Composite: Babar Azam, Virat Kohli, Smriti Mandhana and Dwayne Bravo
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Who played the most cricket in the 2010s?

Nobody could keep up with England, or Kohli. Our latest player-workload survey has the details

S Rajesh, Girish TS, Shiva Jayaraman   |  

Two thousand nineteen was a tough year for Moeen Ali: he played five Tests, 14 ODIs, and zero T20Is - that is a total of 33 days of cricket, which included an ODI washed out without a ball bowled. But there was a time, not long ago, when Ali was the busiest international player going. In 2016, he played a whopping 98 days of international cricket: 17 Tests, 15 ODIs and nine T20Is - nearly three times the number he managed in 2019.

In the last decade, going back to January 2010, no player has had more days of international duty in a calendar year; Ali's 98 days is tied on top with Joe Root, also in 2016. That was the year, too, in which county veteran Jeetan Patel played an extraordinary 148 days of high-level cricket, comfortably the highest last decade.

For the last two years, the Cricket Monthly has been surveying cricketers' workloads over a 12-month period (starting from near the end of the English season, which coincides with the beginning of the season in several other countries). But the pandemic, which has derailed the cricket calendar this year, made this a pointless exercise for 2019-20. This time, instead, the survey covers the period of an entire decade - the 2010s. We look at the busiest cricketers in calendar years during the period, both men and women, in all formats, with bat and ball. Additionally, we also take a look at some of the busiest teams and players over the decade as a whole.

The numbers clearly bring out the influence of T20 in the cricket calendar over the last four years. While the top numbers from first-class, List A and even international matches tend to have come from the 2010-15 period, most of the top T20 numbers are from the last four years.

Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Most international days
It is no surprise that two England players head this list, given that they play more Tests than any other team. In 2016, for example, while England played 17 Tests - Ali and Root played all of them - the next highest was India with 12, followed by South Africa and Sri Lanka with nine each. Root reappears in the list at No. 7, with 88 days in 2013, while Graeme Swann is the fourth England entry in the top ten, with 86 days in 2010.

In third and fourth positions are two Sri Lankans, thanks to the 32 ODIs the team played in 2014; Angelo Mathews played all of those, while Kumar Sangakkara played 28. The top nine entries on this list are all from before 2017.

In terms of number of international matches in a year, Mathews' 52 games in 2014 leads the way. All five instances of a player appearing in 50 or more international games in a year are from Sri Lanka or Pakistan. Following Mathews are Sangakkara (51 in 2012) and Mohammad Hafeez (51 in 2013), Tillakaratne Dilshan (50 in 2012), and Saeed Ajmal (50 in 2013).

Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In terms of the entire decade, Virat Kohli was busier than anyone else. With 668 days of international cricket in the 2010s, he was a full 60 days clear of Mathews, the only other player with a workload of 600-plus days.

The top ten is dominated by batsmen, with Hashim Amla, Alastair Cook, Kane Williamson and David Warner in the six-ten segment. There are only two specialist bowlers in the top ten: Stuart Broad, in third place, and James Anderson, in ninth. The first spinner on this list is R Ashwin, at No. 15, with 453 days of international cricket.

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Most high-level days
In 2016, Patel, the New Zealand offspinner, played 28 first-class matches, 17 List A games, and 22 T20s, which added up to 148 match days. Only three of those games were internationals - two Tests and an ODI - but Patel was exceptional on the county circuit, taking 69 wickets for Warwickshire, the most by any bowler in the Division One Championship that season.

The rest of the top 11 is dominated by South Africans who also played the English county season: Colin Ingram (2015), Neil McKenzie (2010), Zander de Bruyn (2010), Alviro Petersen (2011), Jacques Rudolph (2010) and Imran Tahir (2010). All these players were largely domestic giants, with little or no international games in those years.

The one exception was Marnus Labuschagne, in what turned out to be a sensational 2019, he played 136 days of high-level cricket, of which 46 were in internationals. (None of the others in the top ten had more than nine international days.) That he also scored 1104 Test runs for Australia at 64.94 - the only batsman to score 1000-plus Test runs in 2019 - puts his year into perspective.

Labuschagne was also the only entry in the top 11 from after 2016; seven of the 11 were from 2010 or 2011.

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The busiest women
Since we don't have complete data for all high-level women's cricket for the decade, we have only looked at international matches here. Note, however, that the numbers for players who topped the table for high-level days and matches in 2019 (Alyssa Healy led with 71 days and 66 matches) were far higher than the figures for this internationals matches-only list.

Three Indians headed the charts: in 2018, Poonam Yadav, Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana played each of India's 37 international matches (12 ODIs and 25 T20Is). All three had a terrific year: Mandhana was the leading run scorer in ODIs with 669 runs at 66.9, Kaur's T20I aggregate of 663 was second only to Suzie Bates', while Poonam Yadav was the top wicket-taker in T20Is (35 wickets), and the joint-highest in ODIs (20).

The next three were all South Africans: Trisha Chetty and Mignon du Preez did 36 days of international duty in 2014, while Marizanne Kapp had 35. The highest entry for an Australia or England player was No. 11, where Australians Erin Osborne and Meg Lanning slotted in with 33 days in 2014.

In terms of most balls faced in a year, though, England's Charlotte Edwards is on top with 1275 deliveries in 2011 (she faced 424 of them in a Test against Australia). Ellyse Perry (1237 balls in 2016) and Mandhana (1211 in 2018) were the only others to face 1200-plus international deliveries in a year in the last decade - Perry and Mandhana did so without playing a Test. In terms of most balls bowled, West Indies' Stafanie Taylor led with 1207 in 2013, followed by Australia's Jess Jonassen (1194 in 2017) and Yadav (1169 in 2018).

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Most first-class games
In 2019, Labuschagne played 31 first-class matches, the only instance of a player appearing in more than 30 first-class games in a calendar year last decade. He averaged 55.16 in these 31 matches, which, incidentally, was almost ten runs lower than his Test average of 64.94. The rest of the entries are all from before 2017, and are a mixed bag of players - from those who played a fair number of Tests to others who played none.

When it comes to most Tests, though, England players reign supreme. The seven instances of a player appearing in 15 Tests in a calendar year are all from England, and out of 22 instances of 14 Tests in a year, 19 are England players. The three exceptions are Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar (in 2010) and Peter Siddle (2013). That is ample proof of the highly skewed distribution of Tests.

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Most List A games
In 2013, India and Pakistan played 34 ODIs each, the joint-highest by any team in a calendar year last decade (India also played 34 in 2011). Suresh Raina and Misbah-ul-Haq played each of those games for their respective teams, which helped them rack up a big tally of List A matches that year: Raina had 45 and Misbah 41. That five of the top six are from Asia indicates the preponderance of the 50-over game in the subcontinent.

Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Most T20 games
While ODIs form the bulk of List A games for the busiest 50-over players, T20s are largely about multi-team franchise tournaments. The most active T20 players are format specialists who ply their trade across the world: it will surprise no one that the West Indians Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard were the three players with the most T20 matches in a calendar year last decade. What also stands out is the number of teams these top players represented in the respective years: Bravo, Rashid Khan, Andre Russell and Brendon McCullum played for seven teams each, while Narine, Pollard and Shakib Al Hasan played for six.

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Most balls faced in international cricket
Kumar Sangakkara dominated the balls-faced category: in fact, even his second-highest year is better than the best by any other player. In 2014, he faced 2608 balls in Tests, 1432 in ODIs and 115 in T20Is; his numbers in the two longer formats were outstanding too, with averages of 71.90 in Tests and 46.51 in ODIs. His team-mate Angelo Mathews had a terrific 2014 as well, averaging 77.33 in Tests and 62.20 in ODIs. Cook, Kohli and Williamson also feature in the top six.

While there is only one instance of a batsman facing 4000-plus balls in international cricket in a year, there were seven such occurrences in first-class cricket. Australian Chris Rogers led the way with 4915 balls in 2013. The other names near the top are Adam Voges (4386 in 2015), Cheteshwar Pujara (4384 in 2017), Labuschagne (4382 in 2019) and Dean Elgar (4370 in 2017).

Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Over the decade taken as a whole, Kohli is on top. He faced 26,185 deliveries in international cricket in the 2010s, 17% more than Amla's tally of 22,331.

Among countries not represented in the graphic above, the top Sri Lankan is Mathews at No. 6 (18,255 deliveries), Steven Smith's 17,748 is the best by an Australian, Pakistan's topper is Azhar Ali (16,548), Bangladesh's best is Mushfiqur Rahim (14,555), and West Indies' is Darren Bravo (12,130).

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Most balls bowled in international cricket
This list is dominated by spinners, and offspinners in particular. Graeme Swann has consecutive entries in the top three. The top spot, however, goes to Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal, who sent down nearly 4500 international deliveries in 2013. Ajmal's super-busy year encompassed 2454 deliveries in Tests, 1839 in ODIs - the most by a bowler in a year last decade - and 204 in T20Is. Swann's 3806 Test balls in 2012 were the most in a year in that format.

The most international deliveries bowled by a fast bowler were 4008 by Anderson in 2012, of which 3398 were in Tests. The next highest was also by Anderson - 3688 in 2013, at No. 16. The best by a fast bowler not named Anderson was by Pat Cummins - 3645 balls in 2019.

Across first-class, List A and T20 games, the most balls bowled in a calendar year last decade was a whopping 8023, by Patel in 2016. That is more than a thousand clear of the next best - 6955 by Simon Harmer in 2018. Patel appears again in third place with a workload of 6799 deliveries in 2013.

Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

In terms of the entire decade, there are three fingerspinners in the top five. But at the very top, remarkably, we have two fast bowlers: England's trusted duo of Anderson and Broad sent down in the region of 27,000 international deliveries each in the 2010s.

Among the countries not represented above, New Zealand's Tim Southee (21,799 balls) and Trent Boult (19,925) are both in the top ten, while Morne Morkel (18,282) and Dale Steyn (16,927) were the busiest among the South Africans. Bangladesh were led, as ever, by Shakib (18,233), while Ajmal (16,004) and Kemar Roach (13,217) were the first names on the list for Pakistan and West Indies.

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The busiest international allrounders
Over the last decade, there have been seven instances of allrounders bowling and facing 1750 or more international deliveries in a calendar year. Only one of those instances came in the last three years (Ben Stokes in 2019), which suggests how difficult it is to put in the workload required with bat and ball across formats in these times of extremely crowded cricket calendars.

And while there are seven such instances, only five allrounders have achieved the feat, with Hafeez and Stokes doing it twice each. Ali's 4128 balls in 2016 form the heaviest bowling workload among these seven instances, while Shane Watson's 2847 in 2010 are the most balls faced. Adding up the balls bowled and batted by each of these players, Ali's tally of 6376 is the highest.

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Most balls faced in T20 cricket
Babar Azam is the top-ranked T20I batsman according to the ICC rankings, and with good reason: since the start of 2018, he has averaged 47.1 in all T20s, at a strike rate of 132.3. In 2019 he faced 1151 deliveries, the most by any batsman in a calendar year last decade in the format. He made excellent use of those opportunities too, scoring 1607 runs at a strike rate of 139.6.

Kohli's T20 form in 2016 was extraordinary: he faced 1097 balls and averaged 89.66 at a strike rate of 147.1, with 18 scores of 50-plus in 29 innings. The highlight was his IPL record that year - 973 runs at an average of 81 and a strike rate of 152.

McCullum, James Vince and D'Arcy Short round off the top five: all of them faced 1000-plus deliveries at strike rates of 130-plus. All of the top five instances came after 2016, which isn't surprising given the T20 explosion over the last few years.

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Most balls bowled in T20 cricket
Three players occupy the top five here, and they are all giants of the format. In 2016, Bravo bowled 257.1 overs in T20s at an economy rate of 8.27; he also picked up 87 wickets, the second highest ever by any bowler in a calendar year. Narine didn't pick up as many wickets - only 62 - off the 244.1 overs he bowled in 2017, but his economy rate was stellar: 6.19.

Positions three to five belong to one bowler: Rashid Khan. In 2018 he bowled 233.5 overs and helped himself to 96 wickets, the most ever by a bowler in a calendar year; the previous year he had bowled 213 overs at a scarcely believable economy rate of 5.53; 2019 was a fall, but only from his lofty standards: 65 wickets in 212 overs, at an economy rate of 6.87.

These are the only instances of a bowler bowling 200-plus T20 overs in a calendar year.

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The busiest T20 allrounders
In the last decade, there were only ten instances of a player bowling and batting 600 balls or more in T20 cricket in a year. Five of those are from before 2013: Pollard and Scott Styris in 2010, and Azhar Mahmood, Bravo and Marlon Samuels in 2012. In fact, the only such effort after 2017 is from Afghanistan's all-round giant Mohammad Nabi in 2019.

At first glance this might suggest that true allrounders are a dying breed in T20s too, but a three-year period is too short a duration to reach this conclusion: there are no entries in the period between 2013 and 2015 period as well, but four entries in 2016 compensated for that drought. Bravo is the only allrounder to appear on this list more than once: he did the 600-ball double in 2012 and 2016.

Adding up the balls bowled and batted by each of these players, Bravo's 2016 tally of 2275 is the highest.

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The busiest teams
In 2010, India played 14 Tests, 29 ODIs and seven T20Is; in 2016, England played 17 Tests, 18 ODIs and 10 T20Is. In both cases, the total workload for the teams - in terms of actual days on the field - amounted to 102, the highest in a year for any team in international cricket last decade. Sri Lanka were just one day adrift of the mark in 2017, with a mix of 13 Tests, 29 ODIs and 15 T20Is.

England and India - and to a lesser extent Australia - dominated the top ranks, which only confirms the skewed nature of the cricket calendar. Of the top 16 entries for most international days in a year, six belong to England, five to India, three to Australia, and two to Sri Lanka. South Africa's first entry is at No. 35, and that was back in 2010, when they played 77 days of international cricket. In comparison, England and India played more than 77 days of cricket in seven of the ten years this survey covers.

England were comfortably the most prolific Test team - six of 11 instances of a team playing over 12 Tests in a year are theirs, while India and Australia feature twice each, and Sri Lanka once. In the ODI list, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka occupy six of the top seven places, with England making their first appearance at No. 9, and Australia at No. 12.

The T20I topper is a surprise: Netherlands played 26 T20Is in 2019, followed by Ireland, who played 25, also in the same year. Among the top teams, India's 21 in 2016 was the highest.

Overall, England's 871 days of international cricket in the 2010s was a good 36 days more than second-ranked India, and an astounding 205 more than seventh-ranked South Africa. In percentage terms, England had almost 31% more days of international cricket in the last decade than South Africa. England played 126 Tests in this period, compared to the 83 that Pakistan and West Indies did, and New Zealand's 84. Of the five most prolific Test players of the decade, four were Englishmen - Broad, Cook, Anderson and Root.

The subcontinental teams were more active in white-ball cricket, though: Sri Lanka topped the ODI chart with 266 matches, followed by India's 257, while Pakistan led the T20I count with 123, followed by India's 110.

S Rajesh is ESPNcricinfo's stats editor, Girish TS is a designer, and Shiva Jayaraman is a senior stats analyst