Welcome to today’s piece of whimsy on the theme of ‘all time XIs‘. I will set out the brief in full detail before launching into the main body of the post.
TEAMS OF THE TALENTS EXPLAINED
The two teams consist of one chosen from players who I have witnessed in action, and one chosen from players I have only read about but would dearly love to see in action. While class has most emphatically not been ignored my two principal criteria for creating these teams was to encompass the maximum breadth of skills within 11 players and that the teams should be jam packed with entertainment value. Of course no two cricket fans would arrive at similar conclusions following this brief – indeed I would probably not come up with the same set of teams twice. Please feel free to comment with your own views on my creations!
TEAM OF THE TALENTS – HISTORIC XI
- Victor Trumper – right handed opening bat. This is the man who at Old Trafford in 1902, with England’s primary aim as stated by skipper MacLaren being to ‘keep Victor quiet before lunch’ was 103 not out by lunch on that first morning, having absolutely splattered MacLaren’s carefully set fields. On another occasion against South Africa he taunted the Saffer skipper Percy Sherwell as follows: every time Sherwell rearranged his field Trumper would hit the next ball somewhere a fielder had just been moved away from! Later, when commiserated on over being made to look foolish while Trumper hit 214 not out Sherwell responded “don’t worry, we have seen batting today”.
- *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying type. I could name no one else as captain of this team. He once said of his own approach to batting “I never liked defensive shots – you can only get three for them.”
- Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, brilliant close catcher. The “Pride of Kent” as Peebles subtitled his biography of Woolley. ‘Crusoe’ Robertson-Glasgow once wrote of Woolley that he was “Easy to watch, difficult to bowl to and impossible to write about” before going on to make a noble effort at doing the latter.
- Denis Compton – right handed batter, left arm wrist spinner. A running theme through his book “Playing for England” and demonstrated in practice by the way he played cricket is that cricket is a game and should be fun.
- Charles Townsend – right handed bat, right arm leg spinner. My choice from various options for the leg spinning all rounder – he was the second after WG to achieve the season double of 2,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches.
- Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete cricketer there has ever been and incapable of being other than highly entertaining.
- Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. The sort of cricketer for whom the phrase ‘worth the admission money on his own’ was invented, and a shoo-in for a team of this nature.
- +Jack Blackham – wicket keeper, right handed lower order bat. The game;s first great keeper.
- George Simpson-Hayward – right arm off spinner (under arm). 23 wickets at 18 in five test matches. The notion of him foxing international batters with his methods is irresistible to me.
- FR Spofforth – right arm fast bowler (later added considerable variations). The ‘Demon’ must have been seriously compelling to watch.
- Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. My pick for the greatest bowler ever. A new ball pairing of him and Spofforth would test anyone.
This team features a splenid opening pair, a wonderfully entertaining and contrasting pair at 3 and 4, three genuine all rounders at 5,6 and 7, with Townsend and Jessop flanking the incomparable Sobers, a great wicket keeper who could bat, and a splendidly varied trio of specialist bowlers. The bowling also looks rich in depth and variety, with nine of XI recognized bowlers, commanding between them a minimum of 11 styles (eight plus Sobers’ three).
TEAM OF THE TALENTS MODERN XI
- Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The Sri Lankan was the star of the 1996 ODI World Cup, but also did the business plenty of times at test level.
- Virender Sehwag – right handed opening batter, occasional off spinner. The only cricketer ever to have scored over 100 runs in each session of a day’s test cricket (nb Don Bradman at Headingley was 220 not out at tea, but only added 89 in the final session of that day).
- Brian Lara – left handed batter.
- Sachin Tendulkar – right handed batter, holder of a raft of records at test and ODI level.
- Viv Richards – right handed batter, occasional off spinner.
- Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler.
- +Adam Gilchrist – left handed batter, wicket keeper.
- Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middler order batter.
- *Shane Warne – leg spinner, right handed lower order bat. I have chosen him as captain of this side. His arrival in the scene, commencing with the ‘Gatting ball’ at Old Trafford in 1993 was the trigger for an international revival of spin bowling.
- Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, right handed lower order batter.
- Muttiah Muralitharan – right arm off spinner. I watched transfixed as he destroyed England at The Oval in 1998, taking 16 wickets in the match either side of a huge Sri Lankan total.
This team has an excellent top five, x factor players at six and seven and a suoerb quartet of front line bowlers. With Stokes and Jayasuriya also significant as bowlers this team has most bases covered bowling wise, although there is no left arm wrist spinner, and of course no under arm option.
The XI from my lifetime have a stronger batting line up, with Marshall listed at no10, but the historic XI have greater depth and variety in bowling. This contest would be a spectacular one, and I cannot call a winner.
This post was interrupted by illness, and I am still by no means well – we shall see whether I can manage another tomorrow or whether it has to be wait until Sunday, when I will come up with something. Now for my usual sign off…