There is always a lot of conjecture when it comes to singling out the best 10 players of a certain decade. One must let go of their connections and patriotism and look at who has led the game and blazed the trail. Which player has been able to produce sensational form both at home and away from it? It all comes down to consistency and the ability to perform on the international stage for 10 years. That is what separates the mediocre from the special.
10. Virat Kohli (India)
An updated list of the best players from 2011-2021 will probably have Virat Kohli nearer the top, if not at the top. The Indian captain made his debut in 2011 and has been a revelation since. His classical stroke play and athletic build has turned him into a feared player around the world. He is not a one format wonder and excels at all three formats as he averages over 50 in almost all three. The rate at which he is clocking up test runs is quite frightening and there is no doubt we are currently witnessing the career of a great in progress. At 28 years old Kohli has at least 8 years left of batting in him, Getting to Tendulkar’s record seems a stretch but he can certainly climb the ladder and become one of India’s very best players in their illustrious history.
9. Kevin Pietersen (England)
The name Kevin Pietersen divides opinion and always sets tongues wagging. The Durban-born Pietersen hasn’t always done himself favours and is without a doubt his own worst enemy. His cricketing ability over the last 10 years, though, is the one subject that has everyone in agreement. It was Pietersen that secured Ashes series’ for England and it was Pietersen that broke English batting records. It was in 2013 that ‘KP’ left his mark when he became the highest run scorer in all three formats for England. His flamboyant approach to batting instilled a belief in England and let them fight fire with fire. If he had been more diplomatic and team orientated then we would have seen him playing during the best years of his career. Instead he had to become a T20 journeyman and ply his trade at the various T20 carnivals around the world. KP will always be remembered as an English great.
8. Hashim Amla (South Africa)
Hashim Amla has scored 50 international centuries in the last decade and has put his unique signature all over world cricket. He has climbed the summit to the top of the international cricket batting honours and he has set South African records that look tough to beat. He is a quiet and watchful man off the field but uncompromising and lethal on it. There is nothing Hashim can’t do and he has proven that time after time in all formats. Over the last decade he has become synonymous for his beard and his insatiable appetite for runs. His 311 not out at the Oval in 2012 was applauded from all corners of the globe. There is life in Amla still and who would bet against him adding a few more tons to his already phenomenal record.
7. Mitchell Johnson (Australia)
When Mitchell Johnson burst onto the scene against Sri Lanka in Brisbane in 2007 the cricketing world was preparing itself for another Aussie great fast bowler. It was the symbolic handing over of the baton from the likes of Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee to this new young quick. Johnson started off well enough and bowled some of the quickest spells in his young career. He always seemed to be up for it against South Africa and on one terrorising afternoon against the Proteas in Durban in 2009 he ripped through them like a knife through butter. Johnson lost his way during the Ashes series from 2009-2011 and the knives were out. The low point came when he was not picked for the Ashes in England in 2013. Johnson’s career looked all but over, but what was to follow was the fastest, most hostile and damaging bowling the world has seen for at least 20 years. In the 8 tests that were to follow against England and South Africa he picked up 59 wickets at an average of 15.23. After being jeered and sung about by the Barmy Army for a good number of years, he had finally got his revenge. Johnson’s bowling sent English cricket into turmoil and was the catalyst for Graeme Smith’s retirement. His 313 wickets from 2007 to 2016 were exceptional but it was in the twilight of his career that he achieved his greatest accolades.
6. Alastair Cook (England)
Question marks will always remain over the career of Alastair Cook and that is down to the way he captained England. Cook also had to deal with the fallout from the Kevin Pietersen saga with many accusing him of handling it supremely badly. Cook’s ten thousand runs between 2007-2017 makes him one of the finest players of his generation. He is England’s all time leading run scorer and could have scored more if it were not for the shambolic management of English cricket from 2012 to 2015. As a captain he oversaw two Ashes series’ triumphs and helped carry on the good momentum against Australia. Cook may have relinquished the captaincy but he hasn’t retired. His place at the top of the innings looks more secure than ever. With more freedom than he used to have now that Joe Root has taken over the leadership, Cook could blossom in the twilight of his career and carry on piling the runs on for England. The service he has given his country over the last decade has been invaluable in their bid to be world beaters.
5. Graeme Smith (South Africa)
Graeme Smith may have retired in 2014 but his captaincy over the last decade is still far and away better than anything the game has seen for some time. Smith oversaw an 8 year (7 in the last decade) unbeaten run away from home that resulted in the Proteas becoming the number one test team in the world. To go almost a decade without tasting defeat on foreign soil is an accomplishment like no other. Smith also cemented his place as the world’s premium opener. There wasn’t a challenge Smith didn’t rise to over the last decade. He was a giant of a man and a leader like no other. It will be a long time before we see a captain like Smith take his team forward and give them an identity they were crying out for. He stood taller than any other over 10 years and has been the leading model for all young and aspiring captains.
4. Steve Smith (Australia)
Steve Smith is a man on a mission. Smith made his debut back in the summer of 2010 at Lords against Pakistan. He has scored 28 international hundreds and is currently the number one ranked test batsman in the world. Smith’s record in tests makes you instantly sit up and take notice. He is breaking the very ground the test world has been standing on. The New South Wales man is an awkward customer to bowl to and even more so to watch bat. He fidgets a lot and is always moving about, adjusting this and adjusting that. Despite all Smith’s mannerisms there is a genius to him. He finds a way when everyone else can’t. When a certain pitch looks like a minefield, Smith will invariably step up and craft a hundred when all those around him are being cheaply dismissed. Steve Smith will lead the way for a long time to come and will go on to break many Australian and international batting records. There’s no doubt that the last 7 years have set him up to be one of the greats of the game
3. AB de Villiers (South Africa)
Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is without a doubt the most skilful batsman to have played the game in the last 10 years. He has developed into a showstopper and world class player. He has scored 38 international hundreds since 2007 and has blown the world away with his rewriting of the cricket manual. AB holds the record for the fastest 50, 100, and 150 in ODI cricket. He is a passionate cricketer with a deep rooted desire to see South Africa win an ICC event. The man from Pretoria isn’t yet done with international cricket and will look to cap off a decade like no other by winning the 2019 World Cup with the Proteas. Whether he does or doesn’t, the world will look back on these 10 glorious years that de Villiers has given them and always have something to talk about. He has inspired a generation of cricketers that will see cricket in a new light. Thanks to AB de Villiers and the way he has played the game, cricket is alive and well.
2. James Anderson (England)
Jimmy Anderson is a master of his craft and most of England’s success at home over the last 10 years can be attributed to him. He can swing it both ways and treats cricket viewers to an art of swing bowling in conditions that usually lend a hand. Over the last decade he has become England’s leading test wicket taker and now has almost a 100 more than Ian Botham in second place. His 467 wickets put him in 6th place of the all time list in test cricket. It has been a decade that Anderson has used well and he’s capitalised on the amount of cricket England play. Any touring team coming to England will put Anderson at the top of their danger list. With a couple years left in him there is a good chance Anderson will get to the remarkable feat of having taken 500 international test wickets. With that accolade should come a knighthood, and an eternal place in English cricketing history.
1. Dale Steyn (South Africa)
Dale Steyn has had a decade like no other. He may not have taken as many wickets as James Anderson but that is down purely to the fact that he has played 37 test matches less. Steyn has been the best player of his generation and has been the most effective player in world cricket over the last 10 years. Steyn has the third best average out of the all time top 10 leading wicket takers in tests and the best average out of anyone over the last 10 years. His strike rate of 41.4 is better than not only anyone in the last 10 years that has taken over 400 wickets in their career but also the very best test cricket has ever seen. Persisting shoulder injuries have kept him out the game for the last year or so and this makes it easy to forget what a powerhouse player Dale Steyn really is. When Steyn does eventually retire, he will retire as a modern great and will be considered by some to be the very best fast bowler the world has ever seen. At 34 there is every chance a fit again and passionate Steyn will be back for one last rodeo.
Image Credit: Naparazzi