The year 2018 has entered its last month with no further ODIs assigned in the month of December for any team. The year started with a single objective for all the teams; to kick-start the preparations for the World Cup and get the combinations right. The qualifiers were one of the major highlights of the year where Afghanistan bounced back after defeats and trounced Zimbabwe and Ireland to book a spot in the World Cup. Not only that, but they also beat West Indies to win the qualifying tournament.
As the World Cup nears, most teams have zeroed in on their combinations and will look to the first half to 2019 as preparations for the World Cup. And there have been some teams who have highly depended on certain individuals. 2018 saw some brilliant individual performances and here we look at such players who form the ODI XI of the year:
Openers - Rohit Sharma and Jonny Bairstow
Only three players have scored over 1,000 ODI runs in 2018, one of them is Rohit Sharma, who is second only behind Virat Kohli on the list of most ODI runs in the calendar year. He has scored 1030 runs from 19 matches at an average of 73.57 and a strike rate of 100 with five centuries and three fifties.
So his inclusion in this XI is a no-brainer considering his incredible numbers in the calendar year. There have been some exceptional openers this year apart from Rohit, but the one who stood out among them was Jonny Bairstow. Like Rohit, Bairstow was not a regular opener, but once given a chance at the top, he transformed into a different batsman.
Bairstow has 1025 runs from 22 matches, at an average of 46.59 and a strike rate of 118.22, the highest among all other batsmen. With 4 hundreds and 2 fifties, Bairstow is the third highest run-getter this year.
Shikhar Dhawan, Fakhar Zaman, Tamim Iqbal, and Jason Roy were also brilliant. But it is Bairstow who partners Rohit at the top.
Middle Order - Virat Kohli (c), Ross Taylor and Shimron Hetmeyer
Virat Kohli is on a record-breaking spree and is setting a new benchmark for batting every passing year. Crossing 1000 runs in just 11 innings this year, Kohli has an aggregate of 1202 runs from 14 innings, at a strike rate of 102.55 and an incredible average of 133.55. With 6 hundreds and 3 fifties, Kohli is the highest run-getter this year. He is also the captain of the team. Kane Williamson, Joe Root, and Babar Azam are also strong contenders for the number three spot, but Kohli beats all of them by miles.
Ross Taylor seemed to have turned the clock back and was at his sublime best this year. In just 10 innings, Taylor piled up 639 runs at a staggering average of 91.28, which is second best of the year, and a strike rate of 88.87. With 2 hundreds and 4 fifties, Taylor fits in at 4, providing stability to the middle order. Other contenders for the slot include Eoin Morgan, Brendan Taylor, and Mushfiqur Rahim.
Shimron Hetmyer is a typical Caribbean batsman, with a fearless approach and effortless hitting abilities. He was a thorn in the flesh for India in the recently concluded series and is expected to play a key role for West Indies in the World Cup. Hetmyer has 707 runs to his name from 15 innings at an average of 47.13 and a strike rate of 111.51.
His six hitting abilities in the middle overs and his counter-attacking instincts in case of early wickets makes him the perfect candidate for number 5, ahead of the likes of Rahmat Shah, Sikander Raza, and Faf du Plessis.
Wicket-keeper and All-rounder: Jos Buttler and Shakib Al Hasan
Jos Buttler had a dream year where he his purple patch benefited not only England but also his IPL franchise. His exploits against Australia at home makes him an automatic choice for the wicketkeeper slot. Buttler accumulated 671 runs from 18 innings at an average of 51.61 and strike rate of 113.53, which makes him ideal for the number six slot. He is a natural finisher too, courtesy his big hitting abilities and his ability to improvise.
Shakib had a decent year, where he was in and out of the team due to injuries. He had 402 runs to his name from 11 innings at an average of 36.54 and strike rate of 79.76, with 4 fifties. He also has 18 wickets to his name in 12 games, at a strike rate of 32.2 and an impressive economy of 4.74. Shakib played a key role in Bangladesh reaching the finals of the Asia Cup. Among all the options, Shakib is the best option for the all-rounder slot because of the flexibility he provides.
Bowlers: Rashid Khan, Kuldeep Yadav, Lungi Ngidi and Jasprit Bumrah
Rashid Khan, the number 1 ODI bowler at the moment picks himself automatically in the XI. With 48 wickets from 20 games, Rashid is the highest wicket taker in 2018. He was impressive in the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe and was terrific in the Asia Cup, where he troubled giants like India and Pakistan.
Kuldeep is the second highest wicket-taker in 2018, with 45 wickets from 19 games. He has been amongst wickets in almost every game and was the key to India's series victory in South Africa. His 6/25 against England in England was a sign that he will be one of the bowlers to look out for in the World Cup. Kuldeep, along with Rashid and Shakib, forms a formidable spin trio.
Jasprit Bumrah, the second-ranked ODI bowler is an automatic choice, provides his expertise at the death as well as his skillful bowling at any stage of the game. He has not only been amongst wickets but has also been quite difficult to hit. India's difference in stats with and without him shows his importance to the team. Bumrah picked 22 wickets from 13 games, at a miserly economy of 3.62. He has been a complete package and will be key to India's chances in the World Cup.
Among pacers, Ngidi had a wonderful year. He improved a lot in the IPL with Chennai Super Kings and is now one of the best pacers of 2018. Ngidi has 26 wickets from 13 games at an average of 23.03 with 2 four-wicket hauls. He pips the likes of Rabada, Trent Boult and Mustafizur for the last spot in the XI. His wicket-taking abilities, his skills at the death and his ability to generate pace and bounce make him an ideal candidate to share the new ball with Bumrah.