Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Looking ahead to the end of the decade

A look at the players who have dominated the past decade of Test cricket and those who will feature in a similar retrospective 10 years from now.

The last year of the first decade of the 21st century has begun in much the same way as the first year of the millennium did.

Ricky Ponting and Muttiah Muralitharan are churning out runs and wickets like they were early in 2000 and West Indies had just skittled out an opponent in apparent terminal decline at Jamaica (although Zimbabwe managed exactly twice what England recently managed in their second innings collapse at Sabina Park in March 2000).

Much has also changed in the intervening years. There is a new distinct format of the game, umpiring decisions are being made using a TV monitor and Australia’s grip on the number one ranking is now as weak as it was strong at the beginning of the decade.

Which players have shaped this decade of cricket? Ponting and Muralitharan are guaranteed to be the most statistically successful players – respective Test batting and bowling averages of 60.97 and 19.82 since the beginning of 2000 should belong to another era. Only Jacques Kallis and Glenn McGrath have come close to matching those numbers.

Makhaya Ntini is the second highest Test wicket taker of the decade so far, thanks largely to his longevity. The South African paceman has played 92 Tests, more than anyone in the top 10 of the 2000s wicket taking charts – Muralitharan, Brett Lee, Harbhajan Singh and Chaminda Vaas’ careers have also spanned the decade.

Rahul Dravid, fourth behind Ponting (95 matches), Matthew Hayden (96) and Kallis (96) in the run charts, has played every single one of India’s 97 Tests of the decade, a record that he looks like preserving until the end of the year thanks to his career-saving ton against England at Mohali in December.

Matthew Hoggard is the only Englishman to feature in either top 10, despite England so far playing 116 Tests this decade, 13 more than Australia (six players) or South Africa (four), 19 more than India (four) and 30 more than Sri Lanka (four). Brian Lara is the only West Indian to feature.

Of the batting and bowling top 10, only Graeme Smith and Harbhajan Singh started their careers after 2000, which suggests the most successful players of the next decade will already be in their national teams by the end of this year.

South Africa’s steady recent improvement is partly due to the performances of players who have plenty of service left in them such as Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Ajantha Mendis might be safe bet to be the top wicket taker of the 2010s.

However, the most successful players of the decade 10 years from now might feature some Englishman - Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Monty Panesar are apparently safe from the drop and are young enough to be going strong in 2019. The calls for their axing will be deafening by then…

Written by Philip Oliver, an online sports writer for Betfair – check them out for Grand National betting odds.


Richard Lake said...

I suspect that when we look back on the coming decade, the names of Kevin Pietersen, Michael Clark and Gautan Gambhir will loom large.

As for bowlers, it will be interesting to follow the development of Mendis, the Sri Lankan spinner. The amount of cricket being played probably means that there will be very few of today's quicks still playing in 2020.

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