On the latest episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker, WCM editor-at-large John Stern and wisden.com managing editor Ben Gardner joined host Yas Rana to pick out Wisden’s men’s Test team of the 2000s.
Picking a pace attack proved tricky, but for a different sort of reason as selecting a batting line-up did. With arguably the two greatest spinners of all time putting up compelling cases during the 2000s, only two spots were left for the quicks, and while Glenn McGrath practically picked himself, the other slot was a contentious one.
Eventually the panel went with the mercurial Shoaib Akhtar, though he only claimed 144 wickets in the decade, as an “outlier” player, in the words of Phil. Here are the others who came under consideration.
Statistics from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2009
34 Tests, 172 wickets @ 23.97, 11 five-fors, best figures: 6-49
BG: Even though he only played just over half the decade Dale Steyn got the nod for me. He’d just started doing crazy things in India by that point. If you’re looking for strike bowlers from the list of bowlers who had considerable records in that decade, he’s the one that really stands out for me.
PW: Shoaib’s record alongside Steyn’s – and obviously Steyn continued long into the next decade – their records in and of this period are remarkably similar. Just one Test match difference between them, they both took 11 five-fors, and their strike-rates are also very similar, though Shoaib’s is better by a nose. Ben’s suggestion of Steyn makes sense because Steyn would deliver day after day in a way that Shoaib maybe wouldn’t, but let’s allow ourselves a little bit of magic in here.
97 Tests, 380 wickets @ 28.64, 18 five-fors, best figures: 7-37
JS: The longevity, I just think he’s an amazing pioneering individual and a damn good bowler as well, who had a huge effect on his side and was part of that emerging very high-class South African side. His influence goes way beyond what he did on the field.
PW: I was surprised by how superior his wicket tally is to all other quick bowlers. He’s way out there really. 18 five-fors. Four 10-wicket games. He would be my 12th man.
70 Tests, 260 wickets @ 24.76, six five-fors, best figures: 6-30
BG: Shaun Pollock hasn’t really had much of a mention so far, but he’s fourth on that list of wicket takers, his average is almost four runs per wicket better than Ntini’s, and you’ve got to add that he averaged more than 32 with the bat in this decade with two hundreds, which is not insignificant. He probably suffers a bit from the same thing as Jacques Kallis, but if you were picking your best Test cricketers of the decade, he’d feature quite highly I imagine.
Also receiving honourable mentions were Brett Lee and Chaminda Vaas.
75 Tests, 303 wickets @ 31.27, nine five-fors, best figures: 5-30
PW: Between McGrath and Ntini [in the list of leading wicket-takers that decade] is Brett Lee, but Brett Lee of course always went for a few at the same time. He took over 300 wickets from 75 games.
77 Tests, 247 wickets @ 29.69, eight five-fors, best figures: 7-71
BG: Chaminda Vaas, averaging under 30 bowling half his Tests in Sri Lanka is remarkable.