket hauls, Rabada took a wicket in every 38.5 balls. No seamer picked more wickets than the 22-year old. Performing admirably on a rather disappointing England tour for South Africa, Rabada won hearts for his persistence. The future looks really bright and with India visiting in January, watch out for Kagiso Rabada.

Nathan Lyon

When you consider spinners, you stop the buck at the spinners from the subcontinent. This year, though, Nathan Lyon has left every spinner behind. 60 wickets at an average of 22.91 with five five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket haul, Lyon is virtually guaranteed to finish as  2017’s highest wicket-taker. 8/50 in Bangalore, 5/92 in Dharamshala, 6/82 in Dhaka, 7/94 and 6/60 in Chittagong, Lyon produced brilliant performances from a visiting spinner in the subcontinent. 14 wickets at an average of 26.07 in the ongoing Ashes, Lyon has proved to be a handful for the English batsman. To leave spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Rangana Herath behind is worthy of praise.

James Anderson

They say wine gets better with age. Same can be said of England’s all-time highest Test match wicket taker James Anderson. In a year when he crossed the 500 Test wickets mark, Anderson in 2017 has 51 wickets at an average of 16.86 with four five-wicket hauls. While many say Anderson only produces big performances at home, he has been England’s best bowler in the ongoing Ashes with 12 wickets at an average of 25.83. James Anderson walks into this team.
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Neil Wagner

With Shakib’s inclusion as the spin all-rounder, it gives me an opportunity to play a third frontline seamer. New Zealand’s Neil Wagner is my pick. One of the more underrated bowlers in Test Cricket, Wagner has had a stunning year. 36 wickets at an average of 25.47 with one five-wicket haul, the Kiwi pacer has impressed one and all with his persistence and his desire to bowl long spells consistently. Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Morne Morkel were all in contention but with them missing matches due to injury and not being as effective as Wagner, I have gone ahead with Neil Wagner as my third specialist seamer.

This is my Best Test Cricket XI of 2017:

    1. Dean Elgar
    2. Dimuth Karunaratne
    3. Cheteshwar Pujara
    4. Steven Smith
    5. Virat Kohli(C)
    6. Shakib Al Hasan
    7. Wriddhiman Saha(WK)
    8. Kagiso Rabada
    9. Nathan Lyon
    10. James Anderson
    11. Neil Wagner

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