Sydney: Noted cricket columnist Peter Roebuck has revealed his preferred Test XI for 2009, and it includes three Indians – Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar.
In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, he says: “Choosing a Test team of the year can be hazardous. So far no lives have been lost, though it was a close run thing last year after Sachin Tendulkar was omitted. No amount of sweet words could convince offended parties that selection had been based on 12 months and not an entire career."
“Only those performing well in 2009 have been considered but thereafter heed has been taken of records," he adds.
Following is the Test XI:
1 Virender Sehwag
Impossible to omit provided he has a presentable season. His ability to take attacks apart and to sustain his domination sets him apart. Sehwag is a great batsman and among the most devastating openers the game has known. His defence is immaculate and mostly mothballed as he plays his full range of shots from the first over. Impudent but rarely imprudent, his madness conceals a shrewd cricketing brain.
2 Andrew Strauss
Pipped higher scorers like Gautam Gambhir and Tillakaratne Dilshan due to the part he played in recovering the Ashes. Simply, he was the most influential batsman in a tight series. Twice he revived his team's fortunes, with a hundred at Lord's and after the debacle at Leeds. A pragmatic, durable opener, he has earnt his place in the team.
3 Kumar Sangakkara
Not even Rahul Dravid's restoration could could stop the Sri Lankan skipper pinning down the first drop spot. When he is able to focus on his batting, Sanga emerges as an illuminating and gritty stroke player. He also makes important runs.
4 Sachin Tendulkar
Returned to form in 2009 and so cannot be left out. Brilliant at the top of the order in the ODIs, he was consistent in the Test arena, as well. A masterful technique, an agile brain and an unchanging yearning for runs puts him in a class of his own.
5 A.B. de Villiers
His inspired fielding and adaptable batting secure him the third wicket down spot. South Africa have not played much Test cricket in 2009 but de Villiers seized his opportunities. Ambitious and bold, quick scoring and canny, he fears no man, nor any situation. He is a match changer.
6 M.S. Dhoni (captain)
Competition for the gloves has been hot. Several superb keeper/batsmen have emerged, not least in Australia and Pakistan. Dhoni carries himself with an authority that brooks no argument. He plays by his own lights, and with victory in mind. He belongs in the thick of the action and will captain the team.
7 Daniel Vettori (vice-captain)
An extraordinary cricketer who seems to improve with every passing year. Although his returns were modest this year, his bowling skills have long been recognised. His batting was exceptional. Once regarded as a hack, he has risen to No.6 in the Kiwi order and scored 779 runs, including three centuries, in 2009 at 59.9. Accordingly, five front-line bowlers can be included without unduly weakening the batting.
8 Mitchell Johnson
A hundred reasons can be found for omitting the tentative leftie, poor form in the Ashes, the possibility that he is not even the best left-armer in his own country and so on. Facts and figures tell another tale. No one has taken more Test wickets in 2009 than Johnson. He is the top-placed bowler in the official rankings, was chosen as international cricketer of the year and averaged 34 with the bat. He''s just impossible to ignore.
9 Graeme Swann
Swann has taken 45 wickets in 2009, contributed some handy runs and managed to get under numerous noses, all of them belonging to opponents. Along the way he has saved and helped to win matches. Adds variety and character to the team. England is starting to produce some bright sparks. Anonymous cricketers are to be avoided.
10 Mohammad Asif
Not so long ago the subcontinent was regarded as a fast bowler's graveyard. Nowadays all three leading cricketing nations have competitive pace attacks. Pakistan are strongest and it's hard to choose between a talented group of speedsters. Asif's results (19 scalps at 19.78 apiece) set him apart.
11 Dale Steyn
Until the emergence of Kemar Roach, he was the only outright fast bowler around. At his best, Steyn swings the ball at a searing pace. Inconsistent but snorting fire, he can hurry batsmen, and scythe through tails. Cricket is not a tea party. Nor is it a children''s party, as some Australians seem to think.
12th Thilan Samaraweera