International cricket has produced some fantastic performers over the last five years. From batters to bowlers and all-rounders, there have been some terrific match-winning efforts from players of different countries. Some performances have resulted in fabulous wins, while a few have been in vain. The players, though, have won much praise for their efforts. In this feature, we look at the top seven Test cricketers of the last five years.
1. Ben Stokes
England all-rounder Ben Stokes has been terrific for the team with both bat and ball. He has deservedly been handed over the captaincy of the Test team following the stepping down of Joe Root. Stokes has proved to be the premier all-rounder in Test cricket of the last half-decade. In 50 matches since January 2017, he has scored 3353 runs at an average of 37.67 with seven hundreds and 20 fifties, the Headingley ton being the standout effort. The all-rounder’s contribution with the bat has been significant too. He has claimed 98 wickets at an average of 31.54 with one five-wicket haul.
2. Joe Root
His captaincy may have been poor, but Joe Root has been the best batter in Test cricket over the last five years by some distance. His figures are proof of the same. Since the start of 2017, he has notched up 5691 runs from 67 Tests at an average of 48.22 with 16 hundreds and 27 fifties. While he has been exceptional at home, he has scored runs all over the globe as well. Root registered double hundreds in Sri Lanka and India during successive tours in 2020-21. In the home series against India, he smashed three tons last year and averaged a Bradmanesque 99 in the recently-concluded home series against New Zealand.
3. Nathan Lyon
Veteran Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon, true to his name, has been a lion-hearted performer for the country in Test cricket. He has been the leading wicket-taker in the game’s longer format since the start of 2017. He is the only bowler to have claimed over 200 wickets during this period. In 47 games, he has picked up 209 wickets at an average of 29.99 with 13 five-fors, and two 10-wicket match hauls. His consistency has been amazing, to say the least. Lyon claimed 56 wickets in 14 Tests during the 2019-2021 ICC World Test Championship cycle. In the ongoing championship, he already has 33 wickets from nine matches. Lyon claimed another five-fer in the ongoing Test against Sri Lanka in Galle.
4. Steve Smith
Australian run-machine Steve Smith was banned for a year in 2018 for his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal. He even lost his captaincy after that. However, despite the forced break from the game, it cannot be denied that Smith has been one of the best batters in Test cricket over the last half a decade. Since the start of 2017, the right-handed batter has scored 3347 runs in 37 Tests at an average of 57.70 with 10 hundreds and 17 fifties. His standout effort, of course, came on a comeback when he clobbered 774 runs in four Ashes Tests in 2019, averaging 110.57 with three hundreds and a best of 211. Earlier, Smith scored nearly 500 runs in the series in India in 2017. In the 2017-18 Ashes, he averaged 137.40 with three hundreds and a highest score of 239. He has lost a bit of steam in recent times and hence will be looking forward to finding his mojo again.
5. Kagiso Rabada
South African pacer Kagiso Rabada has been brilliant for his country in Test cricket over the last five years. He has the pace and the variations to trouble the best in the world irrespective of the conditions. Since the start of 2017, Rabada is the second-leading wicket-taker in Test cricket. During this phase, he has featured in 40 Tests and has claimed 195 scalps at an average of 21.85 with seven five-fors and three ten-wicket match hauls. He claimed 23 wickets in the 2017-18 series against Australia at home. Overall, he picked up 37 scalps in 10 matches during the 2019-2021 ICC World Test Championship cycle. Aided by 20 scalps in the home series against India, he already has 30 wickets in the ongoing ICC World Test Championship.
6. Ravichandran Ashwin
Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been the team’s leading wicket-taker in the Test matches over the last five years. Of course, most of his wickets have come at home in spin-friendly conditions. But, he hasn’t been a spectator away from home either. He was hugely impressive during the Test series win in Australia in 2020-21. Since the start of 2017, Ashwin has claimed 194 wickets in 42 matches at an average of 23.06 with six five-wicket hauls. He claimed 71 wickets in the 2019-2021 ICC World Test Championship, averaging 20.25 in 14 games. Ashwin already has 29 wickets from seven games in the ongoing WTC. The 35-year-old has also made decent contributions with the bat during this phase.
7. Virat Kohli
Former India captain Virat Kohli may not have scored a Test hundred since November 2019 but he was so prolific in the two years before that, he remains the second-highest run-getter in Tests of the last five years. In 48 Tests starting January 2017, Kohli has smashed 3834 runs at an average of 49.79 with 12 hundreds and 14 fifties. He averaged 152 in three Tests against Sri Lanka in 2017-18, 158.50 versus the South Africans with a career best of 254 not out in 2019-20. His last hundred came in the day-night Test against Bangladesh in November 2019 and he has completely gone off the boil after that. Kohli ended the 2019-2021 ICC World Test Championship with only two hundreds. In the ongoing WTC, he is averaging an underwhelming 31. Can Kohli turn around his fortunes?