I continue my exploration of the all time XI theme with a look at surnames beginning with the letter W. Such is the immense strength of players who qualify for this team that a second XI of near equal strength could easily be selected and some fine players would still miss out.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
- Frank Woolley (Kent, England). A left handed batter known for his excellence against fast bowling, a high class left arm orthodox spinner and a brilliant close catcher. He frequently opened for Kent, especially late in his career when he found the newer ball easier to see first up. This was the only way I could accommodate the only cricketer ever to achieve the triple career landmark of 10,000 runs (58,969), 1,000 wickets (2,066) and 1,000 catches (1,018).
- *Frank Worrell (West Indies). A right handed batter of high class (averaged 49 in test cricket), opening was one of his positions, though he could bat anywhere. He was also a useful left arm seamer, and one of the greatest of all captains, a role I have given him in this side. West Indies has unique features in international cricket terms, being in truth a composite side, with players from a number of different countries who usually view each other as rivals making up the XI. The number of captains who have overcome these rivalries sufficiently to create a genuinely unified and harmonious team totals two, Worrell, also the first black captain WI ever had, and Clive Lloyd.
- Everton Weekes (West Indies). Statistically the finest batter to have a surname beginning with W, having averaged 58.61 at test level. A powerful stroke maker, but one who believed firmly in keeping the ball on the ground. He was a dual international, having represented Barbados at contract bridge.
- Clyde Walcott (West Indies). A powerful right handed batter, occasional wicket keeper and even more occasional seamer. He averaged 56.62 at test level.
- Steve Waugh (Australia). Until 1989 his seam bowling was a makeweight which kept him in the team while his batting matured. The 1989 Ashes changed all that, as he began the series with two massive unbeaten centuries, setting a pattern that would endure from then until his retirement. He allowed his right arm medium-fast bowling to fall in virtual abeyance as his right handed batting flourished and he became one of the best in the world in that department. He made tough runs – his batting was crucial to the series win in the Caribbean in 1995 which set the seal on Australia’s ascent to the top of the cricket world, and on a pig of an Old Trafford wicket he chiselled out twin centuries to settle the match in favour of his side.
- +BJ Watling (New Zealand). A superb keeper and a gritty right handed middle order batter.
- Sammy Woods (Somerset, Australia, England). In his day one could only play county cricket by qualifying by residence for a county, which meant giving up playing for his home country. He turned for England against South Africa, but not, as Billy Midwinter had done against Australia. An attacking middle order batter, handicapped at Somerset by often having almost nothing to come after him and a right arm fast bowler of superb quality. He was also a fine captain, and with all respect to the guy one place below him in this order would be my choice as Worrell’s vice captain in this XI.
- Shane Warne (Hampshire, Australia). Arguably the greatest of all leg spinners (although Bill O’Reilly and Clarrie Grimmett both took more wickets per game at better averages), a fine slip fielder and a useful lower order batter, holding the record for most test runs without a century (HS at that level 99).
- Johnny Wardle (Yorkshire, England). A left arm orthodox spinner and a left arm wrist spinner (probably more needed in this latter category in this XI), and a hard hitting lower order batter. His career ended prematurely when he made the mistake of publicly criticising Yorkshire for their appointment of Ronnie Burnett as captain, but 102 wickets at 20.39 at test level is testament to his skill, and I don’t see Worrell having any problems handling him.
- Bill Whitty (Australia). A left arm fast medium bowler whose 14 tests yielded 65 wickets at 21 a piece, an excellent prospective new ball partner for the man one place below him in the order…
- Bob Willis (Surrey, Warwickshire, England). A right arm fast bowler. His ‘phoenix from the ashes’ turn around in 1981, when at Headingley he was called up for one final burst from the Kirkstall Lane end knowing that anything other than quick breakthroughs would spell the end of his test career and proceeded to blow Australia apart, claiming eight wickets in next to no time extended his test career by three years and meant that by the end he had claimed 325 wickets at the highest level, at the time an England record.
This is a superb XI, with a stellar top five, a keeper who can bat, an aggressive all rounder at seven and four wonderfully varied specialist bowlers. A bowling attack that features Willis, Whitty, Woods and Worrell to bowl seam, and Warne, Wardle and Woolley as spin options is top of the range by any standards.
This is its own way is the most difficult section of its type that I have yet had to write, and will feature many subsections. I am starting with three name checks because all with strong advocates for their inclusion.
A fine attacking left handed opener, but could only be accommodated by dropping either Woolley with is vast range of skills or Worrell, my chosen captain. Although I could quote sandpapergate against him I settle for saying that I had strong positive reasons for selecting Woolley and Worrell rather than reasons for not selecting alternatives.
‘Junior’ or ‘Afghan’ as he was referred to (the latter because of the delay compared to his twin brother in him getting international recognition – ‘the forgotten Waugh’) was a fine batter in the middle order in tests and opening in limited overs, as safe a slip fielder as I have ever seen in action and an occasional off spinner. However, the stellar records of my chosen specialist batters and my preference for five genuine bowlers left no space for him. If Aussies didn’t volubly disapprove of such things I would name him as designated substitute fielder.
One of the best batters in contemporary cricket, but just who out of Weekes, Walcott or S Waugh would I drop to make way for him? Sadly, as great as he is he has to miss out.
I have already dealt with Warner, but there are a stack of other openers who need to be mentioned. Bill Woodfull was a fine opener for Australia in his day, but a small mark against him as the considerable fall off from an FC average of 65 to a test average of 46, respectable rather than truly great. John Wright was a gritty and determined opener for New Zealand. ‘Plum’ Warner was the second England player ever to carry his bat through a test innings, and was also a notable captain. Siddath Wettimuny played a crucial role in the test match in which Sri Lanka first made the cricketing world treat them with respect, at Lord’s in 1984. His 190, which lasted until the third morning of the match was the underpinning of a Sri Lankan score of 491-7 declared. Shane Watson did well for Australia as a makeshift opener, but rarely produced really big scores. Albert Ward of England had a fine series in the 1894-5 Ashes but not the necessary consistent test success to merit any more than a mention. Finally, the silky skills of Laura Wolvaardt, for my money the best player of the cover drive of any contemporary cricketer deserve an honourable mention.
MIDDLE ORDER BATTERS
Doug Walters is probably the best middle order batter beginning with W that I have not yet mentioned. I considered acknowledging his partnership breaking skills as a medium pacer by giving him the number seven slot that I actually assigned to Woods, but preferred the genuine all rounder to the batter who bowled. Willie Watson was at the heart of one of cricket’s greatest rearguard actions at Lord’s in 1953, when England saved a match in which they looked beaten for all money, Watson holding out for approximately six hours. However his overall record falls short of greatness, so not even his left handedness could get him in. Another left hander who had to miss out was Vic Wilson, a gritty batter, Yorkshire’s first ever professional captain and a brilliant short leg fielder. Bob Woolmer had his moments for England, including three centuries, all against the oldest enemy, but he was a definite cut below top class. Imad Wasim of Pakistan is not quite good enough with the bat to qualify, and in a team already featuring Woolley and Wardle his left arm spin is a non-factor.
David Wiese of Sussex and Namibia would have been one of the first names on the team sheet had I been picking with limited overs in mind, but his FC record while good is not on a par with his limited overs record. Rockley Wilson had a good record for Yorkshire and did well for England when getting a late call up, but is chiefly known for his work at Winchester College where one of his charges was a certain DR Jardine. Vyell Walker shares with WG Grace the distinction of scoring a century and taking all ten wickets in an innings of the same first class match, but I needed a fast bowling all rounder.
Other than Watling I considered John Waite and Harry Wood of England for the gloves, but neither have the weight of achievement that Watling does.
Two injury blighted England quicks of different eras, Mark Wood and Alan Ward missed out. Willie Watson of New Zealand had a respectable test record, but like many others of his era his main job was to support Richard Hadlee. Arnold Warren of Derbyshire took five cheap wickets on his only test appearance. Daniel Worrall, an Aussie born seamer who has played a lot of county cricket was another to miss out. Probably the best quick bowler I overlook was Thomas William Wall of Australia, but his average ended up the wrong side of 30 due to the strength of the batting he came up against and the fact that he was often the only quick bowler in the side. Luke Wood, a left arm quick, is just beginning to make a name for himself, and may displace Bill Whitty in time. Mike Whitney of Australia was called up in an injury crisis after just six FC appearances, and established a respectable record. William Woof, the first player ever to sign a professional contract with Gloucestershire, was a left arm bowler who took 754 FC wickets at less than 18 a piece, but the fact that he was never chosen to play for England tells against him. Similarly, Tom Wass of Nottinghamshire, a right arm bowler of fast medium or leg spin who took 1,666 FC wickets at 20.43 just misses out, partly because the leg spin aspect of his bowling would not get much use in this XI.
JC ‘Farmer’ White was a very fine left arm spinner, essential to England’s success in the 1928-9 Ashes, but lost out to Wardle due to the fact the Yorkie could bowl wrist spin as well as orthodox, whereas White could only bowl orthodox. Had the leg spinner’s slot not been an automatic selection I would have considered Amanda-Jade Wellington of Australia. Doug Wright, taker of seven first class hat tricks, was too inconsistent to qualify.
PLAYERS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
Tom Walker of Hambledon had to be overlooked due to lack of a verifiable career record, but as the first cricketer ever to have been styled ‘old everlasting’ he deserves a mention. John Willes and Edgar Willsher were key contributors to two major transitions in bowling history – the former the introduction of round arm, and the latter the move from round arm to over arm. Tom Wills was involved in the 1868 tour of England by a team of aboriginals and also created Aussie Rules football to give Aussie c.ricketers a way to keep fit during the close season.
Two players who would otherwise have merited considerable thought, Waqar Younis and MaX Walker were needed for other letters of the alphabet – X requiring a considerable degree of chicanery to fill.
ONE FOR THE FUTURE
Isabelle Eleanor Chih Ming Wong, generally known as Issy Wong, is a young quick bowler who has also had her moments with her aggressive batting, including a 94 (33) in domestic cricket. In ten years or so, if she keeps improving in both disciplines she may challenge Woods for the number seven slot.
Our cricketing journey through the letter W is at an end and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…