07-20: Who was the best?

A lot of cricket was played between April 1, 2007 and the last dregs of games before the world went quiet. 3,233 matches, in fact, and that’s just qualified Tests, ODIs and T20s. Breaking it down, that’s 550 Tests, 1696 ODIs and 1070 T20S. (The math doesn’t really add up there, but it’s close enough for government work.)

Who were the most successful teams? Basing it on tournament outcomes, Australia would have to be in the conversation, with their two World Cup wins. And then the West Indies, too, with their two T20 World Championships. But those are teams that, yes, were juggernauts, but also were teams that got hot at the right time. What about sustained excellence over the entire period of time?

Overall, it’s India. They played 613 total internationals between April of 2007 and now (the most of anyone), winning a whopping 359 (also the most of anyone). Australia were next with 559 and 312, followed by South Africa (485 and 282), England, (562 and 281) and Pakistan (518 and 262) to list the top five.

The most successful non-Test playing nation was Scotland, who played 157 and won 64.

New Zealand, of course, led the whole field with 10 ties.

Tests saw Australia take over first place, with 143 played and 73 won, followed by England who played 22 more Tests — the most by far of anyone — also winning 73 of them. India, South Africa and Sri Lanka rounded out the top five. Sri Lanka is a bit of a surprise, finishing ahead of Pakistan, the West Indies and New Zealand, with 122 played and 45 wins.

Meanwhile, in the shorter formats, the numbers break out like this:

ODI
India, 341 and 209
Australia, 296 and 175
South Africa, 250 and 154
Sri Lanka, 331 and 153
England, 284 and 151

T20I
Pakistan, 149 and 91
India, 133 and 82
South Africa, 116 and 68
Australia, 120 and 64
New Zealand, 126 and 59

Moving on to individual players:

The top five in runs scored is as such: Kohli, Amla, Sangakarra, de Villiers and (Ross) Taylor. Kohli scored more than 21,000 runs over the 13 year period, 300 more than second place Amla. Incredible.

In tests, it’s Cook, Amla, Root, Sangakarra and Warner. In ODIs, Kohli, Sharma, Dhoni, Sangakarra and de Villiers. T20Is: Kohli, Sharma, Guptill, Malik and Warner.

Bowling during the period was dominated by Anderson and Broad, with 732 and 721 total wickets, respectively, across all formats. Followed by Steyn, Ashwin and (Mitchell) Johnson.

Test: Anderson, Broad, Herath, Steyn, Lyon
ODI: Malinga, Al Hasan, (Mitchell) Johnson, Afridi, Steyn
T20I: Malinga, Afridi, Al Hasan, (Rashid) Khan, Ajmal

Most catches over the 13 year period in question? MS Dhoni, with 698.

**

There’s no clear winner, but the team of the decade is probably India (a World Cup win in both the short formats, most international victories overall), while the batsman of the decade is most assuredly Kohli. Bowling is a little less cut and dry, but I would give it to Anderson, or maybe to Malinga.

Of course, all stats are cumulative, so there are players like, say, Steve Smith and Babar Azam — some of the best players on earth — who just haven’t played enough cricket to crack into the rankings above. Comparing different eras is always problematic, though, and the game that emerges from this pause will be very different than the game that existed before it. Which is to say, if we allowed Steve Smith a full 13 years he might very well surpass Kohli, but that if is just too big these days, and the post-virus era will be too different to compare the years that preceded it to the years that follow it.

**

Looking back at this post has reinforced one thing: we cricket fans have been damn lucky these past 13 years. We have seen some of the best players to ever play the game play more cricket than ever before. Plus, in the same era, we got to see greats play out their remaining years — Tendulkar, McGrath, Flintoff — while seeing players like Kohli and Kane Williamson emerge into authentic superstars. Yes, cricket had problems over the prior 13 years, but as I said in the original post in this series, I cannot help but feel lucky to have seen the cricket I have been able to see. A remarkable era, to be sure.

“There is too much world” is a quote from Czesław Miłosz, but there can never be too much cricket, I don’t care what anyone says. And the past 13 years have given us so much damn cricket. Never too much. And now that the game has gone quiet, you can really feel the void it has left. From 3,200 matches to zero in a matter of days. The whiplash is real.

Here’s hoping this wonderful game comes back soon, and Babar Azam and Jofra Archer get the long, brilliant careers they deserve.

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