In the first instalment of a two-part series, SA Cricket magazine’s writers pick their best international ODI XI of the past 30 years.
Over the past few weeks, our writers have picked their best Proteas side of the post-isolation era. That process got us thinking – how many of those South African stars would crack the nod in a best international XI selected in the same era (1992 to 2020)?
This week, we’ll be selecting our best international Test and ODI combinations. Let us know what you think of the selections and what changes you’d make.
JON CARDINELLI: Sachin Tendulkar scored 45 of his 49 centuries at the top of the order for India. Picture the Little Master playing alongside the left-handed destroyer Chris Gayle. When the West Indian gets going, he’s almost impossible to stop. An average of 37.83 suggests that Gayle has struggled for consistency over the years, and yet he’s scored 25 ODI tons, as many as all-time great Kumar Sangakkara.
I have to find room for Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis at Nos 3 and 5, respectively. Both were often under-appreciated in their own country over the course of their careers, especially in the ODI format.
Amla scored 8,113 runs at an average of 49.36 and at an impressive strike rate of 88.39. It may surprise a few people to hear that only five players have scored more ODI centuries than Amla (27). Kallis is a must-pick as an all-rounder, having amassed 11,579 runs and 273 wickets in the 50-over game.
Virat Kohli slots in between the South Africans at No 4. After 248 matches, the Indian captain has scored 11,867 runs at an incredible average of 59.33. As crazy as it sounds, Kohli – with 43 ODI tons – is set to to surpass Tendulkar and become the first player to score 50 limited-over centuries.
Ricky Ponting – who won three consecutive World Cups with Australia in 1999, 2003 and 2007 – rounds out my top six, and captains the team.
WADE PRETORIUS: I found this process to be far harder than choosing my Test XI … but again, I will be intentionally leaving out South Africans so that this World XI can face off against my Proteas ODI side.
That’s a huge headache removed with the likes of Kallis, Amla, De Villiers and Steyn all unavailable for this world side.
I’m opening with Adam Gilchrist and Sachin Tendulkar … Gilly was widely regarded as the best wicketkeeper/batsman and someone who drove the required run rate up two notches. The Little Maestro joins him after an illustrious career of plundering the best attacks to all parts.
Ricky Ponting, the leading ODI player for large parts of his stellar career with three World Cup wins, arrives at the crease after the fall of the first wicket. The Australia skipper was fearless and took the attack to the opposition almost regardless of the situation and without fear of consequence. His magnificent knock in the 438 game and his man of the match performance in the 2003 World Cup final stand out.
India’s Virat Kohli arrives at four with an average of 59 – the second highest of all time – and 43 centuries at 93 per 100 balls faced. So, no more.
Arguably one of the most underrated players in the game, Kane Williamson is my fifth batsman. He was third fastest – behind Amla and Kohli – to 6,000 ODI runs and currently averages 47-plus. Playing for the Black Caps means he is up against the best attacks with less support and often under immense scoreboard pressure.
Few had the game awareness and ability to change the direction of contests like Michael Bevan, a finisher extraordinaire. He ended his career with an average of 53.58, edging out AB de Villiers on the all-time list. Gilchrist’s inclusion means Bevan’s place is more than secured in the side. And he could bowl a bit, too.
CRAIG LEWIS: No doubts for me when it comes to my openers. Sachin Tendulkar and Adam Gilchrist would be the perfect pair to provide poise and power up front, along with a right- and left-hand combination.
At 3, I want probably the world’s best batsman currently, Virat Kohli, to get into action as soon as possible, followed by his good mate AB de Villiers. Watching these two bat in tandem are what cricket dreams are made of.
I’d follow him up with Ricky Ponting at 5 (I spluttered into my morning coffee when I saw he played 375 matches and averaged 42). To round 0ff my top six, I’m opting for his compatriot Michael Bevan. Credit to my colleague Wade, who jogged my memory as I tried to recall the name of a player who just accumulated the most remarkable tally of runs (6,912 in 232 ODIs).
JONHENRY WILSON: Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya to open the batting alongside India’s Sachin Tendulkar. Australia’s Ricky Ponting in at three, so no space for West Indian Brian Lara. Indian Virat Kohli in at four, with South Africa’s Jacques Kallis at five and Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara at six. That’s a bit low for Sangakkara, but he’ll keep wicket and leave space for at least two bowling all-rounders in the bottom five.
ANDRE HUISAMEN: Australia’s Adam Gilchrist was a rock at the top of the order for his country. His aggressive approach was instrumental to the Australians posting big scores or making run chases look easy. His defiant century in the 2007 World Cup final against Sri Lanka probably proves that the best. Opening the batting with him is Sachin Tendulkar. India’s stalwart was no slouch in the limited-overs format and became the first player to score a double century in white-ball cricket.
Virat Kohli is my No 3 in this all-time World XI. Kohli has been changing the way cricket is played since he burst on to the international scene and that is probably the most visible in ODI cricket. At the risk of shocking some people out there, I’ll include Kevin Pietersen in my team. KP was a revelation for English cricket back in 2005 and the years that followed. Often seen as the more traditional cricket-playing country, a fair number of players – who won England the World Cup last year – have said in the past that Pietersen was their hero when they were younger because of his different batting approach to the game.
Mr 360 AB de Villiers will obviously also feature in my ODI XI. Like Kohli, De Villiers has definitely changed the game with his aggressive approach. Imagine an ODI team with both Kohli and De Villiers in it; you’re guaranteed a run-scoring spectacle. AB’s position in this team can also easily swap with Pietersen’s as they are both capable of batting at Nos 4 or 5. Jacques Kallis will complete my top six. Maybe not in his regular batting position but as an all-rounder, Kallis will definitely add great value – at No 6 he could do some great damage himself.
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