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ODI Team of the Year 2020: Australians Dominate, Steve Smith Beats Virat Kohli for No. 3

ODI Team of the Year 2020: Australians Dominate, Steve Smith Beats Virat Kohli for No. 3

We select the ODI Team of the Year 2020 keeping in mind runs scored, wickets taken, context of performance, pressure absorbed, opposition and big-match play.

It has been a difficult year for cricket, sport and life in general. The Covid-19 pandemic ensured there was not a lot of international cricket played in the calendar year 2020. Still, the sport was lucky to have witnessed a few great performances and some close matches. Aaron Finch and Steven Smith scored tons of runs, KL Rahul was phenomenally consistent, Maxwell produced a blinder at Manchester while Adam Zampa and Alzarri Joseph bagged heaps of wickets also being brilliantly restrictive.

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We select the ODI Team of the Year 2020 keeping in mind runs scored, wickets taken, context of performance, pressure absorbed, opposition and big-match play.

THE ODI TEAM OF THE YEAR 2020

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1. Aaron Finch (c)

2. Jonny Bairstow (wk)

3. Steven Smith

4. Marnus Labuschagne

5. KL Rahul

6. Hardik Pandya

7. Glenn Maxwell

8. Chris Woakes

9. Adam Zampa

10. Alzarri Joseph

11. Lungi Ngidi

THE OPENERS

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Aaron Finch scored 673 runs in 13 matches as opener with two hundreds and 5 fifties. Although his strike rate of 81.67 is on the lower side, the sheer volume of the runs he scored and his consistency in the format, make him a certainty at the top of the order. Finch enjoyed playing against India in 2020 registering both his hundreds against them - an unbeaten 110 off 114 deliveries in Mumbai and then 114 off 124 deliveries in the series opener at the SCG in November.

Jonny Bairstow’s best performance of the year - 112 off 126 deliveries - albeit in a losing cause against Australia in Manchester - was a splendid knock under pressure. England had lost Roy and Root off the first two deliveries of the match and there was also not much contribution from Morgan and Buttler. Bairstow did not give up and continued the fight from one end - his ton helping his team cross 300. He scored 346 runs in 8 matches at a strike rate of 100.87 in 2020. It was his destructive prowess that gave Bairstow the edge over other candidates like Warner, Dhawan, De Kock, Hope and Guptill.

THE MIDDLE ORDER

It is a two-way battle between Steven Smith and Virat Kohli at number 3. The Australian has the better numbers from the position in 2020 - he has aggregated 568 runs in 9 matches at an average of 63.11 and strike rate of 106.56 including 3 hundreds and 2 fifties in the calendar year. No batsman (from any position) has scored more tons than Smith in the calendar year. He has been India’s nemesis in ODIs in 2020 - who have been at the receiving end of all his hundreds. Smith’s successive 62-ball hundreds at the SCG had sealed the ODI series for Australia.

Kohli did not have a typical Kohli-type year in his favourite format. Unarguably the greatest batsman in the history of the format, he still aggregated 415 runs in 8 innings at 51.87 at a strike rate of 91.61. But the striking feature was his 5 fifties without a single hundred. It is almost blasphemy to not include Kohli in any ODI XI but this selection is strictly according to numbers with more weightage given to position-wise performance in the calendar year.

Since we are giving maximum weightage to runs scored and performances from the respective position, yet another Australian makes the cut - this time at number 4. A Test specialist, Marnus Labuschagne scored 408 runs in 9 innings at a strike rate of 90.26 including a hundred and two fifties in a format not necessarily associated with his personality and style of batting.

Indian fans need not be disappointed. The ODI Team of the Year does not feature Kohli but does include another run-machine for India in limited overs’ - KL Rahul. The highest scorer of IPL 2020, had an aggregate of 377 runs in 7 innings at an average of 62.83 and strike rate of 114.58 from number 5 in 2020. His best performance, albeit in a losing cause, came against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui where he smashed 112 from 113 deliveries batting at number 5.

THE ALL-ROUNDERS

Injury did not allow Hardik Pandya to bowl much in 2020 but the hitting prowess he displayed at Sydney and Canberra was adequate to warrant him a place as a finisher at number 6. Pandya smashed 90 off 76 deliveries in the first ODI at the SCG before hammering an unbeaten 92 also off the same number of deliveries in Canberra a few days later. Hardik was in destructive mood in the IPL in the UAE and ended the tournament with the second-highest strike rate.

Glenn Maxwell and Ravindra Jadeja were in competition for the second all-rounders’ slot at number 7. The Indian had an excellent economy rate of just 5.36 and also picked a few wickets as compared to Maxwell who did not bowl as much in the year. But it is the Australian’s X-Factor with the bat that eventually stacked the odds in his favour. Maxwell scored 245 runs in just 4 innings including a sensational hundred batting from the lower order against England in the series decider in Manchester - 108 off 90 balls from 73 for 5 chasing 303. It is his phenomenal strike rate of 125.64 which tilted the balance in Maxwell’s favour.

THE BOWLERS

Chris Woakes picked 7 wickets in 5 matches but what stood out was his exceptional ability to restrict the opposition batsmen - Woakes had an economy rate of 4.51 in the calendar year - amongst the best for fast bowlers in 2020. The fact that he can chip in with the odd cameo made him the perfect choice for number 8.

Adam Zampa was, by far, the best spinner in ODI cricket in 2020. He was the leading wicket-taker amongst all bowlers with 27 wickets in 13 matches at 23.74 apiece while also being phenomenally restrictive with an economy rate of just 5. Zampa was the highest wicket-taker when Australia toured England and of the recently concluded home series against India.

West Indian speedster, Alzarri Joseph was the leading wicket-taker amongst fast bowlers in 2020. He was in exceptional wicket-taking form in the year and picked 18 wickets in just 6 matches at an average of 14.72. He was also brilliantly restrictive going at just 4.41 runs per over.

Lungi Ngidi walked into the side, as he did in the T20I XI of the year, on the basis of his wicket-taking ability in the format. The South African picked 12 wickets in just 4 matches at 16.08 apiece. His figures of 6-58 in 10 overs against Australia in Bloemfontein are the best bowling figures for any bowler from a major cricket playing nation in 2020.

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