All Time XIs – Playing Cards vs Alliterative

Today’s ‘all time XI’ cricket themed piece of whimsy pits an XI with connections to playing cards against an XI with alliterative names.

INTRODUCTION

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.

  1. Jack Hobbs – right handed opening batter. The jack is the lowest ranking picture card in the deck, sometimes referred to as the knave.
  2. Jack Robertson – right handed opening batter. A worthy opening partner for ‘the master’.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. *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.
  6. Jack Gregory – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler, ace slip fielder.
  7. John King – left handed batter, left arm medium pacer. He had a fine record for Leicestershire over the years.
  8. +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.
  9. Bart King – right arm fast bowler, useful lower order batter. 415 first class wickets at 15.66.
  10. Jack Walsh – left arm wrist spinner.
  11. 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…

  1. Graham Gooch – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. 8,900 test runs at 42.38
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Mushtaq Mohammad – right handed batter, leg spinner. 3,643 test runs at 39.17, 79 wickets at 29.22.
  7. 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.
  8. *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.
  9. +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.
  10. Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner. 800 test wickets in his 133 appearances at that level – an average of six wickets per game.
  11. 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.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

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 CONTEST

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Time now for my usual sign off…

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PC v A
The teams in tabulated form.

 

All Time XIs – Non-Cricketing Birthplaces

My latest variation on the ‘All Time XI’ theme – an XI of cricketers with non cricketing birthplaces, which I then use for a little look at birthplace in cricket, mentioning a couple of current interesting cases.

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my latest variation on the ‘All Time XI theme. Today our XI are linked by born in ‘non-cricketing’ countries – which is to say countries not generally associated with the game, since the ICC, the sport’s global governing body has over 100 members and affiliates. After introducing the XI I will share some of my own thoughts on the relevance or otherwise of birthplaces. I will look at a couple of current cases in detail. Before moving in to the main body of this post I would like to thank the pinchhitter (latest post here), who you can also visit on twitter @LePinchHitter for including links to a number of my recent posts in their own efforts.

THE NON-CRICKETING BIRTHPLACE XI

  1. Paul Terry – right handed opening bat, born Osnabruck, Germany, 16,427 first class runs at 36.66. He played for Hampshire and briefly England. Even by 1980s standards his treatment by the England selectors was utterly disgraceful – he was pitched in at the deep end against the 1984 West Indies who were en route to a ‘blackwash’ of their hapless hosts (whether the 1980 or 1984 fast foursome was the more awesome combo is discussion topic for another post – in terms of pitching a debutant in against them it is a bit like asking whether a punch from Muhammad Ali or Jack Dempsey would do more damage), got horrifically injured and was callously cast aside, never to be heard from again at international level.
  2. Archie Jackson – right handed opening bat, born Rutherglen, Scotland, 4,383 first class runs at 45.65. I covered this man in the ‘what might have been XI‘. Although it has been the birthplace of some talented cricketers down the years, Scotland is not widely thought of as a cricket hot spot.
  3. Ted Dexter – right handed bat, right arm fast medium bowler, born Milan, Italy, 21,150 first class runs at 40.75, 419 first class wickets at 29.92. A swashbuckling no 3, a fine fielder and his bowling is by no means negligible. You can find out more about him in my Sussex post.
  4. George Headley – right handed bat, born Colon, Panama, 9,921 first class runs at 69.86 (he averaged 60.83 in test cricket, with 15 fifty plus scores, of which he converted ten into centuries, a conversion rate ahead of everyone other than Bradman. Also the progenitor of a cricketing dynasty that at the time of writing spans three generations (son Ron and grandson Dean) and two test teams (the West Indies and England), and may yet go to on to join the Cowdreys (all five players shown are of the same family) in producing a fourth successive generation of first class cricketers.
  5. Mike Denness – right hand bat, born Ayr, Scotland, 25,886 first class runs at 33.48. A fine batter for Kent and later Essex, his test average was actually six runs per innings higher than his first class, in spite of a horror run in the 1974-5 Ashes which induced him to drop himself as captain.
  6. Natalie Sciver – right hand bat, right arm medium, born Tokyo, Japan, 3,538 international runs at 31.87 and 104 international wickets at 23.23. A genuine all-rounder, her wickets tally looks low because of her internationals have been limited over and T20s. She is also an outstanding fielder. She also has a shot anmed after, the ‘Natmeg’ where the ball is played under the batter’s leg (descriptions of the ‘draw’, a shot favoured by some 19th century batters suggest she may not have been quite such a pioneer as this suggests, but there is no doubting the stroke’s value).
  7. *Freddie Brown – right hand bat, leg spin and occasional right arm medium, born Lima, Peru, 13,325 first class runs at 27.36, 1,221 first c;ass wickets at 26.21. He played county cricket for Surrey and Northamptonshire. After being part of the 1932-3 Ashes winning party but not playing a test match on tour, he next went on tour when he captained the 1950-1 Ashes tour party (the tour is sympathetically chronicled by Bill O’Reilly in “Cricket Taskforce” and Jack Fingleton in “Brown and Company”, two excellent reads both penned by Aussies). Brown’s team went down 4-1, dogged by injuries and ill luck, but his efforts as captain (third choice – George Mann and Norman Yardley were both offered the job but already had commitments they could not renege on) were universally appreciated. It was on that tour that with an already ill equipped bowling unit hit by injuries he turned to medium pace in an attempt to plug a gaping hole and did not fare badly. I reckon that with the combination I am giving him he would be both a good and a winning captain.
  8. +Geraint Jones – Wicket keeper and right hand bat, born in Papua New Guinea, 9,037 first class runs at 32.45, 599 first class catches and 36 first class stumpings. I mentioned him briefly in my Kent post, and also gave him a place in my ‘Tried and Untrusted‘ XI.
  9. John Barton ‘Bart’ King – right arm fast bowler and right hand bat, born Philadelphia, USA, 415 first class wickets (in 65 appearances at that level) at 15.66, 2,134 first class runs at 21.34. The original ‘King of swing’ – the first bowler to deliberately use swing as a weapon. Various first class counties tried to persuade him to settle there and play for them, including one county who tried an ‘out of the box’ approach – they offered to set him up with a wealthy widow who was a fan of the club if he would come and play for them. The very first international game of cricket was between the USA and Canada in 1844, while the first documented tour to leave English shores in 1859 was also to North America, and the first of WG Grace’s three overseas trips (in 1872-3) was to Canada and the USA. At one time the possibility was entertained of the USA joining England, Australia and South Africa as a test playing nation. Philadelphia was the strongest cricketing outpost in those parts, with the Newhall family also boasting impressive records. It would seem likely that King developed the technique of swinging the ball from baseball (as the slightly later Australian Frank Laver did, with remarkable effects in the test arena). The game of course did not build on these promising beginnings in that part of the world, although maybe with Liam Plunkett heading that way it will experience a rebirth there.
  10. Ole Mortensen, right arm fast medium bowler, right hand batter, born Vejle, Jutland, 434 first class wickets at 23.88, 709 runs at 8.97. Part of a Derbyshire bowling unit of considerable effectiveness, but one that was also decried by nativists (yes, USians, we have them too, although not usually in high office) because as well as him it featured Devon Malcolm, born in Jamaica, and Alan Warner who was actually born in this country but who was often assumed by those who judge on physical appearance not to have been.
  11. Ian Peebles – leg spinner, right hand bat, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, 923 first class wickets at 21.38, 2,213 first class runs at 9.13. Peebles did play a few games for England, and numbered Bradman among his test victims, but was largely victim of endemic English mistrust of wrist spinners. He had a distinguished county career with Middlesex. After his playing days were done he turned to writing and achieved arguably even greater success there, with “Woolley: Pride of Kent”, “Batter’s Castle”, “Spinner’s Yarn”, “The Fight For The Ashes 1958-9” and “Batters Castle” among his considerable and very readable output, which also includes a chapter on Pelham Warner in “Cricket: The Great Captains”. I would expect him to turn out a splendid chronicle of this team’s endeavours!

My team features a strong top five, two genuine all rounders, a keeper who can bat and three superb specialist bowlers. The bowling has five front liners plus Dexter, with spin options in Peebles and Brown, so that won’t let it down. The keeping, with Jones having the gloves is not of the very highest standards, and someone would have to make it clear to Jones that he is expected to stand up not just for the spinners but also for Sciver (some of whose wickets have come by means of stumpings) and possibly even Dexter.

SOME THOUGHTS ON THE (IR)RELEVANCE OF BIRTHPLACE

I am far more concerned about the quality of a cricketer than where they are born. If you can hire a top player do so regardless of their origins. What I object to is the use of second string foreign born players who qualify as ‘English’ on a technicality while having neither the intention nor the skill to play for England. Apart from anything else it has a record of proven failure – Leicestershire, one of the most notorious followers of this policy have been stone last five times in the last ten seasons. If somebody is good enough they might hail from a lunar colony (read Andy Weir’s “Artemis” for one version of how such a thing might work – come to think of it I could imagine Jazz Bashara faring pretty well as a crafty spinner!) for all that it matters. That said, there are a couple of current cases I am going to touch on…

SIMON HARMER

After playing five tests for his native South Africa with some success, Harmer, not thinking he was getting picked regularly enough decamped for this country, and a contract with Essex. He has been wonderful for Essex, a fact that I have acknowledged by naming him in my ‘All Time Essex’ XI, and that this year’s Wisden has acknowledged by naming him as one of the ‘five cricketers of the year’. He has now been based in this country for long enough to qualify by residence, and of course that means that thoughts are turning in some circles to whether to pick him for England. My answer is in the negative, not from lack of respect for Mr Harmer, nor from any worry over someone representing two countries – has happened before and probably will again, but because with Bess looking established in the off spinner’s spot for England and young Virdi doing brilliantly at Surrey I believe it would be a retrograde step and a slap in the face for the two players I have just named to select Harmer at this juncture. I will finish this subsection by re-emphasising that this is not anti Harmer in any way – both his play and his on-field conduct have been impreccable, it is about the best interests of England looking forward, which I consider to lie in developing and encouraging the young spinning talent that we have. That leads on to…

DUANNE OLIVIER

This young quick bowler made waves in his native South Africa, and like Harmer has actually played for them at international level, but he has now decided to make a life and a career for himself in England, and good luck to him. In a few years from now he will qualify for England, and the question will be whether to pick him or not. My answer will depend on the situation regarding English fast bowling at that time – if picking him means blocking the career development of a home grown talent then the answer should be “no”, but if the fast bowling situation is less rosy then there would be a serious case for picking him.

OVERSEAS AND ‘KOLPAK’ TYPE PLAYERS

On overseas players my feeling is straightforward: if you can get one of genuinely top class standard go for it, but don’t sign any old overseas player just for the sake of having one. With the ‘Kolpak’ types I would ask myself two questions: first, are they of top class or possessing the obvious potential to become top class?, second, am I sure that they offering me something that the players I already have cannot provide? If the answer to either of the foregoing is a no, then don;t do it, and if the answer to the first of the two questions is only a ‘maybe’ I would be strongly disinclined to proceed.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Our look at cricketers with non-cricketing birth places is done, and it now remains only for me to provide my usual sign off…

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The only flower that is fully out on my fuchsia – but there are a couple of other buds clearly visible.

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In among the gravel borders of my garden, a small sea shell.

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A collared dove among the greenery (only the giant pigeons of which there are far too many count as ‘aves non grata’)

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Non-cricketing birthplaces
The team in tabulated form.