The sports team of The Business Standard (TBS) has attempted to form the best Test XI from the current crop of players who can and have done well in the longest form of the game in all conditions.
In a world where T20 cricket glitters with its exuberant style, Test cricket still remains the vintage, classic embodiment of the game. And that is exactly why, till date, it has been considered as the weighing stone to judge a player. And hence, the sports team of The Business Standard (TBS) has attempted to form the best Test XI from the current crop of players who can and have done well in the longest form of the game in all conditions.
We have taken into account the players' stats as well as the success of their team when making this list, so here it is.
The Kiwi opener has been in sublime form over the past few years. Not many opening batsmen average more than him. In fact, only three batsmen who average more than Latham since 2016. The southpaw has amassed 2546 runs at 44 over this period. He has scored runs everywhere in the world and is one of the finest Test batsmen currently.
The right-handed opener made his debut against Australia and made a brilliant 76 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against a formidable bowling attack. He scored back to back hundreds against South Africa, including a double hundred. He scored another double century against Bangladesh in 2019. Agarwal averages 57 in Test cricket and has three centuries and three fifties to his name in his short career of 11 Tests.
There is absolutely no doubt about Steven Smith's place in the side. He is arguably the best red-ball batsman going around and has scored runs everywhere. He averages a staggering 63 in Test cricket. He has scored hundreds everywhere he has played apart from UAE and Bangladesh. He has redefined the word 'consistency' in Test Cricket.
Virat Kohli (Captain)
If there is someone who can challenge Smith's excellence, it must be Virat Kohli. He is inarguably a modern-day great and has always stepped up irrespective of the format. Kohli has scored runs in the most difficult of conditions against the best of the bowlers. He has already scored 27 hundreds in this format. So, Smith at three and Kohli at four- it can't get better than this.
The Aussie right-hander was the first cricketer to become a concussion substitute in a Test match. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands and cemented his place in the side. He has been an indispensable figure in the Aussie batting line up and has already scored four hundreds and eight fifties in 14 matches. He was the leading run-scorer in Test cricket in 2019.
There is nothing that Ben Stokes cannot do. No one can have such an impact as he can. He can walk in solely as a batsman or as a bowler. His batting average of 36 and bowling average of 32 speak for his ability. He can single-handedly win games from nowhere. So there's absolutely no debate on his place in at number six.
Quinton de Kock (WK)
There may not be a better wicketkeeper-batsman than Quinton de Kock. He is top-notch behind the stumps and terrific with the bat. He averages almost 40 in Test cricket. He can score runs quickly lower down the order and can bat well with the tail-enders as well. A couple of players can push him for the spot but his excellence with the gloves and ability with the bat work in his favour.
The 26-year old Aussie fast bowler has been one of the finest fast bowlers in Test cricket over the last couple of years. He can tirelessly run in all day and consistently trouble the batsmen. Be it swing, reverse swing, bounce- Cummins can extract anything and everything on offer. His bowling average of 21.82 and strike rate of 47 speak for his excellence.
The New Zealand quick has been employing his short ball tactic to brutal effect of late and troubled the best of batsmen. He is a workhorse and can bowl long spells. He is the second-fastest New Zealander to 200 Test wickets. He averages 26.6 with the ball and has had success at both home and away. He has the ability to break partnerships at crucial periods of the game.
There could well be a big debate for this spot. There are quite a few contenders but because of consistency across conditions, Nathan Lyon gets the nod. No other bowler has taken more wickets than him since 2016. He has 11 five-wicket hauls over this period as well. He can extract assistance from the wicket that has something to offer and the bounce he gets makes him more lethal.
Ishant Sharma was hailed as India's next big thing in the late 2000s. He somewhat failed to live up to the expectations in the initial years. But Sharma has finally come of age and started to deliver the goods. He is the most experienced seamer going around and his ability to swing the ball both ways with the new ball makes him a dangerous customer to handle at both home and away.
So this was our list. There were a few players like South African pacer Kagiso Rabada, Bangladesh batsman Mushfiqur Rahim and New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling, that missed out by a small margin. Feel free to agree, disagree and share your teams with us.