Aadya Sharma, Yas Rana, and Ben Gardner pick out Wisden’s ODI Team of the Year to kick off Wisden’s 2020 in Review series, based on performances in men’s ODI cricket between December 4, 2019 and December 4, 2020. Words: Ben Gardner.
It’s been an odd year for ODI cricket. With the 50-over format already set to be on the back-burner, and with two T20 World Cups scheduled before the next ODI global tournament, the Covid-19 pandemic saw large swathes of the calendar postponed or cancelled. In a way, it was fitting that the last ODI series of the year, between South Africa and England, was postponed twice before being cancelled altogether.
Still, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some exciting action to remember, with super overs, big totals and fine figures abounding in the 86 ODIs that did take place in the qualification period (stretching back to December 4, 2019, in line with Wisden Cricket Monthly‘s previous ODI team of the year).
Perhaps reflecting the strangest of years, Wisden’s teams of the year, normally a WCM staple, are moving online for 2020.
2020 in Review: Wisden’s ODI Team of the Year
Stats in bold refer to the period between December 4, 2019 and December 4, 2020, the qualification period for performances to be considered for inclusion in this XI.
Aaron Finch – Australia (C)
13 matches, 673 runs @ 56.08, SR: 81.67, 2 100s, HS: 114
Australia’s white-ball captain had another year to remember in ODI cricket; no-one scored more ODI runs, while his consistency is summed up by the fact that he reached double figures in each of his 13 innings.
Best knock: 110* (114) v India, Mumbai, January 14, 2020
Finch was indomitable in Australia’s 2-1 series victory over India at the end of 2020, with a century in the opener and a lowest score of 60. But his most dominant innings came in a 10-wicket mauling of India at the start of the year, as he and David Warner chased down 256 with more than 12 overs to spare.
KL Rahul – India (WK)
12 matches, 628 runs @ 57.09, SR: 100.48, 2 100s, HS: 112
That KL Rahul is the only Indian in our top six shows his rising importance in a team stacked with greats. He moved around the order this year, but we’ve kept him as opener due to the strength of our middle-order options.
Best knock: 80 (52) v Australia, Rajkot, January 17, 2020
There were anchoring centuries to set up games, and blistering half-centuries to finish off innings, and we’ve plumped for one of the latter, a 52-ball riot to push India well past 300 and help them level up a series they had gone behind in.
Steve Smith – Australia
10 matches, 568 runs @ 63.11, SR: 106.56, 3 100s, HS: 63.11
2020 was the first year Steve Smith’s relentless in Test cricket was translated to the 50-over game. No-one else made as many hundreds, and he also made a 98 in his first knock of the year for good measure. Twin 62-ball hundreds in Australia’s year-end series against India showed he could score quick as well as big. Ominous signs.
Best knock: 105 (66) v India, Sydney, November 27, 2020
How do you split Smith’s hundreds in the first and second India ODIs? Both came off exactly the same number of balls at the same ground in national record totals against India, with both openers already having passed fifty. We’ve gone for the first, reasoning that as the tone-setter it did more to help win the series. But was with all of Smith’s best work, individual touchpoints get lost in a sea of overwhelming brilliance.
Nicholas Pooran – West Indies
9 matches, 397 runs @ 56.71, SR: 114.08, HS: 89
The only member of our top six not to make a ton, but then Nicholas Pooran’s disregard for milestones and personal glory in favour of trying to simply hit the next ball as hard as he can is part of his not-insignificant charm. Will Test cricket be next?
Best knock: 84 (64) v India, Cuttack, December 22, 2019
His 29 not out settled the first ODI, an a 47-ball 75 briefly hinted at something glorious in the second, but it was Pooran’s knock in the final game of West Indies’ December 2019 series against India that deserved to win the whole thing. Having come in with just over 20 overs to bat, Pooran came within two blows of an outrageous century and very nearly sparked an unlikely triumph, only for India to prevail by four wickets.
Sam Billings – England
6 matches, 315 runs @ 78.75, SR: 95.74, 1 100, HS: 112
A pair of unbeaten chase-sealers in the Ireland ODIs showed Sam Billings was in form, but a century to rescue England’s floundering chase against Australia served as something of a coming-of-age knock. Such is England’s batting strength, even that only guarantees him a spot as first reserve.
Best knock: 118 (110) v Australia, Manchester, September 11, 2020
Josh Hazlewood and Adam Zampa had reduced England to 57-4 in pursuit of 295 to win, leaving Billings and Jonny Bairstow to pick up the pieces. Had he received a tad more lower-order support, Billings might have been able to craft something truly special. Instead, he had to settle for a muted bat raise and the confirmation that he was a batsman of international quality.
Glenn Maxwell – Australia
6 matches, 353 runs @ 70.60, SR: 145.26, 1 100, HS: 108
Glenn Maxwell always scores more quickly than everyone else. In the qualification period, he scored as consistently as anyone else too, with only Billings and Rohit Sharma, among those with 250 runs, averaging more. Even then, the occasional loose dismissal at the end of a blistering knock angered Australia fans. He’s copped enough flak to not let it bother him.
Best knock: 108 (90) v England, Manchester, September 16, 2020
The trio of rapid knocks against India deserve mention, but it was Maxwell’s second ODI century that takes pride of place. In a decider against Australia’s oldest rivals and the world champions, he took them from 73-5 in pursuit of 304 to the brink of victory, with his fast start allowing Alex Carey to play himself into form. That he top-edged Adil Rashid with the game not yet won shouldn’t take the sheen of a special innings.
Ravindra Jadeja – India
12 matches, 293 runs @ 56.60, SR: 101.79, HS: 66*; 10 wickets @ 65.80, ER: 5.07, BBI: 2-44
Ravindra Jadeja earns his place more because of his batting than his bowling. That he never fell in single figures is remarkable considering his role often had him hitting out from ball one. He was never less than accurate with the ball either, even if that lofty average shows he was less incisive than ideal.
Best game: 39* (31); 1-54 v West Indies, Cuttack, December 22, 2019
A brutal 66* in the company of Hardik Pandya in India’s consolation win against Australia was the most eye-catching, but to truly evaluate Jadeja’s day in, day out worth you’ve got to look beyond what leaps out at you. In a decider against West Indies, Jadeja kept the run rate in check in the face of an assault from Pooran and Kieron Pollard before coming in with 88 needed in 11 overs and seeing the game home with an ice-cool cameo.
Alzarri Joseph – West Indies
9 matches, 22 wickets @ 19.59, ER: 5.01, BBI: 4-32
With the second-most wickets in the qualification period by any bowler, Alzarri Joseph confirmed his ascension to West Indies attack leader in 2020. His best outing came in a whitewash against Sri Lanka, when 10 wickets in three games couldn’t prevent a hammering.
Best spell: 4-32 v Ireland, Barbados, January 9, 2020
The second ODI between the sides, if you were confused, since Joseph took identical figures in the first game. This performance came in a minor classic, with West Indies triumphing by one wicket. Had Joseph not accounted for Ireland’s best three batsmen – Paul Stirling, Andrew Balbirnie, and Kevin O’Brien – a series-levelling win could well have beckoned. He then hit a crucial 16 for good measure.
Lungi Ngidi – South Africa
4 matches, 12 wickets @ 16.08, ER: 5.67, 1 five-for, BBI: 6-58
Given Australia were World Cup semi-finalists and would go on to beat England and India later in 2020, South Africa’s series win over them counts as one of the year’s most surprising results. With nine wickets in his two appearances, no one did more to earn it than Lungi Ngidi, one of the world game’s brightest prospects.
Best spell: 6-58 v Australia, Bloemfontein, March 4, 2020
Accounting for three of the top four before returning to help mop up the tail, Ngidi helped keep Australia to 271, laying the platform for a series-sealing win. Only Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane claimed better figures in 2020.
Josh Hazlewood – Australia
10 matches, 16 wickets @ 30.81, ER: 5.00, BBI: 3-26
It becomes more and more baffling by the spell that Australia chose to exclude Josh Hazlewood from their 2019 Cricket World Cup squad, even leaving aside that they then left him out of the first game of the 2019 Ashes. Hazlewood excelled with old-school style new-ball bowling, focussing on line and length, giving the batsman nothing, and inevitably breaking through. Only once did he go wicketless.
Best spell: 3-26 v England, Manchester, September 11, 2020
An impeccable spell, with Hazlewood conceding just two boundaries in his 10-over spell. If his dismissal of Jason Roy, snaffled stunningly in his follow-through, stood out for its athleticism, then his seeing off of Joe Root, who was outdone by some nibble from just back of a length, was a subtle nod to the connoisseurs.
Adam Zampa – Australia
13 matches, 27 wickets @ 23.74, ER: 5.00, BBI: 4-54
The diminutive leggie has slowly become a crucial member of Australia’s ODI side. No one else got within five wickets of Adam Zampa’s tally in the qualification period, and his knack of dismissing set batsmen demonstrates exactly why wrist-spinners are so valuable, and why the Australian is now one of the most valuable of the lot.
Best spell: 4-54 v India, Sydney, November 27, 2020
Don’t be fooled by the 67-run scoreline; India were in the game for long stretches of the first ODI against Australia, and it was Zampa who pegged them back time and again. Shikhar Dhawan crafted 74 before being done in the flight, while Pandya blasted 90 before falling trying to smash one too flat and fast to get under. A canny, classy spell.
2020 in Review: Wisden’s ODI Team of the Year
1. Aaron Finch (C)
2. KL Rahul (WK)
3. Steve Smith
4. Nicholas Pooran
5. Sam Billings
6. Glenn Maxwell
7. Ravindra Jadeja
8. Alzarri Joseph
9. Lungi Ngidi
10. Josh Hazlewood
11. Adam Zampa