The Best Test XI of 2021: The year is finally coming to an end and we the fans of cricket are busy compiling our best and worst moments of the year that has rung its departing knell already.
With 2022 almost upon us, we are still to find out a promise of a bubble-less era in cricket, where players will no longer have to go through Covid protocols and will not cite bubble fatigue as a reason to drop out.
The bubble-fatigue has been a lot more in the longest format of the game given the long duration of a series. We have seen players failing to cope mentally with the invisible dome that has been imposed upon them. With all said and done, red-ball cricket also had its most bedazzling cricketers coming out at their phenomenal best.
In this story, we will bring you the best Test XI in the receding 2021 that had promises, hopes and most importantly, flashes of insane brilliance.
Needless to say, but India’s solitary beacon of salvation in an era of incessant middle-order fiascos, Rohit Sharma has time and time again ushered India to glory. He played an instrumental role in helping India script a remarkable series win in Australia. A travelling England was the next victim at the receiving end of his wrath with a match-defining 161. He then successfully pumped out 15 consecutive double-figure knocks which came to an end with a mind-blowing century against England as India clinched a thriller in the fourth Test against the hosts. Hitman will lead the batting unit from the top of the order in our best Test XI off
The Sri Lankan skipper has been at his phenomenal best in the ongoing year as he scored in the longest format in his own free will. He was sublime on the road as he blasted a century in a losing cause against South Africa while playing a four-hour knock to secure a draw in the second Test of the West Indies tour. With him out of the equation, England rode roughshod over the Lankans in the latter’s backyard. However, by the time he took the mantle back in his home, he stitched together scores of 244 and 118 against Bangladesh and 147 against West Indies.
Even though Kane Williamson has struggled vehemently with his elbow injury, yet he delivered when his team needed him the most. He scored a fine 49 in the opening innings of the WTC final while he was sublime in the second innings with an unbeaten 52. He also had a blistering 238 at Christchurch to underline the kind of brilliance that he brought along to the platter with an injured elbow.
In a whirlpool of mediocrity and humiliation, Joe Root has been England’s scintillating best. He always promised to deliver big ever since his inception in international cricket and 2021 turned into his year of reckoning as he piled 1708 runs at an average of 61 and also managed to claim 14 wickets. He started his onslaught with a couple of phenomenal knocks that read 228 and 186 against Sri Lanka. He then followed it up with a solid 218 against India. When India toured England, he scored knocks of 109, 180* and 121 in successive games. Despite his electrifying form, England has hardly managed to savour much success in the longest format of the game.
It needed a while for Fawad Alam to find his stride in Test cricket but when he did, it was all roses for this valiant Pakistani batter. It took him an endless decade to proliferate in the longest format of the game and when the chance came knocking, he embraced it with arms wide open. He made his debut in 2009 but he kissed success in 2021 with an incredible ton against South Africa. After losing four early wickets against Zimbabwe, he fired an unbeaten 140 that was followed by another imperative 124 against West Indies on the road. Fawad Alam gets a proud place in our best Test XI of 2021.
The first and foremost image of Pant’s emphatic rise in the departing year will be that brilliant drive against Josh Hazelwood that helped India script history at Gabba. If you are hoping for more, believe me, he has a lot of encores backing it up. He reverse-swept James Anderson in England, trying to do something so outrageous against the king of swing. He powered a heroic 97 at Sydney that went a long way in helping India keep the series levelled and then followed it with a blistering and unbeaten 89 at the Gabba to pen a remarkable victory. Despite a decline in the latter half of the year, his form against England at home was equally impressive with scores of 91 and 101. He will keep the wickets and bat in the middle-order in our best Test XI of 2021.
Ashwin was just a part of 8 Test matches out of the 13 that India played in the ongoing year and yet he emerged as India’s leading wicket-taker. After a reticent couple of years, the off-spinner finally got his stride back exactly in the way he would have wanted it to, in fact, a notch more maybe. Back in India, he has transcended himself to a magnitude that has the words “unplayable” emblazoned in fiery letters. In the series against England, Ashwin claimed 32 wickets and added a further 14 against the touring Blackcaps. With all said and done, you cannot write off that back-breaker knock of 39 against Australia that secured an incredulous draw.
Despite the big man losing his captaincy to his friend, Kraigg Braithwaite, he still posted a decent display all around the field with 22 wickets, 253 runs and a few insane grabs. His figures haven’t been as substantial as the others on the list but his crucial knocks of an unbeaten 71 against Sri Lanka and a decent 58 against Pakistan laced with his highly frugal bowling makes him one of the top-rated all-rounders of the year.
The towering all-rounder has been that lightning flash that hits you without even knowing and by the time it is done with its carnage, all you are left with is nothing but the charred remains. Pakistan felt scorched by the mighty lightning flash that saw them conceding 11 wickets to him in a match. He delivered a match-winning performance at Southampton to win his team the WTC final. He claimed an impressive fifer in the game that saw him claim the crucial scalps of Kohli and Rohit as the duo threatened to steal the game from New Zealand.
You are making the best Test XI and you cannot simply write the premium Indian express bowler off. With Bumrah in the hut, you cannot take your eyes off the ball even for a moment, because that may land you in a ward you don’t want to see yourself in, a broken toe, maybe? He dictated the Queen’s men with a four-fer in the first innings at the Trent Bridge which was followed by a fifer in the second. However, the highlight of the series for him was a 6-over spell at the Oval that left England crying tears of sorrow and destruction.
Shaheen Shah Afridi
Brimming with confidence and a promising future, Pakistani fast bowler, Shaheen Shah Afridi has rocked world cricket in an emphatic fashion with his brutal pace and his incessant hunger for those nasty bouncers. He has left a trail of carnage everywhere he went with his best outing being 10 for 94 against West Indies at the Sabina Park. He is going to share the new ball with Jasprit Bumrah in our best Test XI of 2021.