Picking a World XI from ODI Cricket in 2013
With 2013 winding down, it's a good time to reflect on those that have defined a compelling 12 months in One Day International (ODI) cricket.
A packed schedule, added to by the ICC Champions Trophy, has ensured a plethora of limited-overs matches have been on showcase throughout the year.
India have unquestionably been the dominant side of this period and will enter 2014 as the world's No. 1 ranked outfit.
However, the chasing pack of Australia, England and South Africa aren't far behind, and with the 2015 World Cup on the horizon, the positioning of each team heading into cricket's marquee event will be fascinating.
Yet, before we get there, we need to select the finest ODI side of 2013—an immensely challenging task given the ultra-competitive year we have just witnessed.
Tough calls must be made, however, with the final team being presented in batting order over the following slides.
1. Rohit Sharma
ODI Matches in 2013: 28
Key Stat: 1,196 runs at 52.00
Rohit Sharma's dramatic explosion this year has elevated him into the world's finest collection of ODI batsmen.
After years of underwhelming performances, Sharma has transformed himself into a colossus in India's line-up, following a shift to the top of his side's order at the beginning of the year.
Two glittering hundreds and eight fifties have defined a magnificent 12 months—his 209 against Australia in Bangalore making him just the third player in history to reach an ODI double-century.
Finally coupling his sumptuous talent with meaningful performances, Sharma is perhaps the finest opener in the ODI format today.
2. Shikhar Dhawan
ODI Matches in 2013: 26
Key Stat: 1,162 runs at 50.52
Prior to 2013, Shikhar Dhawan had represented his country on just five occasions.
Twelve months later, the blazing left-hander is among the most devastating batsmen on the planet.
Alongside the classy Sharma, Dhawan has blazed his own formidable trail, compiling his runs at a strike rate of 97.89 to establish himself as an integral cog in India's world-beating side.
Of his five punishing hundreds in 2013, it's his 114 from just 94 balls against South Africa's lethal attack that stands out most.
Powering India to an ICC Champions Trophy triumph, Dhawan also tortured Australia in October, helping his team claim a dramatic 3-2 series victory over their fierce rivals.
3. Virat Kohli
ODI Matches in 2013: 34
Key Stat: 1,268 runs at 52.83
Completing a phenomenal Indian top three, Virat Kohli is arguably the most promising batting prospect in world cricket.
At just 25 years of age, handfuls of the game's records appear to be at his mercy—a record of 5,154 runs from 125 matches with 17 hundreds. An incredible return for a player of his age.
In 2013, he was breathtaking once again, hammering four hundreds and seven fifties in a manner that leaves others simply gobsmacked.
Following an outrageous 100 from just 52 balls against Australia in Jaipur, many wondered whether Kohli was the most complete batsman on the planet, convinced they had just watched the best innings of the year.
Just days later, he did the same again, plundering 115 not out from only 66 deliveries to ensure another emphatic victory for India.
4. Kumar Sangakkara
Team: Sri Lanka
ODI Matches in 2013: 23
Key Stat: 1,128 runs at 66.35
Kumar Sangakkara continued to display his excellence in 2013, putting together an incredibly impressive year to rival the feats of India's glamorous trio.
Perhaps the classiest operator in the ODI format, the Sri Lankan veteran compiled a remarkable 169 from just 137 balls against South Africa in Colombo in what was the best performance of the year at that stage.
Another hundred and nine fifties have completed a stunning return, with the left-hander holding his side together during a period of transition for Sri Lankan cricket.
However, the concern for Sri Lanka is that they remain extremely reliant on their 36-year-old veteran—something that needs to change if they are to challenge the likes of India and Australia for ODI cricket supremacy.
5. George Bailey
ODI Matches in 2013: 22
Key Stat: 1,098 runs at 64.58
George Bailey's rise in 2013 has been as unexpected as it has been brilliant.
A little more than a year ago, the 31-year-old was merely a player on the fringes of Australia's limited-overs teams.
Suddenly, he sits as his team's most accomplished ODI batsman.
The second-fastest man in history to 1,500 ODI runs, Bailey has defied the critics to bludgeon his way through a remarkable year, which has seen the right-hander compile his runs at a strike rate of 100.00—the highest mark among the top 15 run scorers of the year.
Showing immense leadership, Bailey also took over from Michael Clarke as captain for Australia's tour of India in October and November.
Needing to fill the void left by Clarke, Bailey hammered 478 runs in the series at 95.60 to signal his arrival as one of the world's best.
6. Shane Watson
ODI Matches in 2013: 17
Key Stat: 693 runs at 43.31
Despite his frustrating performances in the Test arena, Shane Watson makes it into the world's best ODI side of 2013 after a string of impressive performances in coloured clothing.
Edging AB de Villiers (1,163 runs at 52.00) out of this team because of the need for a fifth bowler, Watson's ability to thump rapid hundreds—combined with a knack for bowling tight overs—has placed the 32-year-old as the leading batting all-rounder of the year.
While consistent Test runs continue to elude him, the bulky right-hander has hit three brutal ODI hundreds this year, including a savage 143 against England in September.
Australia simply wish he could transfer this form into consistent Test runs.
7. MS Dhoni
ODI Matches in 2013: 26
Key Stat: 753 runs at 62.75
MS Dhoni has been the standout keeper-batsman again in 2013, regularly finishing off India's innings with both panache and brutal hitting.
Under his leadership, India had won every ODI series they had contested in 2013 before finally succumbing to South Africa earlier this month.
That immense run of form also saw India claim the ICC Champions Trophy, which was followed by a dramatic and highlight-filled triumph over Australia in October and November.
Dhoni also provided the most lasting ODI memory of the year, when he hammered James Faulkner for a colossal 110-metre six that came from his signature helicopter shot.
8. Ryan McLaren
Team: South Africa
ODI Matches in 2013: 27
Key Stat: 45 wickets at 23.77
Like Bailey, Ryan McLaren has enjoyed a breakout year in 2013, elevating himself from a fringe player to a vitally important member of South Africa's team.
In the role of a lower-order bowling all-rounder, McLaren has been the fourth most prolific wicket-taker of the year in ODI cricket, helping to cover the intermittent absences of Dale Steyn throughout 2013.
On four occasions, the right-armer has claimed a four-wicket haul, which has seen his average and strike rate sit amongst the world's best.
Adding to his value, McLaren has 372 runs at 28.61 to become an extremely valuable lower-order batsman for his side.
At a time when international teams continue to search for high quality all-rounders, South Africa appear to have unearthed yet another one.
9. Ravindra Jadeja
ODI Matches in 2013: 34
Key Stat: 52 wickets at 25.40
Ravindra Jadeja is another player to have enjoyed the most successful year of his career in 2013, becoming India's most reliable bowler during an extremely hectic 12 months.
Prior to 2013, Jadeja's record with the ball was less than impressive, with 57 wickets from 58 matches, at an average of 38.42.
With his average now plummeting and his economy rate improving as well, Jadeja has become a dynamic element of India's machine.
Particularly impressive against England at the beginning of the year, the left-arm spinner became one of the players of the tournament at the ICC Champions Trophy, producing tight and incisive spells for his captain to help propel India to victory.
With his team's batsmen firing, Jadeja is helping to elevate the side's standards with the ball.
10. Dale Steyn
Team: South Africa
ODI Matches in 2013: 13
Key Stat: 27 wickets at 15.85
Although Dale Steyn has endured an interrupted year, which has seen the world's pre-eminent bowler only compete in 13 matches, his stunning record simply can't be ignored.
An average of 15.85 is the second best mark for any bowler with more than 10 wickets, with a strike rate of just 26.0 only serving to make that even more impressive.
In fact, Steyn claimed 20 wickets in his last five matches of the season, destroying both Pakistan and India with typically lethal spells of fast bowling.
While his teammate Vernon Philander has temporarily overtaken him in the ICC's Test Bowler Rankings, Steyn is still widely considered the most complete bowler on the planet.
11. Saeed Ajmal
ODI Matches in 2013: 31
Key Stat: 56 wickets at 21.17
Perhaps the brightest part of Pakistan's year has been the sustained excellence of Saeed Ajmal.
The leading wicket-taker in ODI cricket in 2013, Ajmal has become the world's most dominant limited-overs spinner.
The 36-year-old, who is one of international cricket's late bloomers, has used his impressive variations to become a consistently threatening performer for his captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
Across 31 matches, the off-spinner has gone wicketless on just five occasions, rarely going at more than four runs per over in the process.
A 5-24 effort against India in January was arguably his finest performance of the year, closely rivalled by his 4-30 against South Africa in October.
Despite making a very late entrance to the international arena, Ajmal is doing his best to make up for lost time.