The ideal Test XI of cricketers who made their debut in the first decade of the 21st century

Cook signs off in scintillating fashion at the Oval.
Cook signs off in scintillating fashion at The Oval
Yash Mittal

Every decade in Test cricket unearths cricketers who enthrall the cricketing realm with their precocious talent.

The turn of the century was a precarious time for world cricket. With the match-fixing saga reaching its nadir, cricket desperately needed fresh faces who with their talent would drive people back to the game.

Today, in this article we'll have a look at the Debutant XI of 2000s recognizing the talents who made their mark and enthralled the fans in the first decade of the 21st century.

Also Read:- Openers who changed the course of Test match batting

Note:- This list contains cricketers who made their debut after January 01, 2000.

#1 Virender Sehwag (2001-2013)

Sehwag enthralled the MCG with a pulsating 195.
Sehwag enthralled the MCG with a pulsating 195

There are few batsmen who come in and change the way the position in which they bat was once perceived - Adam Gilchrist did that with the wicket-keeping position in the late 90s and early 2000s; Virender Sehwag certainly did that to Test match opening.

Unlike the erstwhile notion of openers' leaving the ball outside the off stump, Sehwag believed in taking the attack to the opposition and he did it with disdain throughout his career, scoring runs at breathtaking ease and becoming the only Indian cricketer to score two triple hundreds.

Also Read:- The fab-five of Indian Cricket

#2 Alastair Cook (2006- 2018)

Cook signed off his Test career with a masterly 147 at the Oval.
Cook signed off his Test career with a masterly 147 at the Oval

With aggression on one end, one needs defiance and grit to balance it out at the other, and England's Alastair Cook fits that role with aplomb.

One of those rare Test match openers of the modern-era whose favorite shot is leaving the ball outside the off-stump and batting for a long period of time, Cook announced himself with a defiant debut hundred at Nagpur in 2006 and over the course of 12 years remained England's bedrock.

Cook's finest hour in international cricket is undoubtedly his marathon performance Down Under in 2010-11 where he scored over 700 runs to help England win the Ashes in Australia after 24 years and his baptism with fire on raging turners in India (3 hundred in 4 matches) which paved the way for England's first series win after 28 years in 2012.

In a 161-match Test career that culminated with him hitting his 33rd Test ton against India at The Oval, Cook's average never dropped below 40 - a feat achieved only by the likes of Miandad, Gower, Ganguly and Clive Lloyd.

He finished with 12,472 runs, pipping Kumar Sangakkara to become the fifth highest run-getter in Test cricket.

#3 Younis Khan (2000- 2017)

Younis Khan after playing a marathon innings of 218 at the Oval in 2016
Younis Khan after playing a marathon innings of 218 at the Oval in 2016

In a frantic and frenetic cricket world of Pakistan, Younis Khan brought about a soothing sense of calm for a better part of the 21st century- a lull amidst the storm. His hop-shuffle across the stumps might have offset the purists but his numbers were bloated as well.

Having made his debut against Sri Lanka in 2000, Younis Khan went on to churn out 10,099 runs over a period of 17 years, forming the bedrock along with Mohammed Yousuf and Misbah ul Haq in a fledgling Pakistani line-up.

Younis ticked almost all boxes that earmark batsmen in the pantheon of batsmanship- the conversion rate. Out of 67 times that Younis crossed the 50-run mark, he converted 34 of those into hundreds and six of them into double tons - joint most by a Pakistani alongside Javed Miandad.

His 218 at the Oval in 2016 was a testimony of his grit, tenacity, and of course his supremacy over spin bowling, which helped Pakistan level the 4-match series after he had battled with poor form leading into the Test match.

#4 Kumar Sangakkara (Captain)

The sixth leading run-scorer in Test cricket
The sixth leading run-scorer in Test cricket

A Test batting average of 57.14 and the joint fastest to reach 10,000 runs alongside Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Charles Lara, Sangakkara was the mainstay of the Sri Lankan batting for a major part of the 21st century. Having made his debut in 2000, one of the most endearing aspects of Sangakkara was his versatility.

His record-breaking 624-run partnership with Mahela Jayawardene epitomized his ability to make full use of ideal batting conditions while his counter-attacking century on a green Wellington pitch in 2006-07 or a sublime 192 at Hobart testified his ability to adjust to difficult conditions.

Besides the truckload of runs that Sangakkara scored throughout his career it was the way that he conducted himself both on and off the field that made him a great ambassador of the game. In a 15-year old career that culminated against India in 2015, Sangakkara became the youngest person to deliver the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdery Lecture at Lord's in 2011.

#5 AB de Villiers (2004- 2018)

De Villiers was South Africa's leading run scorer in his last two Test series against India and Australia
De Villiers was South Africa's leading run scorer in his last two Test series against India and Australia

Some cricketers' rise to the top constitutes hours of hard work, patience, tenacity while others have a natural flair and a plethora of raw talent - Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is one of those rare breeds who has all the aforementioned attributes tuned to the zenith.

In 300 international games, de Villiers scored 20,000 runs but it wasn't the magnitude of runs that defines AB; it is the manner in which he got 'em. On some days he would reverse scoop a Dale Steyn in a T20 match while on other he would be playing a perfect 'block' (read Adelaide 2012) to salvage a hard-fought draw for his side. De Villiers was a darling of the masses; the number of admirers he had transcended cultural and ethnic boundaries to an extent that a home side would feel out of place.

De Villiers brought curtains to his pulsating 14-year-old career but not before playing a substantial role (leading run-scorer for South Africa in his last two series) in South Africa's triumphant home summer against India and Australia.

Honorable Mentions:- Kevin Pieterson, England (2005-2014), Michael Clarke, Australia (2004-2015)

#6 Michael Hussey (2004- 2012)

Mr Cricket
Mr. Cricket

One of the five cricketers with the highest average in international cricket (49.00) across all three formats of the game, Mike Hussey had to grind it out in domestic circuit all over the world before making his presence as an international cricketer.

Hussey made his debut for Australia at the age of 28, after having amassed as many as 15,313 first-class runs while playing for Western Australia and a plethora of English counties.

In all, Hussey managed 12,398 runs in 302 international matches across formats at an astounding average of 49.00.

#7 MS Dhoni (Wicket-keeper) (2005- 2014)

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni

For a long period of time since the retirement of Nayan Mongia, India struggled to find a wicket-keeper who could bat at the Test level. From Samir Dighe, Deep Dasgupta, Ajay Ratra to Parthiv Patel, no one could step up and fill in the crucial wicket-keeping slot until MS Dhoni arrived and made the spot his own for a better part of ten years.

Dhoni, on the back of scintillating performances against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in white-ball cricket, made his Test debut against Pakistan in 2006 and announced his arrival with a power-packed 146 at Faisalabad. He played a crucial role in saving the Lord's Test of India's triumphant Test tour of England in 2007 where he dodged resistance with the tail which, along with inclement light, helped India escape unscathed before eventually going on to win the series 1-0.

Dhoni was handed over the Test captaincy in 2008 after Anil Kumble's retirement and under his leadership, India went on to beat New Zealand in New Zealand in 2009 before reaching the summit of the ICC Test rankings.

Dhoni's second phase as captain wasn't as hunky-dory as the initial few years with successive whitewashes in England and Australia in 2011 and the retirements of stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and VVS Laxman further increased the pressure on him.

The pressure heightened after the home series loss against England in 2012-13 but as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Dhoni silenced his critics with a match-winning double hundred (224) against the visiting Aussies in March 2013 to inflict a 4-0 whitewash on Michael Clarke-led Australians.

Another set of overseas disappointments awaited MS Dhoni as the side went on to lose in South Africa (0-1), New Zealand (0-1), England (1-3) before he finally hung up his boots after saving the Melbourne Test in late 2014.

#8 Graeme Swann (2008- 2014)

Swann- A late bloomer
Swann- A late bloomer

The first English spinner to register fifty wickets in a calendar year (2009), Graeme Swann came as a fresh breath of air to England's long-standing search for a quality spinner.

Swann had a sensational debut in 2008 when he claimed Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid in his very first over- only the second instance for a debutant.

In a career spanning over six years, Swann claimed 255 Test wickets (only the second English spinner after Derek Underwood) at an average of 29.97 playing crucial roles in England's 2010-11 Ashes win Down Under before combing with Monty Panesar in 2012 to script a memorable 2-1 series win in India after 28 years.

#9 Dale Steyn (2004- present)

The greatest fast bowler of this generation
The greatest fast bowler of this generation

One of the most endearing sights of the 21st century has been Dale Steyn running in full-throttle, clocking 150+ kph, shaping his conventional out-swinger from a leg-side length and knocking the top of off-stump.

Steyn made his debut alongside a certain rookie AB de Villiers in 2004 and announced himself with a vicious outswinger to England's captain Michael Vaughn. However, with just three wickets in his first game, Steyn was dropped from the side that boasted of stalwarts like Pollock and Ntini for not possessing the 'intensity' of a fast bowler.

Steyn's strike-rate (42.06) is second only to England's George Lohmann in the history of the game

On his second coming after a series of ousters from the side, Steyn had become a monster with a cranked up pace and searing intensity during the 2007 tour of Pakistan and subsequent home series against the Kiwis, to nail his spot in the team.

Steyn's legacy would forever be the pivotal role that he played in making South Africa the best traveling side of the 21st century, decimating Australia in 2008-09 and claiming 7-51 on a flat wicket at Nagpur to script a memorable innings win in 2010.

The fastest to reach 250 wickets for South Africa, Steyn is currently locked with Shaun Pollock with 421 wickets to become the leading wicket-taker for the Rainbow Nation.

#10 Zaheer Khan (2000- 2014)

The 'Sachin Tendulkar' of Indian bowling.
The 'Sachin Tendulkar' of Indian bowling

Described by MS Dhoni as 'The Sachin Tendulkar of bowling', pretty much sums up the importance that Zaheer Khan bore to the Indian bowling stocks in the 2000s.

Zaheer's career can be looked as a tale of two halves. The first half of his career saw a talented yet inconsistent Zaheer Khan who would crank up the pace consistently in the 140s but who would seldom find his length.

A county stint in the 2005-06 season saw a different Zaheer Khan emerge, where his accuracy was impeccable, especially to the left-handers, which made the lives of formidable left-handed batsmen of his era including Graeme Smith and Matthew Hayden miserable. His finest hour arrived in Nottingham, 2007 when at the wake of the 'Jelly Bean' incident he turned the game on its head with an incisive spell of seam and swing bowler to script a memorable series win in England.

With experience, Zaheer mastered the art of making the ball talk irrespective of the conditions and quickly transformed himself into the leader of the attack and an ideal mentor to the likes of Ishant Sharma and RP Singh.

Battling with fitness issues for a major part of his career, Zaheer retired with 311 wickets in 2016 but not before he had earmarked his name in the pantheon of the all-time greatest left-arm fast bowlers to have ever graced the game.

#11 James Anderson (2003- present)

The master of swing bowling
The master of swing bowling

When it's overcast and swinging around, James Anderson's bowling is like poetry in motion leaving the onlooker in awe and the batsman bamboozled.

Currently locked in what has been the 'Battle of the Decade' with Virat Kohli, Jamie Anderson has been the cornerstone of England's success in the 21st century, which includes the decimation of the Aussies in their own backward (24 wickets in 2010-11 Ashes) and the historic sojourn to India in 2012-13 where his incisive spells of reverse-swing bowling especially at the Eden Gardens laid the foundation for the series win after 28 years.

In 143 Test matches, Anderson has claimed 563 wickets and is tied with the great Glenn McGrath (563 wickets).

Edited by Sarah Waris


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