I am deviating briefly from my coverage of my stay in Cornwall because mention was made of players from the past who would have been useful in franchise cricket during this morning’s BBL commentary on Test Match Special, and I got thinking about a franchise squad comprised of players who flourished before white ball cricket was played.
To be eligible for consideration under my rules players must have retired before the inaugural T20 cup took place in 2003. Also, unless a very good reason can be found players considered for this must have had some international experience. At least one recognized wicketkeeper must be in the squad.
I have named 15 for my squad, an envisaged first XI and four reserves.
The most consistently fast scoring batter in the game’s history (he reached 100 in less than an hour at the crease 11 times in first class cricket, and in a career that included 53 centuries he only once batted as long as three hours in), a gun fielder (his credits include a direct hit run out of Victor Trumper in a test match) and a crafty pace bowler. If one had a time machine to fetch him in his prime into the present day he would send an IPL auction into meltdown.
Quite simply the most complete cricketer who ever played the game – a batter capable of hitting six sixes in an over and who averaged 57.78 in test cricket, three bowlers in one (left arm seam and swing, slow left arm orthodox and slow left arm wrist spin, the latter of which would be especially useful in T20) and a brilliant fielder.
The best batter in the early days of ODI cricket and a brilliant fielder. In view of who else is available to bowl in this squad his off spin would be unlikely to be called on.
He averaged over 60 in test cricket, and although he never played ODIs due to South Africa being in isolation by the time that form of cricket took off he averaged over 50 in List A cricket with a best of 222 not out.
The only cricketer to have achieved the career triple of 10,000 runs (58,969 no less), 1,000 wickets (2,066 of those) and 1,000 catches (1,018) in first class cricket, and the only non-wicketkeeper to have pouched 1,000 catches.
An attacking middle order batter and the sort of medium pace nibbler who would be very useful in T20.
The only recognized wicketkeeper ever to score 100 first class hundreds, and he won the Lawrence trophy for the fastest hundred of the season twice in the first three years of its existence.
He achieved the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in a first class season 14 times in his career, including the only occasion on which anyone managed the ‘double double’ (1906, 2,385 runs and 208 wickets). An aggressive right handed bat and left arm pace bowler, he was also like Jessop what is now termed a gun fielder.
Probably (sorry Nathan Lyon fans, I do not buy your claims on his behalf) the best ever at what he did, namely bowling off spin. In 1956 he took 46 wickets in the Ashes series, including 19-90 in the 4th match at Old Trafford), and also helped his county to beat the Aussies by taking 10-88 (off 46 overs on a good wicket in the first innings of the match) and 2-42 in the second Aussie innings.
He bowled more overs in first class cricket (no List A in his day) than he conceded runs (25,699 overs bowled, 24,873 runs conceded), and captured just over 2,000 first class wickets. His impeccable length and canny variations of pace would make him an excellent option in T20. I also choose him as captain – he proved himself good at the job at a time when few professional cricketers got the chance (most captains in his era were, nominally at least, amateurs who did not get paid to play cricket).
Clarrie Grimmett (aka Scarl, Old Grum or Fox) the New Zealand born Aussie leg spinner took 216 wickets in only 37 test matches (he had to wait until he was 33 to get the call), and a record first-class tally for someone who never played County Championship cricket (1,424, again at just about six wickets per game). He was exceedingly economical, commanded a range of variations (and was forever experimenting with new types of delivery), and as such would seem made for T20 bowling (although like Shaw above he would probably not have been best pleased at being restricted to four overs per innings).
A stroke playing batter with a formidable record (over 50,000 first class runs including 167 centuries), a superb slip fielder and a very capable bowler (and in T20, knowing that he would not be bowling more than four overs at any one time he may have been a little less unenthusiastic about this aspect of his game than he was in first class and test cricket). He once hit the first five balls of a days play, bowled by no less a personage than Ted Macdonald, for fours, and according to reports it was only a good bit of fielding that stopped being six fours out of six for the over.
A slow left-arm bowler, a fine batter (he regularly opened for his country in test cricket) and a capable fielder. He was the first bowler in test cricket to run out an opposition batter for backing up too far, causing a controversy that continues to flare up every time something similar happens (my sympathies are exclusively with the bowler – the batter who gets run out is trying to gain an unfair advantage). If he were to be in the team it would be fun to have Ashwin in the ranks of the opposition!
An aggressive middle order batter, a fine fielder and a fast bowler who could also bowl off breaks, Procter could come in for anyone save Ames without the side as a whole suffering.
A very different type of legspinner to Grimmett, bowling at around medium pace and generating extra bounce (he was tall, unlike Grimmett), O’Reilly (though he would be voluble in expressing his dislike of the format, and I am quite certain that what he would have to say about The Hundred/ Harrison’s Harebrained Have a Hit would be unprintable) would be excellent at this form of the game.
This squad gives me a plentiful supply of attacking batters, a huge range of bowling options including every style of bowling and plenty of excellent fielders.
CONCLUSION, CHALLENGE AND PHOTOGRAPHS
For ease of references here is my squad listed without comments: 1)Gilbert Jessop, 2) Garry Sobers, 3)Viv Richards, 4)Graeme Pollock, 5)Frank Woolley, 6)Basil D’Oliveira
7) +Les Ames, 8)George Hirst, 9)Jim Laker 10)*Alfred Shaw 11)Clarrie Grimmett, Reserves: Wally Hammond, Vinoo Mankad, Mike Procter, Bill O’Reilly.
For the cricket fans among my readers here is a challenge: name your own franchise squad comprising players from before T20 cricket started, either directly in the comments, or in a post of your own which you link to in the comments below.
Here are a few Cornish photos to finish…