With all One Day International obligations for the year 2011 over now, it is a good time to take a look back at the year that was and how the teams and players fared in ODIs during the year.
A total of 146 ODIs were played during the year, a number that is significantly inflated due to the ICC World Cup. But that high number also means that we got to see various remarkable performances from the likes of Virender Sehwag, Shane Watson, Mohammad Hafeez, Lasith Malinga, and Shahid Afridi to name a few.
Both Sehwag and Watson played some massive ODI innings this year.
Sehwag's world record 219 against the West Indies was not the only time Sehwag got brutal on an attack this year; he started the year with a knock of 175 against Bangladesh in the World Cup. Sehwag only finished against the West Indies what he had started against Bangladesh.
Shane Watson, who is probably the only real threat to Sehwag's 219, also played two remarkable innings during the year. Watson started the year with a powerful unbeaten 161 in a successful chase against England in January this year. And if that wasn't enough, Watson took the hapless Bangladeshis for an unbelievable ride. He would have surely reached an ODI double century earlier than Sehwag had it not been for Australia reaching the target of 230. Watson scored 185 of those runs and remained unbeaten in a ruthless onslaught.
There were many bowling performances of note during the year as well, with three of them standing out over and above the rest.
Two of the three feats came within 6 days of each other during the Australia vs Sri Lanka ODI series in August this year. In the 1st ODI of the series, Mitchell Johnson destroyed Sri Lanka with figures of 6-31 to restrict them below 200. Those are the best figures achieved during 2011 in an ODI involving test playing countries.
Sri Lanka responded to that in the 3rd ODI of that series, where Lasith Malinga's 5-28 ensured that Australia remained far from their target of 286. It was a breathtaking performance from Malinga as he made inroads at the start of the innings, broke partnerships in the middle, and also cleaned up the tail.
The third and best bowling feat came from Shahid Afridi, whose 5-35 against Sri Lanka in Sharjah resulted in Sri Lanka sliding from 155-3 to 174 all out to lose the match by 26 runs! I have written so much about Afridi during the whole year that I don't have much else to say any more. The man is King!
Those were some of the individual performances to remember from 2011, but since cricket is a team game, I think its important to take notice of a team that has been on the rise throughout the year, and ended the year with the best record in ODIs amongst all teams.
That's right.. PAKISTAN!
Pakistan recorded the most number of ODI wins amongst all teams during the year and also ended the year with the best win percentage.
India might have been crowned World Champions during the year, and Australia might be the number 1 ranked ODI team according to the ICC Rankings, but ladies and gentlemen, it is Pakistan who has the best ODI record amongst all teams during 2011.
Take a bow boys in green.
Not only did they reach the semi finals of the World Cup this year, but Pakistan also won all their bilateral ODI series during 2011.
It is no surprise then that the Pakistan players dominate the highest runs and wickets lists for the year 2011. Two of their batsmen, Mohammad Hafeez and the captain Misbah Ul Haq, make the top run scorers list, while three of the bowlers, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, and Mohammad Hafeez are amongst the leading wicket takers in 2011.
Hafeez is among the 6 batsmen that cross 1,000 ODI runs during 2011, While Misbah is among the 5 batsmen with more than 20 ODI innings during the year that have an average above 50. Hafeez' coming of age as a solid opening batsman has been a key driver of Pakistan's success this year. While Misbah's cool and composed innings have led Pakistan to many victories during 2011.
On the bowling front, Pakistan has gone through a major transformation. With two of their leading pacers sitting in jail in England, and not many tearaways coming through the ranks like yesteryears, Pakistan has relied heavily on spin in recent times.
Reliance on spin is one thing, but a trio of spinners that dominate opposing batsmen in every game you play, is a luxury that only Pakistan has. Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, and Hafeez, all spinners if different varieties occupy spots 2, 4, and 6 in the leading wicket takers list for the year.
If I remember correctly, Afridi's 4 five wicket hauls during the year is one of the highest, if not the highest, by any bowler in ODIs in a calendar year.
Saeed Ajmal tops the list for best bowling average and economy rate for bowlers with more than 30 wickets during the year as well. It is no surprise then that he has risen to number 1 in the ICC Rankings for ODI bowlers.
Hafeez' outstanding form for Pakistan has also translated into a rise in rankings and with the year coming to an end, he currently sits at number 2 in the ODI bowlers list, number 2 on the ODI Allrounders list, and number 4 in the T20 Allrounders list.
2011 has surely been Pakistan's year. They have played ODI series against New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, and Ireland and won all of them.
Critics will say that they haven't played the top teams like Australia, South Africa, England, and India, but that doesn't matter, as Pakistan will play all of them next year.
What counts is that Pakistan has done better than all other teams in ODIs during 2011. And if it wasn't for 5 dropped catches and a Hawkeye error, Pakistan might have even won the World Cup!