When it comes to picking World teams, there is a whole lot of controversy. Everyone wants their own countrymen to make the team, and hates when someone else misses out. Also, statistics be damned, unless it’s convenient. You can’t please anyone no matter what you do. But there are a few players that are obvious picks.
(1) Alastair Cook (England) – 8,818 runs at 46.41
The leading test run-scorer of the decade, Alastair Cook managed all of this in spite of retiring in September 2018, and had enough time to get a knighthood to boot. Of course, England played a whole lot of test cricket in the 2010s, more than any other country, but that shouldn’t discount some of his more amazing performances, such as when he destroyed Australia in Australia so much that they had to do a review of their cricket structure. He also did very well in India too.
(2) David Warner (Australia) – 7,050 runs at 48.28
Warner was the second-highest scorer of test openers of the decade, and fourth-highest overall, and did so at a pretty good average, and this in spite of being one of only two test-level players in his team for most of the decade, along with Steve Smith. Warner was often a lone hand, fighting alone in the 4th innings, and he got his team there in spite of all of that several times too.
(3) Virat Kohli (India) – 7,202 runs at 54.97
The leading all-formats player in the decade, Kohli stepped up his game in test cricket as well, getting so good as the decade came to an end that he was briefly ranked number 1 in tests, even ahead of Steve Smith. He had a bit of a slow start to the decade, and was known as a short format player, but then he came good in tests as well, and, by decade-end, he is a must-include in the test team of the decade, as one of the great “fab 4”.
(4) Steve Smith (Australia) – 7,157 runs at 63.33
In 2010, Smith made his test debut as a number 8 spin bowler who batted a bit. It was probably an unfair assessment, as he was a batting all-rounder who bowled a bit at first class level, but Australia didn’t need a batting all-rounder, and he filled a void. But it wasn’t until he came back as a pure batsman in 2013 that he came into his own, and, by decade’s end he was the number 1 batsman in the world by a margin, with an overall batting average and ranking that is 2nd behind only the great Sir Donald Bradman. Several times he was doing it solo, such as in the 2019 Ashes in England, when he won man of the match honours in both matches that Australia won, and was very good in other matches besides.
(5) Kane Williamson (New Zealand) – 6,370 runs at 52.21
Statistically, Williamson doesn’t quite make this list (as Younis Khan’s average of 54.37 is better) but Williamson has been so good for so long that I am putting him here in Younis Khan’s place. New Zealand is often hard to bat on, and he has for so long been New Zealand’s rock, and has seen New Zealand rise up to 2nd in the world in tests, a large part of which is his doing. They don’t call it the fab 4 for nothing.
(6) Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) – 4,851 runs at 61.40
Kumar Sangakkara retired in 2015, just short of his 38th birthday, and his last 5 years were probably his greatest. He probably retired prematurely in the end, and could have gone for 2 or 3 more years, such was his dominance, as he had the second-highest test batting average for the 2010s of anyone, behind only Steve Smith.
(7) AB de Villiers (South Africa) – 5,059 runs at 57.48
A B de Villiers had a phenomenal decade as a batsman, and he also played as designated wicket keeper as well, taking 84 dismissals, 80 of them caught, in the 22 matches where he was designated as wicket keeper, the second-highest dismissals per innings rate of all wicket keepers in the decade behind only Quinton de Kock, and not far behind either, with 2.351 for de Villiers and 2.371 for de Kock. Considering how much better a batsman de Villiers was, I am picking him as my wicket keeper. He had the third-highest batting average of the decade. If only he’d played in the 2019 ODI World Cup, South Africa might have done a bit better.
(8) Ravi Ashwin (India) – 362 wickets at 25.36
There were a lot of good spin bowlers going around, but Ashwin just edges Rangana Herath in terms of wickets and average, and provides some valuable batting to push him over the edge. While he is considerably better in India, or at least in the subcontinent, than away, that is the case of all of the spin bowlers in contention.
(9) Stuart Broad (England) – 403 wickets at 27.56
The second-highest wicket taker of the 2010s, Stuart Broad was phenomenal and consistent. Some of his bowling had to be seen to be believed. He also was a pretty good batsman on occasion as well.
(10) Dale Steyn (South Africa) – 267 wickets at 22.26
Consistently ranked as the best bowler in the world for most of the 2010s, Dale Steyn was phenomenal, and has the lowest average of the top 10 wicket takers in tests.
(11) James Anderson (England) – 429 wickets at 24.28
The leading wicket taker in tests in the 2010s, James Anderson took a long time to get going, but finally reached world number 1 towards the end of the decade, a huge improvement on the very ordinary start to his career.
Joe Root was the only one of the fab 4 to miss out, and only just. The problem was that his average of 48 was just too much lower than Sangakkara’s 61. Younis Khan was also quite unlucky, as he had a better average (54) than Williamson’s 52, but I felt that Williamson overall was more useful. Quinton de Kock could have been included too, as a wicket keeper, but, as above, on this occasion I picked the slightly worse keeper for his much better bowling. Rangana Herath was very marginally below Ravi Ashwin too. There was also a thought to include an all-rounder, but there hasn’t been anyone who has been so powerful to cut any of these – other than Ashwin, of course.