JUST four nations are represented in the final XI of Fairfax Media's team of 2012. That is not because the selection panel (of one) has a narrow view of the world, but it does reflect the concentration of power among a handful of Test countries, while the bottom six struggle.
Just one player from India, cricket's commercial and political heartland, commands selection, a consequence of that country's slide into complacency when it comes to Test cricket, and of a sobering home defeat to England.
There is no real bolter in the team, though the inclusion of Virat Kohli reflects the need to plan for the future.
To use a buzz acronym from the Argus review, South Africa's unflappable and adaptable Faf du Plessis is a PONI (Player of National Interest), who we hope will blossom in 2013. Du Plessis had a great deal to do with the Proteas keeping the No.1 ranking out of Australia's grasp, but he is just two Tests into his career. Look out for him in this year's team.
South Africa and England command seven places between them and it was a stretch to omit Graeme Smith, who scored more than 800 runs and, intent on an extended period of supremacy, led his team to series wins in England and Australia.
Australia wasn't represented in 2011 but is a team on the up and has contributed three players in 2012, including Michael Clarke, who is at the peak of his powers and will captain the side.
In keeping with modern trends, the fast bowling attack is picked from a platoon of pacemen, with Vernon Philander on the fringe, but three of the most durable quicks in the world make the final cut, so there should be no need for rotations.
1. ALASTAIR COOK
Seldom can there have been a more seamless transition from one captain to the next. A daunting first assignment in India was no sweat - seriously, he doesn't perspire - and produced three high-class centuries and England's first series win in almost three decades.
2. HASHIM AMLA
Though he doesn't open for South Africa, Amla is well-equipped to face the new ball and has a serene temperament that makes sledging useless. He slaughtered Australia's makeshift attack in Perth, combining with Smith for a staggering 206 runs in a session. Amla must not, under any circumstances, bowl.
3. JACQUES KALLIS
Kallis brings balance to this team. What a luxury to have a man with a batting average of 57 and 280 Test wickets in the top four. He emphasised his class and courage in Australia this summer, with important innings while hurt. His outswinger to Ricky Ponting in Adelaide arguably ended the champion's career.
4. MICHAEL CLARKE (c)
Clarke is the first man picked, with three double centuries, an average of 106, and more runs in 2012 than any Australian has scored in a calendar year. Though his preferred position is No.5, he is bumped up a spot in this team to allow for the initiation of Kohli at six. Clarke shades Cook for the captain's gig because he has led an evolving team to seven wins from 11 matches and asserted himself as a positive and imaginative skipper.
5. MIKE HUSSEY
His sudden retirement leaves us wanting more, much more. Risks being overshadowed by Clarke in this team, but he's used to that. He edges out Kevin Pietersen on the strength of a superior average and is a better team man. Will lead the team song.
6. VIRAT KOHLI
The last specialist batting spot goes to a rising player who started the year as India's leading run-scorer against Australia, and later fought through a difficult patch to finish with a mature century against England. Still has a bit to learn, including a more gracious on-field demeanour.
7. MATT PRIOR
Led the world's wicketkeepers with 36 dismissals in Tests in 2012, well clear of Australia's Matthew Wade and the West Indies' Denesh Ramdin. Prior played some pivotal innings in India, and can score at a rapid rate.
8. GRAEME SWANN
This is a contentious spot, as Swann was shaded by fellow Englishman Monty Panesar in India, while Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath had a statistically superior year. Swann, though, is a better all-round cricketer than both, and a fierce competitor who is effective on unresponsive English pitches.
9. PETER SIDDLE
A year of vegetarianism did not take the edge off the Australian's endurance or aggression. In this team, he can perform the grunt work in long spells while Steyn and Anderson are saved for short bursts. As Siddle showed against South Africa in Adelaide, where he bowled himself to the brink of delirium, he is the heart and soul of the attack.
10. DALE STEYN
His figures in 2012 were not the most spectacular, but he psyched himself up for when South Africa needed him most and produced the best ball of the summer to dismiss Michael Clarke in Perth. Forms a fearsome new-ball double with Anderson.
11. JIMMY ANDERSON
Anderson was the best-performed fast bowler in the world in 2012 and, in an era of rotations, bowled more overs than anyone, without breaking down. His performances in India suggest he doesn't need favourable conditions to be effective.
12TH MAN: RANGANA HERATH
It's difficult to overlook 60 wickets at 23.61. The clever left-arm orthodox spinner presents an excellent second spin option if conditions permit, and with surprising athleticism for his shape he will be a handy sub fielder.