Ranked! The Top 7 players of 2020

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. And, even the otherwise limelight-hogging cricketers haven’t been spared. Cricket matches had to be suspended or cancelled owing to the deadly spread of COVID-19 across the globe. In fact, cricket is only just beginning to get back on its feet, the highlight of which has been some riveting Test cricket produced by India and Australia, Down Under. With curtains coming down on 2020, we look back at the top seven performers in what was an unpredictable year in every sense. 1. Ben Stokes The England all-rounder carried on from the great run he had in 2019. He played multiple high-quality knocks and chipped in with the ball at crucial times. Even as the world around him changed, Ben Stokes remained cricket’s equivalent of constant. In 13 matches across formats, Stokes notched up 767 runs at an average of 51.13 with two hundreds and as many fifties. He smashed 120 against South Africa in the Port Elizabeth Test and 176 against West Indies at Manchester. With his medium pace, the all-rounder claimed 18 wickets at an average of 18.84. Another year to remember for Stokes, on the cricket field. 2. Kane Williamson New Zealand have had a wonderful run in international cricket this summer, barring few hiccups like the 5-0 whitewash in the T20Is at the hands of India. Even there, Kane Williamson came back with his reputation intact. He was excellent right through 2020, a year in which he even became daddy for the first time. Williamson played 11 international matches in the year and accumulated 757 runs at an average of 63.08 with two hundreds and four fifties. The Kiwi skipper registered his career-best of 251 against West Indies at Hamilton. In the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan at Mount Maunganui, he contributed 129 in the side’s victory, as both Williamson and New Zealand ended the year on a high. 3. David Warner What David Warner means to Australian cricket is evident from the scramble to get the left-hander back in shape for international cricket, following his injury during the 2nd ODI against India in November. In his absence, Australia have struggled at the top, especially in the first two Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against India. Warner’s record speaks for itself, and 2020 is only a reiteration of his value to Australian cricket. In 18 matches this year, across formats, he has slaughtered 807 runs at an average of 50.43 with two hundreds and six fifties. He began the year with a hundred in the New Year Test against New Zealand at Sydney and followed it up with a brutal 128 not out in the Mumbai ODI. There were some match-turning knocks in T20Is as well. The fact that he finds himself on the list despite missing all the international action in December proves how good he has been. 4. Tim Southee At the start of the year, if someone said Tim Southee would end 2020 as the leading wicket-taker, he would have been laughed off. Southee was mercilessly assaulted by Indians in the T20Is, particularly in the Super Overs, which has been New Zealand’s Achilles’ heel. However, the experienced pacer fought back commendably well, and signed off 2020 by becoming only the third Kiwi to cross 300 Test wickets. Southee ended 2020 with a handsome haul of 46 wickets in 17 international matches, averaging a highly impressive 21.73. He exacted sweet revenge from the Indians, claiming nine wickets in the Wellington Test, and seven at the same venue against West Indies. Southee found his mojo back in T20Is as well, claiming 4 for 21 in the Hamilton encounter against Pakistan. Some stunning turnaround that was for Southee. 5. Kyle Jamieson Few cricketers in recent times have made the kind of impression as pacer Kyle Jamieson in his debut year. Jamieson, in fact, won the man of the series for his stupendous show against West Indies in the two-Test series. The stand-in captain for the Wellington Test, Tom Latham was effusive in his praise of Jamieson, when he said, "His contributions have been outstanding in his short Test career that he`s had so far.” That’s a massive compliment for someone starting out. Looking at the brilliant numbers he produced in 2020, Jamieson played 11 matches across formats and picked up 31 wickets at an excellent average of 18.12. Jamieson registered two five-wicket hauls in his very first year in international cricket -- 5 for 45 against India at Christchurch and 5 for 34 against West Indies at Wellington. Jamieson pitched in with contributions with the bat as well, lower down the order. 6. Steve Smith But for his poor run against India towards the end of 2020, Steve Smith would have finished much higher in the order. As it is, he has done enough to find a place in the Top 7 of 2020 despite managing only 99 runs in his last eight innings of the year. Even with the barren run at the latter stages, Steve Smith finished 2020 as the third leading run-getter in international cricket. In 22 international matches, Smith amassed 858 runs at an average of 40.85 with three hundreds and as many fifties. He smashed 98 and 131 in the ODIs against India at the start of the year, and followed it up with back-to-back hundreds at Sydney towards the end of 2020. But for the late slump, Smith might as well have ended up as the leading run-scorer of 2020. 7. Jos Buttler England wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler began the year uncertain of his spot in the Test team. However, he ended it with his place in the longer format secure for now. Further, he tasted amazing success after being promoted to open in the T20I matches. Buttler scored exactly 800 runs in 20 international matches in 2020, at an average of 36.36, numbers that read like an ode to symmetry! The dashing keeper-bat had one hundred and five fifties to show for his efforts. Buttler registered his career-best score of 152 in the Southampton Test against Pakistan. He hammered an unbeaten 77 from 54 against Australia in a T20I at the same venue, and rounded off 2020 with an easy-going 67 not out from 46 at Cape Town, as the Englishmen inflicted a 3-0 whitewash on the Proteas in a surprisingly one-sided T20I series. (Note: Only those cricketers who have featured in all three formats in 2020 has been considered.)