Smith, Ashwin finish year on top of the world
Australia captain Steve Smith and Ravichandran Ashwin of India have finished 2015 as the number-one ranked batsman and bowler respectively in the Test Player Rankings, which were released on Thursday following the conclusion of the Boxing Day Tests in Durban and Melbourne.
Smith, who last week won the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the ICC Cricketer of the Year as well as the ICC Test Cricketer of the Year award, had entered the Melbourne Test in fourth position.
However, after scoring 134 not out and 70 not out, the 26-year-old has leapfrogged Kane Williamson of New Zealand, England's Joe Root and AB de Villiers of South Africa into the top spot.
Ashwin, in contrast, has achieved the number-one spot for first time in his career after injury prevented Dale Steyn from bowling more than four overs in England's second innings.
Even though the fast bowler bagged four wickets in the first innings, these were not enough for him to end the year as the number-one ranked bowler for the sixth time since 2009.
Steyn had started the Durban Test leading Ashwin by four points and now trails the India off-spinner by the same margin.
In the Player Rankings for Test Batsmen, Williamson, Root, de Villiers, Smith and David Warner had a chance to finish the year as the number-one ranked Test batsman after they were separated by 26 points in the lead up to the final Tests of the year.
While Williamson was busy in the ODI series against Sri Lanka, Root scored 24 and 73, de Villiers made 49 and 37 and Warner chipped in with 23 and 17.
Smith, who was also named in the ICC Test and ODI Teams of the Year, is the third Australia batsman in the last decade after Ricky Ponting (2005 and 2006) and Michael Clarke (2012) to finish the year as the number-one ranked batsman.
Other batsmen since 2005 to finish the year as the top batsman are Kumar Sangakkara (2007, 2010 and 2011), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (2008), Gautam Gambhir (2009) and de Villiers (2013 and 2014). Smith also finished 2015 as the leading run-scorer with 1,474 runs.
This performance is clearly reflected in his ranking; he started the year in fifth position, achieved the number-one position for the first time after the Kingston Test against the West Indies in June, before finishing the year on top of the tree after hovering inside the top five in the last quarter of the year.
In the ICC Player Rankings for Test Bowlers, Ashwin has become the first India bowler since Bishen Bedi in 1973 to achieve the milestone of finishing the year in number-one Test position.
In fact, Bedi, an ICC Hall of Famer, is the only India bowler to ever top the Test bowling table, while Bhagwath Chandrasekhar, Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble peaked at number-two during their careers.
Ashwin has finished 2015 as the most successful bowler with 62 wickets in nine Tests, and this is reflected in his ranking after he started the year in 15th position and slowly but surely moved to the top of the chart.
In the past decade, Shane Warne has finished in the top position in 2005 and Muttiah Muralidaran completed a hat-trick from 2006 to 2008, before Steyn got his grip on the top spot which was only broken in 2013 when his team-mate Vernon Philander topped the table.
Reacting to the news, Ashwin said: "Finishing the year as the number-one ranked Test bowler is like an icing on the cake that I have managed to build over the past last 12 months.
"I always wanted to get there one day. There cant be a better way to finish the 2015. Replicating what Mr Bedi did is something I am very proud of.
"The former India captain was a master at his craft and I am very humbled to follow in his footsteps. I would like to thank my Test captain Virat Kohli, who has been a big influence, and, of course, the team management, my team-mates and the BCCI for their continued support."
England's Stuart Broad was the second leading wicket-taker in 2015 with 56 wickets in 14 Tests. This includes five wickets in the Durban Test, which have proved to be the cornerstone of his career-high third position in the latest rankings.
Broad, who started the year in eighth position, has now become England's highest-ranked bowler after James Anderson who has slipped to fifth after missing the Durban Test due to an injury.
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