2012 in world cricket hasn’t seen a century from Sachin Tendulkar, in any form of the game. Not many such years have gone by (0), and this makes 2012 the year of the next generation- a change of guard, the passing of a baton to an extremely prolific, hungry younger group of batsmen that are consistently pushing the marker. The retirement of Ricky Ponting has still been accompanied by a stellar year for the regular stalwarts like Kallis, Chanderpaul (often forgotten), Sangakkara and Dilshan.
As 2012 comes to a close, we take a look at the top 5 batsmen over all forms of the game- judged on basis of their contribution to their teams, their sheer consistency in run-getting and their almost unnatural ability to walk to the crease and wreck havoc over 365 days.
5. AB De Villiers
The captain of the South African ODI team should be used to appearing on these lists by now, after being declared as ICC ODI player of 2011. Though he hasn’t had a very consistent year in Tests punctuated by a couple of very high scores with 30s and 40s in between, thanks to his selfless transition to permanent wicketkeeping- De Villiers has had a huge role to play in the success of the team, letting them play with one extra specialist batsman. He has been a finisher-par-excellence in ODI cricket, averaging 108 in his 13 games this year. His latest swashbuckling 169 against Australia caps off his team’s most successful year, setting the stage for his rise to the top of the batting rankings again in 2013.
4. Virat Kohli
The way he started the year, he was destined to finish on top of every batting list after hitting the mother of all purple patches. He has maintained that consistency in both limited over formats of the game- playing just 16 ODI games and almost scoring as much as the 31-game playing Lankans, with 5 centuries (2 in everyone’s memory). While he has scored 2 centuries in Test Cricket, they’ve come against a weak NZ side at home, and he has failed in the England series so far, raising questions of his temperament to bat through an innings in the longer format. Still, he is the second most prolific Indian (after Pujara) on the Test list, averaging 50 over the year. He isn’t finishing the year as he would have liked, with India crashing to defeat after defeat in Test Cricket, but he still remains the most feared ODI and T20 (highest scorer of India’s doomed 2012 T20 WC) player in the world.
3. Alastair Cook
Easily England’s most underrated batsman of this era, Cook remains on top of both Test and ODI lists for his team. Captaincy seems to have spurred him on, even in the limited overs format, where he wasn’t even selected for the World Cup squad last year. 6 centuries (3 in tests, 3 in ODIs) with 2 in a row in the India series, contributing immensely to their Mumbai win, Captain Cook is replicating his insane 2011 Ashes form, where it was near impossible to get him to leave the crease after he settles in.
2. Hashim Amla
Currently the best South African batsman in the world, Amla serves as the perfect bridge between the second-innings genius of Smith and the stonewalled consistency of Kallis. While doing so, he has transformed himself into a graceful, non-violent strokemaker that brings back memories of the Mohammed Yousuf. After a mammoth rise in 2011, Amla has maintained his Bradmanisque abilities in 2012- the prime reason behind South Africa’s dominance in Test Cricket. 1 triple century followed by a couple of 190s, with an average of 85 in ODI cricket at a healthy strike rate, makes the brooding wristy genius the highest rated batsman over the last two years.
1. Michael Clarke
The captain of the Australian ODI and Test team has, in everyone’s opinion, had one of the greatest individual seasons in modern history- the significance of which can be compared to Djokovic’s record breaking 2011 tennis season. 4 Doubles in a year (including 1 triple) in 9 test matches has previously been unheard of, as he follows in the footsteps of the greatest predecessors that include Bradman and Ponting. He has put Australia back on the batting map along with Michael Hussey, and put them back from the transition period into a phase where they were just one match away from the no. 1 Test Ranking once again. That they failed to achieve it, will come down to the lack of penetration of his bowlers Down Under- but the young Australian captain has more than set an example by leading from the front with the bat, and his aggressive brand of captaincy only adds to his rapid yet inevitable rise to the top of world cricket.
Others like Kallis, Chanderpaul and Sangakkara narrowly miss out on this list, but can be rated at par with AB De Villiers- who takes the no. 5 spot due to his consistent evolution and readjustment in a world class team.
3 International Captains in the top 5- is a telling message about how leadership can push a good batsman towards greatness, with young Virat Kohli earmarked for captaincy in the near-future.