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The world Test XI at the turn of the century, according to the ICC rankings

The world Test XI at the start of the 2010s, according to the ICC rankings
Rupin Kale by Rupin Kale 5 minute read

With Test cricket in its 145th year in 2021, we look back at the best players at the turn of the 21st century, picking the strongest world XI according to ICC Test rankings at the time.

As was the case when picking a current world ODI XI based on the ICC rankings, we will stick to a few rules to ensure the team is somewhat balanced, particularly the bowling line-up. We’ve picked the top five batsmen in the all-time ICC batting rankings, the top batter who is also a keeper, the top all-rounder, and then the top four bowlers, ensuring there are at least three seamers and at least one spinner.

The world Test XI at the turn of the century, as per the ICC rankings

Alec Stewart (wk)

Batting ranking: 9th (720 points)

93 matches, 6,407 runs, 12 centuries – Alec Stewart established himself as a Test stalwart in the last decade of the 20th century. No one, from any country, scored more Test runs in the Nineties. His career-high score of 190 came during this period, against Pakistan at Edgbaston in 1992. Two years later, he scored centuries in both innings of the Test against West Indies at The Oval. He often kept and often opened, though rarely at the same time. In this team,  however, he’s doing both.

Saeed Anwar

Batting ranking: 4th (781 points)

While Saeed Anwar’s career ended with him becoming a Pakistan legend in white-ball cricket, his early Test credentials were also impressive. Between 1990 and 1999, the opener scored 3,366 runs in 44 Tests, registering nine out of his 11 centuries in the format. He did not have the best start in red-ball cricket, getting dismissed for a duck in both innings against West Indies. However, he bounced back spectacularly, scoring four consecutive fifty-plus scores, including two centuries and a 94, in his third, fourth and fifth Tests.

Brian Lara

Batting ranking: 1st (892 points)

A genius unlike any other, Brian Lara was a sublime player during this time. Ranked No.1 at the end of the century, he finished it with 5,573 runs in 65 Tests, including 13 centuries and the then-highest individual score of 375. He batted at an average of 51.60 in the longest format, while 1999 saw perhaps his greatest individual series performance, when he bounced back from six consecutive Test defeats to make three hundreds in three Tests against Australia, the best side in the world. The second of those, an unbeaten 153 in a one-wicket win, is regarded as one of the greatest innings of all time.

Sachin Tendulkar

Batting ranking: 2nd (883 points)

At the turn of the century, Sachin Tendulkar already had 5,841 Test runs under his belt, at an astonishing average of 56.70. He had broken into the top five run-scorers for India in the format and he still had more than a decade at the top level ahead of him. The ‘Master Blaster’ was a crucial member of the India XI in the 1990s, carrying the batting lineup alone on many occasions.

Aravinda de Silva

Batting ranking: 4th (781 points)

Though Aravinda de Silva’s proudest moment in the 1990s came in white-ball cricket, leading Sri Lanka’s incredible charge to the 1996 World Cup title, he was more than handy in Test cricket too. There were 14 hundreds, including a score of 267 in New Zealand, and a score of 152 at The Oval in 1998, which helped Sri Lanka overturn England’s first-innings score of 445 and secure a 10-wicket win. Muttiah Muralitharan’s 9-65 also played a part, of course.

Steve Waugh (c)

Batting ranking: 3rd (833 points)

Captain of one of the most dominant Test sides in the history of the sport, Steve Waugh was a mammoth figure in world cricket in the early 2000s. However, the foundation for that glory was laid in 1999. Not only did he lead Australia to Cricket World Cup glory that year, but also started his Test captaincy career with four unbeaten series, clinching three wins. With the bat, he was already an all-time great, scoring 8,102 runs at 50.32 with 21 hundreds.

Shaun Pollock

All-rounder ranking: 1st (465 points)
Bowling ranking: 1st (904 points)

Undoubtedly the best all-rounder in the world at this time. Not only did Shaun Pollock lead two ranking charts, but was the only player to have 900+ rating points at the turn of the century. He had picked up 161 wickets Test wickets at that point, bowling at an extraordinary average of 20.45. He was also a handful with the bat, scoring 1,404 runs at 30.90. He was one of South Africa’s most vital players since readmission. Pollock never fell out of the top three bowling rankings from 1997 to 2007.

Anil Kumble

Bowling ranking: 5th (769 points)

While Sachin Tendulkar was the mainstay of the Indian batting lineup in the 90s, Anil Kumble took on the same role in the bowling department. In 58 Tests, Kumble had picked up a staggering 264 wickets, including 29 five-wicket hauls. He was also the fastest Indian to the 250-wicket milestone at the time, a record which was later overtaken by R Ashwin. By December 1999, Kumble was already India’s third-most prolific bowler in Tests.

Curtly Ambrose

Bowling ranking: 4th  (823 points)

Even as the mighty West Indies era faded, Curtly Ambrose stood tall, and it was only after he went that the decline really began to set in; when Ambrose was in the side, West Indies always had a chance. He claimed 309 wickets at 20.14 in the 1990s, including 21 of his 22 Test five-fors.

Allan Donald

Bowling ranking: 3rd (869 points)

The spearhead of South Africa’s pace attack, Allan Donald led their wicket-taking charts at the turn of the century. With 284 wickets at a phenomenal average of 21.83, he already was the second-fastest player to 250 Test scalps and the 15th most prolific bowler of all time. His battle against Michael Atherton in the 1998 Trent Bridge Test remains one of the most memorable cricketing moments from that decade.

Glenn McGrath

Bowling ranking: 2nd (875 points)

One of the best fast bowlers to ever grace the sport, Glenn McGrath was crucial to Australia’s rise and rise in the late 20th century. Fast-tracked into the national side after just eight first-class games, he took to international cricket like a duck to water. McGrath had already produced 266 dismissed in 59 Tests by December 1999, becoming his country’s fourth-highest wicket-taker in the format.

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