@Ben_Wisden 5 minute read
A current world Test XI, as based on the ICC player rankings.
After picking an all-time ODI XI, as based on the ICC rankings, we’ve decided to go modern this time, using similar criteria to pick out a current Test world XI. However, while with the one-day side we simply picked the top five batters, the top four bowlers, the top all-rounder and the top wicketkeeper, the Test game requires specialised roles, and so we’ve used a more refined method.
This time, we’ve picked the two highest ranked openers, the three highest ranked middle-order batsmen, the top all-rounder and wicketkeeper, the three best quicks, and the top spinner. The XI we’ve ended up with holds up surprisingly well. Maybe the ICC rankings aren’t so bad after all!
David Warner (Australia)
Current ICC Test batting ranking: 6th (785 points)
Even after a shocker of a 2019 Ashes series, David Warner still finds himself in the upper reaches of the ICC Test batting rankings. He is the highest placed opener in the ladder, with the pugnacious left-hander making a career-best 335* against Pakistan just over a year ago to confirm that he’s still among the best in the business at going big.
Tom Latham (New Zealand)
Current ICC Test batting ranking: 10th (724 points)
Even by New Zealand standards, Tom Latham is unsung. Only three Kiwis – Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Martin Crowe – have scored more Test runs at a better average, but with two of those sharing an XI with Latham, it’s perhaps unavoidable the opener flies under the radar. His battling knock on a green top in the first Test against West Indies was simultaneously a typical display of his qualities and the perfect example of how he gets overshadowed; having blunted a skilful attack, Latham fell within 14 runs of a century, only to watch Williamson notch a career-best 251.
Kane Williamson (New Zealand) – C
Current ICC Test batting ranking: 3rd (877 points)
Speaking of Williamson, he unsurprisingly finds a place at first-drop in this side. The bearded Black Caps skipper is arguably already his country’s greatest player, and up there with the very best batsmen of his era. Nos.3-5 in this team are the only three players to score more than 2,000 Test runs at an average above 55 since the start of 2014. With an average of 63.24 in that time, Williamson slots in second behind our No.4. With Tim Paine not in this side, Williamson also takes the armband, as captain of the second best Test team in the world according to the ICC rankings.
Steve Smith (Australia)
Current ICC Test batting ranking: 1st (901 points)
Steve Smith is without doubt the best Test batsman in the world right now, and in some people’s eyes, the second best ever after Don Bradman. Since the start of 2014, he averages more than 70, and even though he is currently experiencing his longest lean spell since his first Test century, he still comfortably tops the ICC’s rankings.
Virat Kohli (India)
Current ICC Test batting ranking: 2nd (888 points)
Though he’s more well known for his ODI exploits, with Virat Kohli arguably the greatest 50-over player the world has ever seen, India’s captain more than holds his own in Tests. What stands out is his conversion rate; Kohli has converted 27 of his 50 scores of 50 or more into Test centuries until now.
Ben Stokes (England)
Current ICC Test all-rounder ranking: 1st (446 points)
The all-rounder in our XI, Ben Stokes has long held a reputation as a player who could turn the tensest of contests England’s way, despite middling overall returns. Now his numbers are starting to reflect his talent. Since the start of the 2019 summer, he averages more than 50 with the bat and less than 30 with the ball in Tests.
Quinton de Kock (South Africa) – WK
Current ICC Test batting ranking: 13th (706 points)
In an often underperforming South Africa side, Quinton de Kock has consistently stood out as a beacon of hope. He may well end his career having broken every significant wicketkeeper-batsman record going. He’s now the age Adam Gilchrist was when he made his Test debut, and he’s already got five hundreds, 21 fifties, an average just under 40, and a strike rate a tick over 70 to his name.
Ravichandran Ashwin (India)
Current ICC Test bowling ranking: 9th (777 points)
Long established as one of Test cricket’s great home weapons – only Glenn McGrath, Dale Steyn and Muttiah Muralitharan have taken more wickets on home soil at a better average – Ravichandran Ashwin has now started to go some way to rectifying his away record. Add in four Test hundreds and you have a serious cricketer. Still, with Test cricket currently enjoying a golden age of fast bowling, he only finds himself ninth in the ICC rankings.
Pat Cummins (Australia)
Current ICC Test bowling ranking: 1st (910 points)
Test cricket almost never saw the best of Pat Cummins. After a Test debut made in heaven – 6-79 and an ice-cool cameo sealed the Player of the Match award in a two wicket win – five years of injury hell almost spelled an early end to the Australian’s career. But after making his way back to fitness, Cummins has made up for lost time spectacularly. Of those with 150 Test wickets since the Second World War, only five have a better bowling average.
Stuart Broad (England)
Current ICC Test bowling ranking: 2nd (845 points)
Having been left out of England’s Test side at the start of the 2020 summer, Stuart Broad has since shown exactly why he’s one of the most devastating – and watchable – quick bowlers going around. He might well be bowling better now than he ever has, as 29 wickets at 13.41 since that first West Indies Test attest to.
Neil Wagner (New Zealand)
Current ICC Test bowling ranking: 3rd (840 points)
There’s no other bowler in the world quite like Neil Wagner. While most other quicks rely on movement or pace to get their wickets, he prefers to simply hammer a short length, with his expertly directed bouncers eventually forcing a mistake. The Glenn McGrath of bumpers, he can bowl dry, bowl all day, and force an opening when nothing else is working.
The world Test XI, as based on the ICC player rankings
1. David Warner
2. Tom Latham
3. Kane Williamson (c)
4. Steve Smith
5. Virat Kohli
6. Ben Stokes
7. Quinton de Kock (wk)
8. Ravichandran Ashwin
9. Pat Cummins
10. Stuart Broad
11. Neil Wagner