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The all-format world XI at the end of the 20th century, according to the ICC rankings

by Divy Tripathi 4 minute read

What would cricket’s all-format world XI have looked like at the end of the 20th century, if picked based on the ICC player rankings?

We followed the same methodology as we did for selecting the all-time all-format XI last year, picking the five best batters (including the top-ranked wicketkeeper), the top two all-rounders, top two spinners and two quicks, based on their combined Test and ODI ratings in the ICC charts on December 31, 1999.

Buckle up for a few unexpected misses in there.

Saeed Anwar

Test batting ranking: 4 (781 points)
ODI batting ranking: 6 (752 points)

It is hardly a surprise that the stylish left-hander opens our all-format XI. The Pakistan player was in top-notch form in 1999, having scored a match-winning 188* against India at Eden Gardens early in the year. He was also the highest run-getter for Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, scoring 368 runs at an average of 40.88. He finished the year with a flawless 119 in a Test at the Gabba.

Brian Lara

Test batting ranking: 1 (892 points)
ODI batting ranking: 8 (740 points)

Brian Lara opened only twice in his Test career but was more than comfortable facing the new ball, having opened a number of times in ODIs and coming in at number three in 43 Tests. 1999 was a magical year for him in Tests, one which saw him turn it around against Australia in the Frank Worrell Trophy, playing two of the greatest knocks of all-time. Surprisingly his run in the ODIs wasn’t as good (he averaged merely 24.26 in 1999), but his prolific run over the last few years – Lara averaged more than 50 in ODIs from 1995-1998 – helped him finish the last century placed eighth in the ICC ODI batting rankings.

Jacques Kallis

Test all-rounder ranking: 3 (357 points)
ODI all-rounder ranking: 2 (462 points)

Kallis comes in at No.3, the first all-rounder of our XI. By the turn of the century, Kallis had established himself as a top-notch player for the Proteas, averaging over 40 with the bat in Tests and with a bowling average of 28.45. His figures were similar in ODIs, thus showing that he was already on his way to becoming one of the all-time all-format greats.

Sachin Tendulkar

Test batting ranking: 2 (883 points)
ODI batting ranking: 5 (762 points)

The Master Blaster had already established his legacy in the 90s, with the decade arguably witnessing his peak as a batter. The late 90s avatar of Tendulkar was known to decimate the finest bowling attacks of the world, putting them to sword anywhere and everywhere from the the sandy and stormy climes of Sharjah, through the spinning minefields of the subcontinent to the hostile and pacy environments of South Africa.

Ricky Ponting

Test batting ranking: 7 (758 points)
ODI batting ranking: 9 (734 points)

In many ways it was the year 1999 that changed it all for Ponting. He was banned at the start of the year after being involved in a night-club brawl, but resolved to make the incident a turning point, and stayed true to his word. In 1999, Ponting averaged 63 in Tests, and nearly 40 in ODIs. His most remarkable performances were a splendid 197 against a charged up Pakistan attack at Perth, and a 125 at Adelaide against India which lifted his side from 52-4.

Andy Flower (wk)

Test batting rankings: 10 (703 points)
ODI batting rankings: 26 (634 points)

The Zimbabwe player makes it as the keeper of this XI. Although Alec Stewart was placed one position above him in the Test rankings, Flower had a better overall record across the two formats. Adam Gilchrist was in fine ODI form as well, but he had only just made his Test debut in 1999.

Flower kept Zimbabwe’s batting line-up afloat through the 90s and early 2000s, running into a golden streak in 2000 and 2001 when he averaged over 80 in Tests.

Shaun Pollock

Test all-rounder ranking: 1 (465 points)
ODI all-rounder ranking: 3 (424 points)

Pollock enters the XI as our second all-rounder, but he could easily have made it to the XI as a bowler as well. At the end of 20th century, Pollock topped the ICC Test and ODI bowling ranking tables.

At this stage he averaged 32 and 28 with the bat in Tests and ODIs. His bowling average was 20 and 23. Thus, we can see why the South Africa player was the best all-rounder in a side filled with some of the greatest all-rounders of the period.

Saqlain Mushtaq

Test bowling rankings: 9 (736 points)
ODI bowling rankings: 4 (742 points)

Saqlain’s career remains something of an enigma, for at his best the Pakistan spinner could get outfox even the best of batters in the world. However, the magic was lost late in his career which was also riddled with injuries, and he was done with cricket by 2008, when he was just 32. Still, if there was one period which saw the best of Saqlain, it was the late 90s. He was especially lethal in ODI cricket, picking over 200 wickets at an average under 20 in the Nineties.

Muttiah Muralitharan

Test bowling ranking: 6 (766 points)
ODI bowling ranking: 7 (717 points)

The leading wicket-taker across formats is the second spinner in this XI. He beats both Anil Kumble and Shane Warne for a place in the side. The decade saw Sri Lanka announce themselves as a force in international cricket, with many highs including a World Cup win and a Test victory against England at The Oval.

Allan Donald

Test bowling ranking: 3 (869 points)
ODI bowling ranking: 8 (709 points)

Before Dale Steyn there was White Lightning. Allan Donald was one of the fastest bowlers in the world, with his battles with England opener Michael Atherton a feature of the decade. At the cut-off date for this XI, his bowling average stood at 21.83 in Tests, and 21.04 in ODIs

Glenn McGrath

Test bowling ranking: 2 (875 points)
ODI bowling ranking: 2 (755 points)

Even if Shane Warne fails to make it to the XI, Australia’s other legendary bowler from this period does make it. The year 1999 was excellent for the New South Wales player, seeing him pick 67 Test wickets at 21 and 52 ODI wickets at 19. This was to remain his second-most successful year in Tests, and his most successful year in ODIs.

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