Today’s ‘all time XI‘ cricket themed exercise sees an eleven whose names have an association with playing cards take on an eleven whose first names and surnames begin with the same letter. There are a few extra sections in which I explain various selection difficulties as well.
THE PLAYING CARD XI
Playing cards is a well known way of passing time in the pavilion when not directly involved in the action. Apart from his distaste for ‘taking candy off babies’ one of the explanations offered for Keith Miller’s first baller at Southend in 1948 (the 721 in a day match) is that he was enjoying a winning streak at the card table, which further increased his disinclination to involve himself with the slaughter of the Essex bowling. Mike Brearley once had some stern words to say about card playing in the Middlesex dressing room, creating a brief silence which was punctuated when someone finally piped up “whose deal is it then?”. Finally, at Melbourne in 1982 Australia resumed on the final day needing 37 to win with one wicket left, and Rod Marsh insisted that those in the pavilion should resume what they had been doing in the final session of the previous day, which in the case of Marsh and a handful of others meant playing cards and drinking beer. Marsh’s ‘superstitionship’ as Stephen Potter would have called it proved unavailing, as England did eventually get that last wicket and won by three runs.
- Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The jack is the lowest ranking picture card in the deck, sometimes referred to as the knave.
- Jack Robertson – right handed opening batter. A worthy opening partner for ‘the master’.
- Collis King – right handed batter. His most famous innings was played in the final of the 1979 World Cup, when he and Viv Richards took England’s bowlers to the cleaners.
- Ryan ten Doeschate – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. The Dutchman had a first class batting average of 46, and in ODIs for the Netherlands he averaged 67. He is the only one who gets in by association with a spot card – courtesy of having ten in his name.
- *Jack Mason – right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler, excellent captain. He played regularly between 1893 and 1906, after which his work as a solicitor restricted his appearances. He averaged 33 with the bat in first class cricket and took his wickets at 22 runs each. As well as his considerable skill as a player he was a highly rated captain. Frank Woolley, not generally noted for hyperbole, rated him the best captain he ever saw.
- Jack Gregory – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ace slip fielder.
- John King – left handed batter, left arm medium pacer. He had a fine record for Leicestershire over the years.
- +Jack Board – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Good enough to amass nine first class hundreds over the years, with a best of 214, but not a consistently big scorer – he averaged 19.37 in first class cricket, which I believe is the lowest for someone who scored a double century, with Jason Gillespie averaging 19.59 and having a best of 201 not out. However, 851 catches and 355 stumpings are the real reasons for his inclusion.
- Bart King – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. 415 first class wickets at 15.66.
- Jack Walsh – left arm wrist spinner.
- Jack Saunders – left arm medium pace bowler, left arm orthodox spinner. His 14 test matches left him with a batting average of 2.29, but also 79 wickets at 22.73, including an Ashes retaining moment, when he cleaned up Fred Tate at Old Trafford in 1902 to give Australia victory by three runs and put them 2-1 up with one to play, meaning that as Ashes holders they kept possession of the urn.
This team has a solid batting line up, with everyone down to Bart King at no 9 capable of significant contributions. The bowling, with Bart King and Jack Gregory taking the new ball, pace back up available from Mason, John King, Saunders in his quicker style and at a pinch ten Doeschate, and Walsh and Saunders offering different styles of left arm spin also looks impressive.
NEAR MISSES AND EXCLUSIONS
Jack Brown of Yorkshire was an excellent opening batter, and I was close to including him. Two players known as ‘Jack’ who I had to disqualify on grounds that it should be considered a nickname and not genuinely connected to their first names were Clifton James Richards of Surrey and Robert Charles Russell of Gloucestershire. Another great wicket keeper who missed out was Jack Blackham Australia’s first test wicket keeper. Surrey’s 21 year old batter who bowls a bit Will Jacks does not yet have a record of sufficient substance to merit inclusion, but there is certainly talent there, and his time may well come. Doubtless readers will have examples of their own.
THE ALLITERATIVE XI
Now it is time to defy that famously contradictory ‘commandment’: Always assiduously avoid all alliteration…
- Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. 8,900 test runs at 42.38
- Gordon Greenidge – right handed opening batter. 7,558 test runs at 44.72. These two could have become a regular opening pair, because the Barbados born Greenidge was educated in Reading, and might have chosen to throw his lot in with England rather than the West Indies.
- Richie Richardson – right handed batter. 5,949 test runs at 44.39. At the height of his career he was ranked no 1 batter in the world.
- Steve Smith – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. 7,227 test runs at 62.84 to date, an average that if he maintains it will see him second to Bradman among those who have played 20 or more tests.
- Colin Cowdrey – right handed batter. 7,624 test runs at 44.06. He played 114 test matches in all, and was the first to play a three figure number of such games.
- Mushtaq Mohammad – right handed batter, leg spinner. 3,643 test runs at 39.17, 79 wickets at 29.22.
- Sydney Smith – left arm orthodox spinner, left handed batter. Born in the West Indies, he played most of his career for Northamptonshire. He averaged 31 with the bat and 18 with the ball in first class cricket, missing out the career double of 10,000 runs and 1,000 wickets by 45 wickets.
- *Frank Foster – left arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. He averaged 26.61 with the bat and 20.75 with the ball in first class cricket, and he took an average of 4.5 wickets per match.
- +Robert Charles ‘Jack’ Russell – wicket keeper, left handed batter. A very handy person to be coming at no 9, but it is his 1,192 first class catches and 128 stumpings that get him the nod.
- Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 test wickets in his 133 appearances at that level – an average of six wickets per game.
- Colin Croft – right arm fast bowler. With Garner, Holding, Roberts and the young Malcolm Marshall as colleagues he was part of the meanest fast bowling machine ever assembled by any side in the history of cricket.
This team has an excellent top five, three genuine all rounders, a keeper who is by no means a ‘bunny’ with the bat and two master bowlers at 10 and 11. The bowling, with Croft and Frank Foster sharing the new ball, and Murali, Sydney Smith and Mushtaq Mohammad to bowl varieties of spin looks strong and well balanced. An extra quick would be nice, but accommodating them would be tricky.
SPECIAL MENTION: PETER POLLOCK
The best alliteratively named fast bowler after Croft is Peter Pollock of South Africa. Croft played 27 test matches and took 125 wickets at 23.30 at that level. Pollock played 28 test matches and took 116 wickets at 24.18. The only two players I could drop to accommodate Pollock would be Richie Richardson or Colin Cowdrey.
AWESOMELY ALLITERATIVE ASSOCIATES
Cecil Charles Coles Case, known as ‘Box’, obviously wins the alliterativeness stakes hands down, but he was a specialist batter who averaged only 22, so I could not include him. Robert Richard Relf, a Sussex bowler of fast medium pace and good enough batter that his career averages were the right way round (28.41 with the bat, 27.49 with the ball) was very close to inclusion, but Foster’s clear superiority as a bowler and the fact the he bowled left arm got him the nod.
There were huge numbers of possibilities. William Maldon Woodfull was a fine opening batter for Australia, but was generally called Bill. Conversely Billy Bates, the England off spinning all rounder was actually Willie in full, and hence he appears in records as W Bates. John Jameson had a fine record for Warwickshire but was a distinct cut below the very highest class. Paul Parker was a magnificent fielder but did not quite have the batting record to justify a place. Two Aussie keepers, Ben Barnett and Richie Robinson might have had Russell’s place, as might Ben Brown of Sussex or the Indians Parthiv Patel and Deep Dasgupta, but I felt it would be harsh to rule him out of two XIs on the same day. A hard hitting middle order batter and sometimes effective purveyor of medium pace who might have his advocates is the Aussie Mitchell Marsh. George Geary’s CV includes two Ashes winning moments, as he took the last wicket to fall at The Oval in 1926, and belted the four through mid on that won the match at Melbourne in 1928-9 to put England 3-0 up with only two matches to play. Chris Cairns the Kiwi all rounder would have his advocates as well. Two fine fast bowlers of the 19th century, John ‘Foghorn’ Jackson and Martin McIntyre, both with Nottingham connections, were also among the possibles. Finally, 23 year old George Garton has shown some promise as a left arm fast bowler, but his record needs considerable improvement before he can be considered. Two players named Willie Watson, the Yorkshire and England left handed batter and the Kiwi right arm medium pacer might have their advocates, while another Yorkie, Tom Taylor enjoyed some success in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Mulvantrai Himmatlal ‘Vinoo’ Mankad was a possibility for the place I gave to Sydney Smith, and Bishan Bedi was a great left arm orthodox spinner. Pakistani batter Wajahatullah Wasti one scored twin tons in a test match, but his overall record did not quite merit inclusion.
The only thing I can say for sure about this contest, which in honour of a great writer about the game I shall describe as being for the ‘Raymond Robertson-Glasgow Trophy’ is that it would be an absolute humdinger.
Time now for my usual sign off…