Almanac Cricket: The Real 2017 Men’s Team of the Year

Picking a ‘best of’ team in cricket is great fun – particularly if you like disappointing everyone. But if you can’t disappoint everyone every now and again what, precisely, is the point of living? After the controversy of the non-selection of Virat Kohli or Steve Smith in the 2016 team (thanks to the timeframe used to make the selection), we used the numbers to review those selections.


For whatever reason, the ICC has this time chosen to pick a 2017 team based upon 15 months’ worth of cricket (the qualification period was tests played between 21 September 2016 and 31 December 2017). As always there are some controversial picks and omissions. So let’s have a crack at picking a team for them actually based upon performances in 2017.




Here’s the contenders, sorted by runs scored in 2017:


Dean Elgar had a very good year, although his 2017 average was heavily assisted by the series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at home. He found things on the road more difficult, although averaging 40 in New Zealand and England is not to be sniffed at for an opener.


Dimuth Karunaratne had a very good series against Pakistan in the UAE but struggled in India and South Africa, averaging just 15 and 20 in those series.


David Warner has had a very strong year, with the exception of Australia’s tour of India, leaving with an average of 24. He made up for this in Bangladesh with 251 runs at 63 and the current Ashes series with 385 runs at 64. Bringing in late 2016, as the ICC did, and Warner’s average drops slightly to 49.00 with an extra 424 runs in the South African and Pakistan series.


Alistair Cook rocketed into contention with his boxing day 244 not out, dragging his average for the year from 34 to 47 in just one innings. Add that to his 243 at home against the West Indies and 487 of his 899 runs came in just two innings. That said, Cook is the only opener to average more than 40 at home and away this season, having played more than two away tests.


Kraigg Brathwaite’s away average in 2017 is second only to Cook’s after he started the year with a putrid home series against Pakistan. Compared to Elgar, Brathwaite has actually performed much better away from home (averaging 48.4 in England and New Zealand compared to Elgar’s 39.7) and in a much worse side.


K.L. Rahul only played two tests outside India in 2017, so his results should be approached with some suspicion. That said, he had a very good home series against Australia, taking 393 runs at 65.5, including six 50s in seven innings.


Shikar Dhawan is worthy of consideration for his average alone (not to mention his cool name), even if he only played five tests as opener in 2017. He shares with Cook averaging above 40 both home and away and getting more than half his runs in two innings.


Outcome: Had Dhawan played more tests as opener in 2017 he possibly would have gotten the nod, but as it is we will install Elgar and Cook.


Numbers 3 & 4



Can’t believe I’m saying this but I’ll take Steve Smith and Cheteshwar Pujara, here. Why is it so? Do I have a death wish? Perhaps so, but Smith goes unchallenged in the test arena whereas all of Virat Kohli’s runs came against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, after having a stinker at home against Australia.


Especially weirdly, the ICC team has Kohli batting at three and Pujara at five despite the fact neither batted in that position once during the qualification period. At No. 3, Pujara averaged 55 in the Australian series as well as acquitting himself well against the other opponents – he’s the man.


Numbers 5 & 6



It has not been a good year for people batting in these positions. Chase’s 724 runs is a low ebb for these two positions in a calendar year since Azharuddin’s 491 runs in 1996 (due to the expansive World Cup very few tests were played that year). Nonetheless, we will first and foremost look to the batting to pick these spots.


Adding to his 724 runs at 43, Roston Chase also took 20 wickets at a tad under 46. However, it is worthwhile noting almost all of his runs came at home to Pakistan and away to Zimbabwe. Against England and New Zealand, he averaged just 17.9.


Faf du Plessis struggled to get a bat at some times in 2017 and his average is significantly bolstered by the home series against Bangladesh including an undefeated 135. He struggled in England, scoring 198 runs at 28.5.


Dinesh Chandimal had a shocking start to the year, averaging 12 in South Africa and 19 at home to India but had a great back-end with 224 runs at 75 in the UAE and 366 runs at 61 in India.


It is very hard to fault Shakib Al Hasan’s 2017, as he averaged 109 in New Zealand, 52 in India and 41 in Sri Lanka. He also took 29 wickets at 33.


The only thing to fault about Ben Stokes is his street etiquette, meaning he missed four Ashes tests, as a result not playing tests outside England in 2017. Both home series were productive with the bat while he also took 16 wickets at 31.


Verdict: Of the people who have actually batted at 5 and 6 this year, Faf is the best. But come on, Virat would do better there on 2017 form. Meanwhile we’ll take Shakib as an all-rounder batting No. 6. Of course, with the three additional months of the ICC’s selection period, Ben Stokes’s number of tests doubles with away series in India and Bangladesh, hence his very dodgy selection. Shakib and Bangladesh cricket fans have every right to feel a bit grumpy with the ICC.




Ok, let’s get this pain over quickly. Matthew Wade aside we will assume that all international wicket keepers in 2017 could do the glove work competently. Therefore, we will be picking them based upon their batting. No further correspondence shall be entered into.



As you can see, it has not been a stellar year for keepers, Jonny Bairstow and Quinton de Kock not matching their 2016 efforts. Niroshan Dickwella had a solid if unspectacular 2017, his highlights being the home series against India and the two tests against Pakistan in the UAE. Bairstow’s competent series at home to South Africa and away in Australia are balanced by his 59 runs in four innings during the Wisden Trophy.


De Kock, aside from being the biggest pun target in world cricket, has had a pretty average second half of the year. After averaging 53 against Sri Lanka and New Zealand in the first half, he only managed 24.5 per dismissal thereafter, with two 50s in 11 innings.


The bolter for this year, in just five tests, is undoubtedly Mushfiqur Rahim. Centuries in India and New Zealand and a more than competent 158 runs at 39.5 in the home series against Australia is wildly impressive given he played fewer than half the tests of the other candidates.


Wriddhiman Saha also had a competent year, with two test centuries, but only managed 200 runs at 22 outside that. The second half of the year against Sri Lanka was not particularly productive for him, taking 143 runs at 28.6 across the two series.


Verdict: only five tests but Mushfiqur Rahim is undoubtedly the standout keeper in 2017. Again, the ICC selection period made it easier for them to pick de Kock (sounds painful). Bangladesh ripped off again.



This is going to be somewhat of an interesting process to pick some bowlers. Given we already have Shakib Al Hasan’s left arm finger spinners on board, we will be looking for another spinner and three quick bowlers. Oddly, by picking Ben Stokes, the ICC ended up with four quicks and a spinner in their XI.




What a rich crop of finger spinners to pick one from! The GOAT Nathan Lyon had a career best year – 41 wickets at 19 in India and Bangladesh, stamping the credentials that have mostly been built in Australia’s harsher spinning conditions.


Ravi Ashwin suffers from the condition of the rest of his colleagues of having built an impressive 2017 but only traveling as far as Sri Lanka. Head to head with Lyon in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Ashwin took 21 wickets at 27.38 while Lyon took 19 at 25.26.


Ashwin’s partner in spin, Ravindra Jadeja, arguably had a better year than him. With 25 wickets in the Border-Gavaskar at 18.56, Jadeja was probably the difference between the teams. He succeeded in every series he played.


Rangana Herath, while not matching his impressive 2016, still had a very good 2017. However, unlike those further up the list, he has had some very good and not so good series, averaging 77 against India, while taking 27 wickets at home to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at 19.89.


South Africa’s Keshav Maharaj is a comparatively new name, playing 11 of his 14 career tests in 2017. The left arm finger spinner took full toll of New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, with 28 wickets at 18.29 while also performing well in England.


Verdict: it’s a tough call but Lyon gets the nod as the most prolific of the lot and a better strike rate than Jadeja. Honourable mention to Pakistan’s Yasir Shah as the year’s most prolific leg spin bowler. Of course, if you bring in the ICC period, Ashwin’s wicket tally goes to 111, some 36 ahead of Lyon. Dare one point out that in the 19 tests Ashwin played in that period, 16 were played in India and three in Sri Lanka. Yeah, nah.





In not the greatest year for fast bowlers the first two quicks pick themselves, so far ahead of the pack are Kagiso Rabada and Jimmy Anderson. So let’s spend a bit of time picking number three. Much like Rabada, Morne Morkel has had a few profitable home tests against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe but also performed well in New Zealand and England.


Neil Wagner has had another good year for the Black Caps, particularly against the West Indies but has not left Middle Earth so it is difficult to gauge his performance. Shannon Gabriel is a bit better travelled but has been expensive away from home.


Josh Hazlewood has had to work harder than either of those two, with tours to India and Bangladesh where he understandably struggled, balancing out his good home form. Meanwhile, Umesh Yadav had a very good Border-Gavaskar, taking 17 wickets at 23 but struggled outside that series.


Verdict: Morkel gets the nod as the third quick thanks to his good series in England. Again, using the ICC period takes Mitch Starc 13 wickets ahead of Morne, another mangling of the definition of ‘2017’.



So, there you have it: a proper 2017 world test XI, featuring three players from South Africa and two each from India, England, Australia and surprise packets, Bangladesh. No room for the other test playing nations, sorry. If they were to put a team on the field it would look a little something like this:



The ICC continues to make a farce of picking teams of the year, by including matches that don’t fall within a fairly clear definition of 2017. Just as well we here at the Footy Almanac have a calendar handy.


About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Much better looking team Dave. The Bangladesh duo are really elite cricketers and drove much of their success in 2017.
    The finger spin domination is interesting, apart from Yasir Shah, really only Zimbabwe’s Graeme Cremer and the Windies’ Bishoo are regularly playing Test cricket. Looking forward to Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan getting a crack at Test cricket in 2018.

  2. John Butler says

    Dave Dave Dave.

    If you must insist on picking teams based on cricket performance, this is precisely the sort of mess you can be expected to end up in.

    The ICC have a well established and time tested first principle for this exercise: what arbitrary criteria gets the most Indians picked? After all, they pay the bills.

    If I have to explain this again it’s going on your permanent record.

  3. Dave- I always enjoy your research and analysis pieces. As a study in geopolitics this ICC team rivals Eurovision voting for comedic value.


    PS- just secured Strikers final tickets.

  4. What selector ever picks a cricket team based purely on performances?
    Come on, Dave!

    That said, Rahim is a monty !!

  5. Dave you have exposed the icc superbly

  6. The ICC most of the time baffles me with the decisions they make.
    Much better team.

  7. Dave, i know you’re picking the Wicket Keeper solely on the basis of their batting: Alec Stewart like, but i’m curious of the dismissal tallies achieved by Rahim and Bairstow.

    Cognisant of De Kock being the biggest pun in world cricket, but Dickwella ???


  8. Thanks for the read and comments, all, appreciated. Yeah, it will be interesting to see how Rashid goes in the test arena, Luke. All of the other T20 leggies with seemingly unpickable wrong’uns appear to struggle in tests. I’m beginning to wonder if the success of leggies in T20s is taking them away from test cricket.

    Apologies, John. My next team will be picked on lack of performance, so closer to the ICC model.

    Me too, Mickey. It will be a farce of a cricket match. Like playing the AFL finals with the best 6-8 players taken out of some teams.

    Dickwella is a cracker too, Glen! Wicketkeepers truly are the most difficult to assess on basic stats alone. What separates a good gloveman from a batsman wearing keeper’s gloves is basically impossible to tell with numbers. So much of their dismissal tallies etc depend on who is bowling to them and the general success of their team. For the record of the major keepers, de Kock led the way dismissal wise with 4.2 per game in 2017 (3.8 caught, 0.4 stumped) while Mushfiqur had 2.8 (2.4 caught, 0.4 stumped). This is in the context of South Africa taking 18.2 wickets per match in that period compared to Bangladesh’s 12.9. To further illustrate, Matthew Wade was actually, on average, the leading stumper in 2017, taking 7 in 7 tests.

Leave a Comment