World cricket has seen the domination of some great teams at the very top. The West Indies period of dominance in the late 70’s and 80’s or Australia’s hegemony in Test cricket in the first half of the new millennium have undoubtedly been the most extended periods of dominance in the longer form of the game.
However, there have been teams which have challenged the very best at the top and succeeded in annexing the crown of best Test nation. Perhaps, the most consistent run after the all-conquering Windies and the Aussies teams at the very top of the pyramid has been that of the South African team which became the Numero Uno Test team in 2012. The Proteas have by far been the most consistent side in Test cricket between 2010 to 2015.
They were the Number one side for 21 months from Aug 2012- May 2014 and again went on to claim the top position in the ICC Test rankings for 18 months from to July 2014-Jan 2016.
After playing second fiddle to the mighty Aussies in the first half of the new century, they emerged as a force to reckon with in the second decade of the 21st century.
South Africa went on to become the Number One Test team courtesy a string of superlative performance in bilateral Test series, both home and away.
The team was blessed with a wide array of stroke makers and a menacing pace attack which played their role of perfection and gelled brilliantly under the leadership of a great captain in Graeme Smith who infused a lot of self-belief and character into the team.
Note: Former South African greats Herschelle Gibbs, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini had retired before the period taken into consideration for my selection (2010-2015) so they have been overlooked.
Meanwhile, Quinton de Cock, T Bavuma and Kyle Abbot have just come into the South African team two seasons back so haven’t played enough cricket in the period taken under consideration for selection. Hope you will enjoy reading my all-time Proteas Test eleven which rose to become the best Test playing nation in the world.
So here are eleven Proteas cricketers who would form the Dream South African Test team (2010-2015) which would surely go down as one of the best Test teams of all time,
The Proteas’ All Time Test XI (2010-2015):
Graeme Smith: Graeme Smith wasn’t the most flamboyant of the left-handed batsman of his era but had tremendous appetite to score big runs. The ‘beefy’ Smith knew his technical limitations well and played intelligently to his natural strengths. Once he had his eyes set, his could produce some mammoth double hundreds and give his side a solid platform to embark upon a victory. Smith was a man with great resolve and character and led his team to great heights under his strong and astute captaincy.
2. Alviro Petersen: Alviro Petersen was tailor made as an opening batsman for Test cricket. An opener with a well organised technique and powers of concentration, Prince did a good job in seeing off the new ball in hostile conditions. He more often than not helped the Proteas lay a solid foundation by accumulating runs up the order. He came into the South African set up at a time when they were struggling to find a replacement for the flawed genius Herschelle Gibbs.
3. Jacques Kallis: Jacques Kallis would go down as perhaps the greatest all-rounder in Test cricket. Kallis was technically strong and had a sound temperament. Kallis had the ability to occupy the crease for long periods and grind the opposition with his dogged defence. He stood like a rock in middle order and played the sheet anchor’s role to perfection. Kallis was a potent seam bowler who could seam the ball at brisk pace. He became an integral part of South Africa’s potent pace attack. He was a great slip fielder with safe pair of hands. South Africa could not ask for a more valuable all-rounder than him.
4. Hashim Amla: Hashim Amla has been a calming influence in the Proteas batting order with his prolific run scoring ability. Amla has all the qualities of a great batsman. Amla is an elegant stroke maker who uses his wrists to great effect. His batting is bestowed with sublime timing and good footwork. He has a penchant for scoring big hundreds courtesy his concentration and well organised technique. Amla is equally adept at attack or defence. He has been a run scoring machine for the Proteas, both at home and abroad.
5. AB de Villers : AB de Villiers is by far the most attractive stroke maker to play for the Proteas after Herschelle Gibbs. De Villiers is blessed with enormous natural talent and makes batting look rather effortless with his belligerent strokeplay. AB has a wide array of scintillating shots all around the wicket which helped him to score runs at a brisk pace. He lends impetus to the Proteas batting with his aggressive style of batting. A livewire on the field, AB has been a brilliant fielder courtesy his natural athletic ability and superlative fitness levels. The multi-talented genius has kept wickets too. Is there anything in cricket that AB can’t do? Looks very unlikely!!!
6. JP Duminy: JP Duminy has often been hailed as one of the most talented batsman who never quite did justice to his talent. Duminy’s batting is pleasing to watch when he gets his timing going. He is a natural stroke maker who possesses a wide range of shots. Duminy has been more than effective as a part-time off-spinner, chipping in with wickets at crucial times. Naturally athletic, Duminy like his counterparts is a brilliant fielder who lifts up the morale of his team-mates with his stupendous fielding.
7. Mark Boucher: Mark Boucher shall go down as arguably the greatest wicket-keeper South Africa ever produced. Boucher was simply breath-taking behind the stumps with his acrobatic wicket keeping skills. He took some blinders and affected some lighting quick stumpings. Besides his brilliant glovemanship, Boucher was a handy customer with the bat too, making valuable contributions with the willow down the order. Above all, he was a fighter of a character who didn’t go out before giving a fight to the opposition.
8. Veron Philander: Veron Philander completes South Africa’s menacing pace troika in their golden era of Test cricket. Not as express as his fellow counterparts, Philander is a master at swinging the ball. Philander relies on his nagging line and consistent length which has put the best batsmen in trouble. Consistently at pitching the ball in the right places has been his forte. Philander came into Test cricket with a flurry of wickets and never looked backed ever since his initial outburst. He is a handy customer with the bat too.
9. Dale Steyn: Dale Steyn has led the South African seam attack with great distinction after the retirement of pace legends Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. Steyn is considered as arguably the best fast bowler post the turn of the millennium. Steyn has a wide repertoire in his bowling arsenal which he uses to great effect in cartwheeling the stumps of the best batsmen. Swing or seam, speed or accuracy, Steyn has been a master of his trait and runs through the best of batting line-ups at will. An outright strike weapon, Steyn has been instrumental in carving out many a victory for South Africa in Test cricket for over a decade.
10. Morne Morkel: Morne Morkel has complimented Dale Steyn brilliantly in sharing South Africa’s pace attack in Test cricket. Morne uses his height to great effect in generating steep bounce along with his brisk pace. Morkel has been a potent threat to most oppositions on the bouncy and juicy tracks of South Africa. The lanky seamer has mastered the art of peppering the batsman with his short pitch deliveries and breathing havoc in the opposition camp.
11. Paul Harris: In an all-seam attack, Paul Harris stood his ground as a more than handy off-spinner. Harris brought variety to the Proteas bowling attack and added that much-required element of spin. Harris was quite successful on turning pitches where he got a lot of purchase of the wicket with his high arm action.
12th Man: Faf Du Plessis
Bench Strength – Ashwell Prince, Imran Tahir, Dean Elgar and L Tsotsobe
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