Today is Monday, and our ‘all time XI’ series of cricket posts usually covers an international set up on that day. Today varies the theme by acknowledging various countries who have produced the odd fine player but never a top ranking team. Some of the countries from whom I have selected players have or have had test match status, others aspire to such. I have included one player who actually did play for a major nation over a century before the land of his birth gained test status. The two XIs I have selected are named after their captains.
SHAKIB AL HASAN’S XI
- Freddie Fane – right handed opening batter. He played for and captained England in the early part of the 20th century, his international highlight being an innings of 143 against South Africa during the 1905-6 series. He was born in Ireland and is proof that that country has been producing talented cricketers for a long time. He is part of the select group of people to have read their own obituary – his cousin Francis Luther Fane – same initials, middle name and surname, had died, and somebody dug out the wrong obituary. Other members of this club include Mark Twain (“reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”)
- Tamim Iqbal – left handed opening batter. A man who currently averages 38.64 at test level, probably the classiest batter that Bangladesh have yet produced. Bangladesh’s elevation to test rank came too soon for them, and their record shows this only too clearly. They may eventually become a force to be reckoned with.
- *Shakib Al Hasan – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, captain. I have awarded him the no3 slot from where he had such a marvellous 2019 World Cup. He is currently serving a suspension for failing to report an unathorised approach from a bookmaker, but there is no suggestion that he has actually been involved in any sort of fixing, he appears to have accepted his punishment with good grace, and he had done enough before his fall from grace to earn his place.
- Andrew Flower – right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. The only Zimbabwean to ever be ranked world no 1 batter, he averaged over 50 in test cricket. He subsequently had a very successful career as coach, including guiding England to the world no 1 test ranking, a position they achieved in 2011.
- Steve Tikolo – left handed batter, occasional off spinner. His country, Kenya, have never had test status, but they rank fairly high in ODI cricket. Tikolo’s first class average of 48 is far in excess of his record in short form cricket, and suggests someone with the class and the temperament to succeed at the highest level.
- Alec O’Riordan – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. His first class record looks modest, but his mere 25 appearances at that level were spread across 15 years. He was the first, and for many years, the only person to have both scored 2,000 runs and taken 200 wickets for Ireland. His finest hour came at Sion Mills in 1969, when he combined with his skipper Doug Goodwin to dismiss the West Indies for 25 (and 13 of those runs came for the last wicket!) Ireland overhauled this total for the loss of one wicket, declared later in the day and took a few more West Indies wickets, Goodwin finishing with match figures of 7-7. It was scheduled to be a one innings per side match, so the result appears in the book as Ireland beat West Indies by nine wickets – everything that happened after Ireland had reached 26 was merely to give the crowd their money’s worth.
- +Mushfiqur Rahim – wicket keeper, right handed batter. He averages 36.77 in test cricket and is excellent behind the stumps. If a world XI of current test players was being picked he would be in the mix for the gloves – BJ Watling of New Zealand also has a good claim, and were he the incumbent Ben Foakes of England would be there as well.
- Mehidy Hasan – off spinner, right handed batter. Another Bangladeshi, and provenly capable of match winning performances – just ask England.
- Bart King – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The greatest cricketer ever produced by the US. His 415 first class wickets came at 15.66 each, and he also averaged 20 with the bat. He was one of the pioneers of swing bowling. At one time, thanks to the efforts of King and his fellow Philadelphians the US was not all that far from test match status. WG Grace toured North America in 1872-3 and was favourably impressed, though he expected bigger things from the Canadians than from the US.
- Rashid Khan – leg spinner, useful lower order batter. He has already experienced some success in the test arena (23 wickets at 21 each in four matches) although most of the cricket he plays is short form – I would applaud any county who had the courage to offer him a contract as their official overseas player for a whole season. He is the finest talent to emerge from Afghanistan to date, although as we shall see not the only one.
- Mashrafe Bin Mortaza – right arm fast medium bowler. He went on a little too long at the top, but in his prime he was decidedly sharp, and remains the best pace bowler to have come from Bangladesh.
This team has a solid batting line up, two genuine all rounders, a top keeper who can bat and lots of variety in the bowling: Right arm pace from King and Mortaza, left arm pace from O’Riordan, leg spin from Rashid Khan, off spin from Mehidy Hasan and left arm orthodox spin from Shakib Al Hasan.
MURRAY GOODWIN’S XI
- Jeremy Bray – left handed opening batter. He was of that generation who put Ireland firmly on the cricketing map but for whom test cricket came just too late. Am average of 52 in first class cricket suggests that he would have fared well at test level.
- Hazratullah Zazai – left handed opening batter. A first class average of 38, yet to get his chance in the test arena. His aggressive approach should complement the more old school approach of Bray nicely.
- Dave Houghton – right handed batter. One of Zimbabwe’s best, he once scored 266 in a test match, and averaged 43 in that form of the game.
- Mominul Haque – left handed batter. One of the few Bangladeshis to average over 40 in test cricket.
- *Murray Goodwin – right handed batter, captain. He played for Zimbabwe, once scoring a century against England in a test match. He retired early from international cricket, and proceeded to churn out bucketloads of runs for Sussex, including a county record 335 not out which secured them their first county championship (a feat they repeated twice in the following three seasons).
- Manjural Islam Rana – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He died in a road accident at the age of 23, but even at that young age he was averaging 36.26 with the bat and 25.97 with the ball in first class cricket – figures that suggest that had he survive Bangladesh may have had two Shakib Al Hasan type cricketers available to them.
- +Niall O’Brien – wicket keeper, right handed batter. Ireland’s elevation to test status came too late for him, but a first class batting average of 35.51 and 540 dismissals in 176 matches are some testament to his skill.
- Heath Streak – right arm fast medium bowler, useful lower order batter. Zimbabwe’s finest test bowler, with 216 wickets at 28 each at that level. He played county cricket for Warwickshire, once combining a half century with a 13 wicket match haul.
- Dawlat Zadran – right arm fast medium bowler. So far the only pace bowler of indisputable class to have come out of Afghanistan.
- Sandeep Lamichhane – leg spinner. Almost all his cricket has been played over limited overs, but his record in both List A and T20 is outstanding, and I would love to see him gain first class experience – I would applaud any county who signed him as their official overseas player. Nepal are not currently in the running for test status, and it takes a lot more than one player to make a case. Bangladesh and Ireland have both suffered from mistimed promotions – in Ireland’s case the promotion was confirmed just as the generation who had really earned it were bowing out, while Bangladesh’s came without sufficient scrutiny of their domestic structure. On overseas players I would add that is unlikely that a top player from really top ranking nation will be available for a whole season as they will have other commitments, and I would prefer a calculated gamble on a youngster who may well improve such as Rashid Khan, Sandeep Lamichhane or indeed the chap I will be mentioning next to the signing of someone who is established as not quite being top drawer. I would also say that an overseas player should not be signed just to tick that particular box – one should be certain they are bringing something to the squad that is not already available.
- Zahir Khan – left arm wrist spinner. We end with another Afghan (not be confused with Zaheer Khan, the Indian former left arm quick bowler), and another who has had little exposure to long form cricket and is still well and truly young enough to learn. Afghanistan’s promotion to test status appears to have been managed very well, and they recorded a victory in their second game at that level, the earliest time of such an achievement since 1877, when Australia won the first ever test match and England the second. Although they were winless in the 2019 World Cup they had their moments along the way, and I shall not be unduly surprised if in years to come we see an Afghanistan side that is truly a force to be reckoned with.
This side has a solid top six including a genuine all rounder, a keeper who can bat and four varied bowlers. There is no front line off spin option, but there are three very distinctive and different styles of spin represented. Heath Streak and Dawlat Zadran should make a good new ball pairing.
LINK AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK has produced a brilliant diagram comparing outdated beliefs about money with modern understandings of the same. I urge you to view the full post in its original setting by clicking on the screenshot below.
Now it is time for my usual sign off…