2016: An analytical review

Using objective analysis, the author picks the players and matches of 2016 across formats. He also uses his ratings methodology to select the performances of the year.

REUTERS

Virat Kohli's captaincy in 2016 was remarkable. In the 12 Tests that he led, India won nine and drew three — a performance measure of 87.5%.   -  REUTERS

Vivek Bendre

Ravichandran Ashwin helped India win Tests with his great bowling and consistent batting.   -  Vivek Bendre

Getty Images

David Warner had an outstanding year in ODIs, scoring 1388 runs in 23 matches (average: 63.09, strike rate: 105, seven centuries).   -  Getty Images

Getty Images

West Indian players celebrate after defeating England in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 championship. Amidst the darkness, doom and despair in Caribbean cricket the victory was like a beacon.   -  Getty Images

AP

Kusal Mendis played one of the all-time great knocks against Australia, scoring 176 that paved way for Sri Lanka's remarkable come-from-behind victory at Pallekele in July.   -  AP

Getty Images

Stuart Broad produced a stunner, capturing the top six wickets for 17 runs to dismiss South Africa for 83 in Johannesburg and hand England a series-winning 2-0 lead.   -  Getty Images

Reuters

Sunil Narine came up with the best bowling performance of the year with a tightly controlled spell of 9.5-0-27-6 against South Africa.   -  Reuters

Getty Images

Glenn Maxwell's explosive 145 at a strike rate of well over 200 against Sri Lanka tops the Twenty20 batting performances in 2016.   -  Getty Images

Getty Images

Imad Wasim of Pakistan ended 2016 on a fabulous note, capturing 13 wickets in five T20 matches. This included a magnificent spell of five for 14 in Dubai, which started the 3-0 rout of West Indies.   -  Getty Images

Getty Images

Carlos Brathwaite's tour de force in the ICC World Twenty20 final qualifies as the best all-round performance by a mile over other feats.   -  Getty Images

This article is in two parts. The first part covers the players and matches of the year in various formats. The second part covers the performances of the year, in different formats and disciplines. Almost all the selections have been made using pure objective analysis and very little subjectivity has crept in.

PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

Cricketer of the Year

Who was the only player who did very well in all the formats of the game? Virat Kohli, of course. He scored 1215 runs in Tests, 739 in ODIs and 641 in T20s: 2595 international runs, embellished with seven centuries. However, the real clincher was the way Kohli captained India. In the 12 Tests that he led, India won nine and drew three — a performance measure of 87.5%. The imagination he showed on the ground, the way he took all the absences through injuries in his stride and his own personal leadership led to India having its best year in international cricket. I have no doubt that Kohli is the International Cricketer of the Year for 2016.

Test Player of the Year

Joe Root and Jonathan Bairstow had a terrific year as Test batsmen, scoring 1477 and 1470 runs respectively. However, their achievements did not lead England to significant successes. Ravichandran Ashwin, on the other hand, helped India win Tests with his great bowling and consistent batting. He played in 12 Tests and captured 72 wickets, including eight five-wicket hauls.

The bonus was the transformation of Ashwin into a reliable all-rounder, one who could bat at No. 6 for India. Ashwin scored 612 runs at an average of 43.12, a performance better than that of specialised batsmen such as David Warner, Murali Vijay and Alex Hales. Most of these runs were valuable, as they came in the middle-order, and they often resurrected India’s flagging innings. I have no hesitation in selecting Ashwin as the Test Player of 2016.

ODI Player of the Year

David Warner had an outstanding year by any standards. Let us first savour the numbers. Twenty-three matches, 1388 runs, average 63.09, strike rate 105 and seven centuries. Even when Australia was blanked by South Africa 5-0, Warner was the one standout batsman who played the innings of a lifetime — 173 in a losing cause. This will be covered in detail later.

To compensate for his two hundreds in losing causes against South Africa, Warner ended the year with two match-winning centuries against New Zealand. In the last eight ODIs, Warner made 685 runs. During the earlier part of the year, he had made three hundreds, two in winning causes. Overall, this was one great year for Warner, even if Australia had a mixed year. However, the other batsmen let Australia down, not Warner. Hence, Warner is my choice for the ODI Player of 2016.

T20 Player(s) of the Year

After a long deliberation, I have decided not to select a T20 Player of the Year, but instead select T20 Players of the Year: 11 in number. Yes, you guessed right, I have selected the West Indian team that won the World Cup. Amidst the darkness, doom and despair that prevails in West Indian cricket the victory was like a beacon. Doff your hats to Johnson Charles, Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Carlos Brathwaite, Denesh Ramdin, Samuel Badree and Sulieman Benn. If I have to nominate an individual, Jasprit Bumrah would have been a leading contender, followed by Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh) and Mohammad Nabi of Afghanistan.

MATCHES OF THE YEAR

Test Match of the Year

Two Tests were in the final selection round for this coveted honour. The first (Test # 2227) was the magnificent win for Bangladesh over England, one of the most significant Tests in many years. The second (Test #2240) was that humdinger of a Test in Brisbane, in which Pakistan fought so valiantly for hours on end. I do not think Australia, as a country, has ever been on the edge as it was on the last day of this epic encounter. Finally, I selected the Mirpur classic because of its historic significance and what it meant to Bangladesh cricket. If Pakistan had scored those 39 runs and tied the match, or scored the extra run and won the Brisbane Test, that match would have surely edged ahead.

The portents were there in the Chittagong Test, which was won narrowly by England. A few more runs from Tamim, Shakib or Mushfiqur would have seen Bangladesh through. In Chittagong, Bangladesh could only put up a below-par total of 220, that too due to one of the great Test innings by a Bangladeshi batsman. Tamim’s 104 was a truly memorable innings. England could not handle the youngster Mehdi and could only manage a first innings lead of 24. In the second innings, Tamim blazed away and useful innings by Imrul and Shakib took Bangladesh to 296 and set England a tough target of 273.

When Cook and Duckett added 100 runs quickly, the Test looked like many of Bangladesh’s slip-ups. However, Mehdi Hassan dismissed Duckett and then Shakib struck an important blow, trapping Root for one. England suffered the type of brain-fade it would undergo quite a few times in the sub-continent later, losing 10 wickets for the addition of only 63 runs. Mehdi Hasan was magnificent, capturing 12 wickets in the match. The teenager may have bad days in the future but there is no doubt that he is a star in the making. Shakib picked up important wickets and Bangladesh had essayed its first ever win over a top Test team: Yes, I know that it had defeated West Indies before.

Bangladesh had come close before (against India, Australia and Pakistan), but was thwarted by the brilliance of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Inzamam-ul-Haq. However, this time it did not trip before the finishing line. For this historical reason and the importance of Bangladesh’s win, I have no hesitation in nominating this match as the Test of 2016.

ODI Match of the Year

Three ODI matches made it to the shortlist. ODI #3737, which was the Morris-led one-wicket win for South Africa against England, ODI #3751, which was a pulsating high-scoring tie between England and Sri Lanka, and finally ODI #3808, a monstrous match in which Sri Lanka scored 330 and struggled to finally win by a single run.

I spent some time over this and finally selected the tied match between Sri Lanka and England because of the way England recovered from hopeless situations many times in its innings. Sri Lanka put up a competitive total of 286. Two middle-order fifties by Angelo Mathews and Seekkuge Prasanna paved the way for this total. In reply, England played like a weak Associate team, and was in a crisis at 30 for four. Then Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler took the score to 72 before the former fell. Moeen Ali followed soon after and the score was a disastrous 82 for six. Buttler and Chris Woakes batted brilliantly and added 138 runs. At this crucial juncture, Buttler fell and then David Willey was dismissed with the target still over 50 runs away. But it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

Woakes was batting beautifully and scored most of the runs in the partnership with Liam Plunkett. Still the win was something in outer space at the end of ball No. 49.4. Ten runs were needed to win. Woakes and Plunkett ran three when barely a two was available, and Plunkett hit a six off the last ball to tie the match. The important thing was that, after the fall of the first wicket off the 10th ball, England did not look like winning or tying before each of the 295 balls was bowled.

T20 Match of the Year

Well, that is as easy as handling a full toss a couple of feet outside the off-stump. It’s the World Cup final, of course. Two teams badly in need of a cup win — England, with a single T20 tournament win behind it, and West Indies, down in the dumps and needing a title win much more than England.

West Indies reduced England to 23 for three. Then Root and Buttler attacked, as England appeared to be well on way to a 170-plus score. Both got out and England lost momentum. Brathwaite bowled some tight overs and England reached a par score of 155.

West Indies started much worse. At 11 for three, the 155 looked a tall order. Samuels, in probably his last contribution to West Indian cricket, steadied the ship with Dwayne Bravo. Then West Indies lost Bravo, Russell and Sammy in a hurry and England perked up with a penultimate over by Jordan, which only cost eight runs. The last over started with West Indies needing 19. It was England’s match at this point. A six, and it was 13 from five deliveries — again England’s match. Another six and the momentum shifted. Seven from four became one from three, and finally another six gave West Indies a wholly unexpected win. It is difficult to single out one amongst Samuels (85 off 66) and Brathwaite (34 from 10 and 4.0-0-23-3).

PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR

This is a review with a difference. I have used my ratings methodology to select the performances of the year. These have been perfected after years of use and reviews and form the base on which the famed Wisden-100 lists were developed. Providing complete details will take up too much space. Hence, a summary of the methodology is provided.

Test/ODI Batting performance ratings

* Runs scored

* Balls faced and the scoring rate (if available for Test matches)

* Innings status on batsman entry

* Innings status change after the batsman entry

* Match status (quite different for Tests and ODI matches)

* Bowling quality

* Runs added with late-order batsmen

* Support available

* Pitch quality

* Match location

* Match result

* Match importance (for ODIs)

Bowling performance ratings

* Wickets captured

* Bowling accuracy (more relevant for ODIs)

* Batting quality

* Quality of batsmen dismissed and when they were dismissed

* Match status (quite different for Tests and ODI matches)

* Pitch type

* Match location

* Match result

* Match importance (for ODIs)

For T20s, the nature of the game changes the methodology considerably. A 25 in 10 might be far more valuable than a 100 in 70 — depending on the circumstances. A 4.0-1-9-0 might be far more valuable than a 4.0-0-46-3 analysis. A maiden might be like gold. Ball-by-ball data is available for all matches. Hence, the methodology changes completely. The overall idea is that each ball is treated like a mini-match and the contributions averaged.

Test batting performances

Balapuwaduge Kusal Gimhan Mendis’ magnificent innings of 176 against Australia takes the top place (see Table-1). There can be very little argument on this selection. Consider the situation. Sri Lanka is blown off for 117 and concedes an 87-run lead. Then it slumps to six for two. Defensive batting would get the team probably to a total of 150. Mendis attacks, and how! He scores 176, off 254 balls, out of the 284 added while he is at the crease. Sri Lanka finishes at 353 and as expected, Australia folds up a 100 runs short. One of the all-time great innings with 737 rating points, it is justifiably placed in the list of all-time Top-20. This is the type of innings a player would be lucky to play once in a lifetime.



TABLE 1

>


Younis Khan’s Oval classic of 218 is in second place. Played away, against a very good bowling attack, it was a match-winner. The ninth-wicket partnership Younis had with Amir was the icing on the cake. In the next position is an innings by one of the batsmen of the year: Jonny Bairstow. In a match of low scores (match RpW of 16.9) at Headingley against Sri Lanka, Bairstow’s 140 shone like a beacon. Coming in at 83 for five, he helped his team add 206 invaluable runs, while he was at the wicket.

Playing away, against a potent New Zealand bowling attack on a dicey pitch, Adam Voges essayed a magnificent innings, arguably the best of his career. Forget about those runs against West Indies. This was tough Test cricket. At 131 for three, the match could have gone the other way. However, Voges essayed a masterclass and his 239 takes the fourth place. Azhar Ali’s match-winning triple-hundred in Dubai against the West Indies comes in fifth place. It should be remembered that there were three other fifties in the innings.

Chandimal’s patient innings, which helped Sri Lanka recover from 26 for five and go on to win against Australia; Kraigg Brathwaites’ carry-through innings of 142 in Sharjah, which resulted in an unlikely win against Pakistan; Root’s lovely 254, which set up the match for England against Pakistan; Kohli’s similar match-winner against England in Mumbai and de Kock’s outstanding 104, coming in at 132 for five against Australia at Hobart, take the next five places.

Tamim Iqbal’s 104 was there until the final selection. Pakistan needed to win for Asad Shafiq to get in. The match RpW of 53.4 and the average quality of English bowling put paid to Karun Nair’s chances.

Test bowling performances

For the second year in succession, Stuart Broad produced a bowling stunner fit to be ranked amongst the all-time great performances (see table-2). This time it was in Johannesburg. After two comparable first innings, Broad captured the top six wickets for 17 runs, as the strong South African side was dismissed for 83. England won the Test comfortably and with it took a 2-0 series-winning lead.

This was closely followed by the swinging masterclass of Vernon Philander towards the end of the year at Hobart. To blow away Australia for 85 on the first morning was something extraordinary and Philander did that. He is just three rating points behind Broad.



TABLE 2

>


Then follow the two match-winning performances by Herath against Australia, separated by Ravindra Jadeja’s exhibition of how to bowl on pitches that offered no help, in Chennai. What worked against Karun Nair worked in favour of Jadeja. This was not a pitch on which a last day capture of seven wickets was on the cards. Herath’s 28 wickets in the series against Australia contained no less than four remarkable performances in all three Test matches, all of which Sri Lanka won.

Bishoo’s lovely bowling in a lost match, de Grandhomme’s match-winning debut performance, Rabada’s match-sealing performance in Perth, Ashwin’s six-wicket haul, which included three top-order batsmen for eight runs, and Mehdi Hasan Miraz’s last day effort which helped Bangladesh win a historic Test against England complete the Top-10 table.

Test all-round performances of 2016

In Test # 2213, played between Sri Lanka and Australia, Dilruwan Perera contributed in every innings: an important cameo of 16 at No. 8 in the first innings, four key wickets conceding only 29 runs when Australia batted, a very important 64 at No. 8 that helped Sri Lanka recover from 121 for six to 237, and finally a magnificent match-winning spell of six for 70 to help Sri Lanka win very comfortably. Perera secured 580 batting rating points and nearly 1000 bowling rating points. This total of 1578 rating points puts him in the Top-10 all-round performances of all time.

ODI batting performances

The best ODI innings of the year was unfortunately played in a losing cause (see Table-3). This innings by David Warner has many similarities with the Tendulkar classic in Hyderabad. Both teams were chasing big totals and both batsmen played completely lone hands, attacking right from the beginning and with virtually no support. Warner scored a magnificent 173 out of 296, while chasing 328. Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head gave him some support. Warner was run out in the last over, trying to get the strike. It did not matter that the match was lost; this was one for the Gods.



TABLE 3

>


While Warner’s innings came in a lost cause, a similar masterclass by Quinton de Kock helped South Africa to victory. At Centurion, Australia must have felt comfortable putting up a first innings total 294 — until de Kock tore into the Aussies. His 178 off 113 balls — which is amongst the five fastest innings in excess of 150 — made a mockery of the chase and South Africa had nearly 14 overs in hand. Another Warner classic, his 156 off 128 at the MCG against New Zealand is in the third place. This was a tough wicket to bat on as it assisted the bowlers a lot and the match RpW, outside Warner, was a mere 15.0.

New Zealand posted a competitive 285 and then captured two wickets cheaply. Kohli played a beautifully paced innings of 154 to anchor the chase. This superb innings is in fourth place. At the SCG, against New Zealand, Australia was in dire straits at 92 for four and Smith controlled the innings in a masterly fashion, scoring 164 and taking his team to a match-winning total of 324. This is in fifth place.

The Top-10 is completed by Ed Joyce’s 160 against Afghanistan (out of an Ireland total of 265), Sharjeel Khan’s explosive 152 off 86 balls against Ireland, Jason Roy’s classic of 162 in a chase against Sri Lanka, Rohit Sharma’s 171, albeit in a losing cause, against Australia in Perth, and finally Williamson’s classic ODI effort of 118 against India in New Delhi in a low-scoring match.

ODI bowling performances

The best bowling performance of the year was Sunil Narine’s tightly controlled spell of 9.5-0-27-6 (see Table-4) against a strong South African batting unit. No one mastered him and Narine dismissed four top batsmen and engineered South Africa’s collapse from 160 for three to 188 all out. John Hastings’ match-winning effort of six for 45 against Sri Lanka in Dambulla takes the second place. Hastings was effective in all the spells, capturing wickets in each of those.

Imran Tahir bowled against West Indies at St. Kitts with an imposing total of 347 behind him. However, there was no doubting the quality of his bowling. He was virtually unplayable and his seven for 45 helped South Africa win comfortably.



TABLE 4

>


Mashrafe Mortaza’s match-winning spell of four for 29 against England is in fourth place. Even though this was only a four-wicket haul, the fact that he dismissed three top-order batsmen for low scores helped him a lot.

Finally, a minor league bowler gets recognition. Even though Papua New Guinea scored only 201 runs, Chad Soper destroyed Hong Kong’s top-order and reduced it to 31 for three. And when Hong Kong looked like recovering, Soper came back and finished off the match. Amit Mishra’s five for 18 against New Zealand in Visakhapatnam, Amila Aponso’s spell of four for 18 that included the wickets of Smith and Bailey, Adil Rashid’s top-order wickets on a benign Chittagong pitch, Reece Topley’s similar spell against South Africa in Port Elizabeth and Matt Henry’s five wickets against Sri Lanka at Bay Oval complete the Top-10.

ODI all-round performance of 2016

The best all-round performance of 2016 was orchestrated by Mashrafe Mortaza in the Mirpur ODI against England. Bangladesh, batting first, was struggling at 169 for seven when Mortaza walked in. He attacked the bowling and produced an invaluable innings of 44 off only 29 balls. He added 69 good-as-gold runs for the eighth wicket with Mahmuddullah.

When England batted, Mortaza dismissed Vince for five, Roy for 13 and Stokes for 0. This effort broke the back of the England batting. England was in deep trouble at 159 for nine when Rashid and Jake Ball attacked the bowlers. It seemed that these two would take England to an unexpected win, when Mortaza completed a great day as captain, batsman and bowler by dismissing Ball with England still needing 34 runs.

This all-round effort fetched Mortaza 149 batting rating points and 379 bowling rating points.

T20 batting performances

Glenn Maxwell’s answer to the selectors with regard to what Australia missed when he was dropped, quite justifiably one may add, was an explosive 145 (see Table-5) at a strike rate of well over 200. That too, in Sri Lanka. He helped Australia smash the record for innings score.



TABLE 5

>


Samuels’ match-winning innings of 85, although overshadowed a little by the Brathwaite blitz, is in the second place. Samuels helped West Indies recover from 11 for three. A somewhat similar innings from Simmons in the semifinal against India is placed third. Gayle’s century, which helped West Indies win the group match against England, gets into fourth place.

Earlier in the year, de Villiers played in an explosive manner that only he can and his 71 off a mere 29 balls completes the Top-5 positions. He made the chase of 172 look like child’s play.

T20 bowling performances

The table of Top-5 bowling performances contains a few surprises. Towards the end of the year, Imad Wasim had a terrific time, capturing 13 wickets in five matches. Included in this is a magnificent spell of five for 14 (see Table-6) in Dubai, which started the 3-0 rout of West Indies.



TABLE 6

>


Earlier in the year, Mudassar Bakhri had an all-time great spell of four for seven. He joined a select group of 12 who have bowled two maiden overs in their spells.

Ashwin’s tight spell of four for eight against Sri Lanka is in the next place. He captured four wickets in his first three overs to reduce Sri Lanka to 21 for five. Barinder Sran’s debut performance of four for 10 against Zimbabwe is in fourth place. This included three wickets in Sran’s third over. Faulkner’s outstanding match-winning spell of five for 27 against Pakistan in the World Cup is in fifth place.

T20 all-round performance of the year

Carlos Brathwaite’s tour de force in the World Cup final is the best all-round performance by a mile. First, he bowled four overs of accurate medium pace to capture three wickets for 23 and restrict England to 155. Then West Indies slumped to 11 for three and Samuels resurrected the innings with Bravo. A flurry of wickets left West Indies with the very difficult task of scoring 19 runs off the last six balls. What did Brathwaite do? He needed just four balls, four sixes and one of the greatest-ever finishes to win the World Cup for West Indies. He secured a massive 1094 rating points.