This eleven is oceans apart from rest of cricket world


Just four nations are represented in the final XI of the Herald's team of 2012. That is not because the selection panel (of one) has a narrow view of the world but it does reflect the concentration of power among a handful of Test countries, while the bottom six struggle.

Just one player from India commands selection, a consequence of that country's slide into complacency when it comes to Test cricket, and of a sobering home defeat to England.

There is no real bolter in the team this year, though the inclusion Virat Kohli reflects the need to plan for the future. To use a buzz acronym from the Argus review, South Africa's unflappable and adaptable Faf du Plessis is a PONI (Player of National Interest), who we hope will blossom in 2013. Du Plessis had a great deal to do with the Proteas keeping the No.1 ranking out of Australia's grasp, but he is just two Tests into his career. Look out for him in next year's team.

South Africa and England command seven places between them and it was a stretch to omit Graeme Smith, who scored more than 800 runs and, intent on an extended period of supremacy, led his team to series wins in England and Australia.

Australia wasn't represented last year but are a team on the up and have contributed three players in 2012 including Michael Clarke, who is at the peak of his powers and will captain the side.

In keeping with modern trends, the fast bowling attack is picked from a platoon of paceman, with Vernon Philander on the fringe, but three of the most durable quicks in the world make the final cut, so there should be no need for rotations.

Herald's team of 2012

1. Alastair Cook (England)

Tests: 15
Runs: 1249
HS: 190
Average: 48.04
Centuries: 4
Half-centuries: 3

Seldom can there have been a more seamless transition from one captain to the next. A daunting first assignment in India was no sweat - he seriously doesn't perspire - and produced three high-class centuries and England's first series win in almost three decades.

2. Hashim Amla (South Africa)

Tests: 10
Runs: 1064
HS: 311*
Average: 70.93
Centuries: 4
Half-centuries: 2

Though he doesn't open for South Africa, Amla is well-equipped to face the new ball and has a serene temperament that makes sledging useless. Slaughtered Australia's makeshift attack in Perth, combining with Smith for a staggering 206 runs in a session. He must not, under any circumstances, bowl.

3. Jacques Kallis (South Africa)

Tests: 9
Runs: 944
HS: 224
Average: 55.79
Wickets: 11
Average: 28.27

Kallis brings balance to this team. What a luxury, to have a man with a batting average of 57 and 280 Test wickets in the top four. Emphasised his class and courage in Australia this summer, with important innings while hurt. His outswinger to Ricky Ponting in Adelaide arguably ended the champion's career.

4. Michael Clarke (Australia)

Tests: 11
Runs: 1595
HS: 329*
Average: 106.33
Centuries: 5
Half-centuries: 3

Clarke is the first man picked, with three double centuries, an average of 106, and more runs in 2012 than any Australian has scored in a calendar year. He is bumped up a spot to allow for the intiation of Kohli at six. Clarke shades Cook for captain gig because he has led an evolving team to seven wins from 11 matches.

5. Mike Hussey (Australia)

Tests: 11
Runs: 898
HS: 150*
Average: 59.86
Centuries: 4
Half-centuries: 2

His sudden retirement leaves us wanting more, much more. Risks being overshadowed by Clarke in this team, but he's used to that. Edges out Kevin Pietersen on the strength of a superior average and is a better team man. Will lead the team song.

6.Virat Kohli (India)

Tests: 9
Runs: 689
HS: 116
Average: 49.21
Centuries: 3
Half-centuries: 3

The last specialist batting spot goes to a rising player who started the year as India's leading runscorer against Australia, and later fought through a difficult patch to finish with a mature century against England. Still has a bit to learn, including a more gracious on-field demeanour.

7. Matt Prior (England)

Tests: 15
Runs: 777
HS: 91
Average: 52.64
Half-centuries: 6
Dismissals: 36 (29 ct, 7 st)

Led the world's glovemen with 36 dismissals in Tests this year, well clear of Australia's Matthew Wade and the West Indies' Dinesh Ramdin. Played some pivotal innings in India, and can score at a rapid rate.

8. Graeme Swann (England)

Tests: 14
Wickets: 59
Average: 29.93
Strike rate: 64.5
Best innings: 6-82
Best match: 12-171

This is a contentious spot, as Swann was shaded by fellow Englishman Monty Panesar in India, while Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath had a statisically superior year. But Swann is a better all-round cricketer than both, and effective on unresponsive English pitches.

9. Peter Siddle (Australia)

Tests: 8
Wickets: 41
Average: 23.09
Strike rate: 47.3
Best innings: 5-49
Best match: 9-104

A year of vegetarianism did not take the edge off his endurance or aggression. He can perform the grunt work in long spells while Steyn and Anderson are saved for short bursts of fast swing bowling. As Siddle showed against South Africa in Adelaide, he is the heart and soul of the attack.

10. Dale Steyn (South Africa)

Tests: 10
Wickets: 39
Average: 29.71
Strike rate: 58.5
Best innings: 5-56
Best match: 7-112

His figures this year were not the most spectacular, but he psyched himself up for when South Africa needed him most, and produced the best ball of the summer to dismiss Michael Clarke in Perth. Forms a fearsome new-ball double act with Anderson.

11. James Anderson (England)

Tests: 14
Wickets: 48
Average: 29.5
Strike rate: 70.7
Best innings: 5-72
Best match: 6-116

Anderson is the best-performed fast bowler in the world this year and, in an era of rotations, bowled more overs than anyone, without breaking down. His performances in India suggest he doesn't need favourable conditions to be effective.

12th Man. Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

Tests: 10
Strike rate: 53.7
Best innings: 6-43
Best match: 12-171

It's difficult to overlook 60 wickets at 23.61. An excellent second spin option if conditions permit.

This story This eleven is oceans apart from rest of cricket world first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.