The deciding ODI between England and India is intriguingly poised as I start this post picking the greatest XI of cricketers with surnames beginning with B (see the As). Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy is within sight of The Open Championship and five of the most unpleasant human beings anyone could conjure up are engaged in a battle to make Sauron look like one of the good guys as a way of securing the Conservative party leadership and with it the post of Prime Minister.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Charles Bannerman – Australia. The Kent born opener scored 165 in the first ever test match innings, and even with him scoring that many his team could only tally 245 all out. He also impressed in his native land during the heavily rain affected summer of 1878, though that tour did not feature a test match.
Sidney George Barnes – Australia. A combination of WWII and continual skirmishes with the authorities limited his test career to 13 matches, but a batting average of 63 speaks for itself.
*Donald Bradman – Australia. The most prolific batter the game has ever seen, his test average of 99.94 leaves a respectable career average (around 40) between him and the best of the rest at that level.
Ken Barrington – Surrey and England. The Berkshire born right hander averaged 58 at test level, with a best of 256 at Old Trafford in 1964.
Allan Border – Essex and Australia. The nuggety left hander pretty much was Australia’s resistance batting wise for about the first 10 years of his illustrious career. In the last few years of that great career, with Australia a good side, he played some excellent attacking innings. He would be the vice-captain of this side, as an acknowledgement of his status as the best skipper Australia have had in my lifetime.
Ian Botham – Somerset, Worcesstershire, Durham and England. For a few years he was a genuinely great all rounder, for a few more after that he was a producer of occasionally devastating performances. England selectors of the period during and after his final decline spoiled many a promising career by trying to get decent young cricketers to fit into the Botham shaped hole opening in England’s ranks.
+Wasim Bari – Pakistan. Pakistan’s best ever wicket keeper, and unlike some of his successors in that post there were never any questions asked about where his real loyalties were.
Billy Bates – Yorkshire and England. His brief test career was ended by a freak eye injury sustained during net practice, but 656 runs at 27 and 50 wickets at 16 at that level are some testament to the off spinning all rounders capabilities. He took England’s first ever test hat trick, part of a match performance that yielded 55 in the only innings he had to play and seven wickets in each Australian innings.
Richie Benaud – Australia. Before becoming ‘the Bradman of TV commentators’ (yes I believe he was that far clear of the best of the rest in that role) the Aussie leg spinning all rounder became the first to achieve the test career double of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets.
Sydney Francis Barnes – England. Probably the most skilled bowler of any type ever to have played the game. Like his near namesake who is opening the batting for this XI he had a less than harmonious relationship with the authorities. He played little county cricket because he was paid better for being a professional for various clubs in the northern leagues. This meant that he played less than half of the test matches that England played between the start and end of his test career. Nonetheless, 189 wickets in 27 matches at 16.43 a piece is sufficient evidence of the trouble he caused even the best opponents.
Jasprit Bumrah – India. He burst on the scene at the end of 2018, taking a cheap six-for in that year’s Boxing Day test in Melbourne. He is now established as one the finest contemporary pace bowlers, and is still young enough that he should still be improving. He would form a seriously potent new ball combination with Barnes (sorry Beefy, in this line up you don’t get the new ball).
This team has a heavy scoring top five, a colossus of an all rounder at six, a top drawer keeper, two bowlers who can bat and two of the greatest specialist bowlers. The bowling, with Barnes and Bumrah sharing the new ball, Botham as back up pacer and two contrasting spinners in Benaud and Bates is both strong and well balanced.
The team has no left arm orthodox spinner, and two who came very close were the Indians Bishan Singh Bedi and Palwankar Baloo. However, the only people I could have dropped to make way for one of them were Bates or Benaud, and that would have weakened the batting. Bill Brown (Australia) and Jack Brown (Yorkshire, England) were two fine opening batters, either of whom might have been selected instead of Bannerman. Jonny Bairstow missed out due to the extreme strength of batting available here and the fact that he has blown hot and cold (currently blazing hot) through his career. Two South Africans, Eddie Barlow and Colin Bland were very close to selection – the former missing out to Ian Botham and the latter to the general batting strength available, though he is of course designated fielding sub in the event of anyone having to leave the field. Bill Bowes was the best pace bowler to miss out and would certainly be in the tour party for this letter. West Indian speedsters Winston and Kenny Benjamin were also fine players, but no one is persuading me that they get in ahead of Barnes and Bumrah (or indeed Bowes). I also regretted not being able to accommodate Somerset and England’s Len Braund, resourceful batter, good leg spinner and brilliant slip fielder. West Indies batter Carlisle Best was ruled out for the same reason I had to rule out Keith Arthurton in the previous post – not enough substance to go with the style.
My account of the first day of India v England in Chennai, plus some photographs.
This post deals with day 1 in Chennai, where India and England have been doing battle. For those of us here in the UK coverage has been available on Channel Four for TV fans (which I am not – don’t look here for any comments about TV coverage) and on Talksport 2 for radio fans who want live commentary (TMS have been running a ‘cricket social’ on n 5 live sports extra). The time difference between the UK and India, and my preferred methods of following the game meant that at 3:45AM local time I was tuned into talksport2 and had a cricinfo window open on my computer for extra detail.
England were without Zak Crawley due to injury but did have Stokes, Pope and Archer all available and all were duly selected. England also departed from their stated rotation policy with the veterans and gave Anderson a second successive match. Fortunately, for all that some who should have known better were spruiking such a move England did not pick Moeen Ali. The selected lineup was thus: Sibley, Burns, Lawrence, *Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Bess, Archer, Leach, Anderson. India meanwhile had lost left arm spinner Axar Patel to injury. Somewhat surprisingly they opted not pick wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, going instead for deepening their batting by picking both offspinners, Sundar and Ashwin, both of whom are handy with the bat alongside a debutant left arm spinner, Shahbaz Nadeem. Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat. Indian skipper Kohli, being a sensible chap, did not resort to the ‘psychological ploy’ of saying that he would have bowled anyway (note to captains who still do this, no one is buying it, OK?) opting instead for honesty.
The morning started quietly, but with no great trouble for England. With 15 minutes to go until lunch the score was 63-0, but then Burns essayed a reverse sweep, not wise on day one of a test match and especially not so close to lunch, and edged the ball to Pant who took the catch. In the next over the unfortunate Lawrence got an absolute beauty from Bumrah and was pinned LBW and it was 63-2. The third umpire then spent ages agonizing over a decision on a potential run out after Root was a bit dozy, but fortunately he had made his ground. England took lunch at 67-2, and Root and Sibley were able to regroup. Post lunch scoring was slow initially but neither batter looked in any real trouble. Things picked up somewhat in the second half of the afternoon session and England reached tea at 140-2, with Root playing superbly and Sibley doing precisely what he was in the side to do: bat time and get some miles into the bowlers legs.
After tea Root hit the accelerator, while Sibley continued to be an excellent foil at the other end. Sundar was bowled comparatively sparingly, and was expensive and sadly posed little threat. Nadeem’s debut was marred by the bowling of several no-balls (pretty much inexcusable for a spinner), leaving only Ashwin as genuinely threatening spinner. The faster bowlers were better, Ishant being accurate enough to command respect at all times, and Bumrah bowling splendidly and deserving rather more reward than he actually got.
There were three scheduled balls of the day remaining and we were deep into the half hour over spill in which overs can be bowled when another corker of a ball from Bumrah pinned Sibley LBW. Because we were already over time, the dismissal ended play for the day, which means that England will resume on 263-3, Root 128 not out and Stokes the new batter. Root’s innings was a gem, his handling of the spinners especially brilliant. Sibley was rocklike until that fourth last ball of the day beat him, and his determined effort should not be overlooked. Root’s first innings scores in his last three tests have been 228, 186 and now 128 not out with power to add. In terms of an English batter going big successively in two different away countries I can think only of Hammond in 1933 who scored 101 and 75 not out in the fifth and final Ashes test and then produced scores of 227 and 336 not out in New Zealand in the next two games as a performance to rival Root’s.
Sundar’s figures of 12-0-55-0 indicate the problem with picking someone in a bowling role based on their batting ability, and underline the rightness of England not selecting Moeen Ali who is undoubtedly a less skilled practitioner with the ball than Sundar.
Root and Stokes need to get England through the first hour of tomorrow, and then England should have India where they want them. Root after the close made it quite clear that England are aiming to go big, and on this surface which appears to be very unresponsive that is necessary – I reckon that at minimum England need to double their current score before they can feel in control of things. However, I would much rather be in their shoes than India’s at the moment, hence the title of this piece.
There has been some sun today, and the finches are out in force here in North Lynn…
Today’s all time XI cricket post faces Janus-like in two directions simultaneously, towards the past and the future of this great game.
Welcome to the final post in this All Time XIscricket series – as I start typing it the test match at the Ageas bowl is about to get underway following weather delays. England have won the toss and chosen to bat, in view the correct decision grey skies notwithstanding. This post takes its name from the Roman god Janus because it faces two ways – a look at cricket’s past in the form of a team selected for a combination of entertainment value and class, and a look to the future with a team largely comprising up and coming players, with the topical exception of the captain.
TS ENTERTAINMENT XI
*WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of varying types through his career. ‘The Doctor’ just had to be the captain of this side, with his outstanding approach and his attack minded approach. One quote “I never like defensive strokes – you can only get three for them.” Against Kent in the match after becoming the first to 100 first class centuries he made 257 as Gloucestershire replied to Kent’s 470 with 443 of their own. Kent then slumped to 78 all out in their second innings, and Gloucs needed 106 in an hour and a quarter to win, and Grace was on 73 not out when they got there just in time, having been on the field fior the entire match, and with his 47th birthday less than two months away.
Victor Trumper – right handed opening batter. At Old Trafford in 1902 he scored a century in the morning session of day 1. In a wet season he amassed 2,570 first class runs for the touring Australians, including 11 centuries.
Frank Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner, excellent close fielder. The only non-keeper to take 1,000 first class catches. At Lord’s in 1921 in the face of Gregory and McDonald against whom his colleagues could offer no resistance he scored 95 and 93. His highest first class score, 305 not out in a tour match on the 1911-2 trip to Australia, came from number three.
Charles Macartney – right handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. He scored centuries in the second, third and fourth matches of the 1926 Ashes, the second of the three, at Leeds coming before lunch on day 1. In 1921 he scored 345 in 232 minutes against Nottinghamshire, reaching 300 in 198 minutes.
Garry Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket, brilliant fielder. The most complete player ever to play the game, and the most automatic of selections for a team of this nature.
+Les Ames – right handed batter, wicket keeper. Twice winner of the Lawrence Trophy for the fastest first class hundred of the season, three times he achieved the keeper’s season double of 1,000 runs and 100 dismissals (only John Murray of Middlesex, who did so once, achieved the feat in all the rest of cricket history). He executed 418 first class stumpings, an all time record.
Gilbert Jessop – right handed batter, right arm fast bowler, brilliant fielder. The ultimate in x-factor players. 53 first class centuries and only once did he bat for over three hours in a single innings.
Billy Bates – off spinner, right handed batter. 16 test matches, 50 wickets at 16 each and a batting average of 27. He was the first England bowler to take a test hat trick, as part of a match performance in which he took 14 wickets and scored 55 in England’s only innings.
Frank Tyson – right arm fast bowler. The ‘Typhoon’, producer of possibly the fastest bowling ever seen, during the 1954-5 Ashes tour when he bowled England to victory after they had been stuffed in the opener at the Gabba (that series remains the last Ashes series down under won by a side who lost at the Gabba).
Sydney Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler. Probably the greatest bowler ever seen. His signature weapon, ‘the Barnes ball’ was a leg break at fast medium pace, the nearest subsequent approach to which was Alec Bedser’s speciality. Incidentally it was from this no10 slot that he played his most important innings, the 38 not out that saw England to victory at the MCG in 1907, when they lost their eight wicket still 73 adrift, and their ninth still needing 39. Arthur Fielder of Kent was the no11 who assisted Barnes in that final partnership. In Barnes’ last test series, when he took 49 South African wickets in four matches before missing the fifth after a dispute, he took 17-159 in the match at Port Elizabeth, not a venue generally regarded fondly by bowlers.
William Mycroft – left arm fast bowler. 138 first class matches, 863 wickets at 12.09, including a 17 wicket haul in a losing cause against Hampshire in 1876 (the crucial innings was played by one Reginald Hargreaves, who later married Alice Pleasance Liddell, aka the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland”). He may have inspired the name of Mycroft Holmes (Doyle was fine cricketer as well as being a fanatical follower of the game, and Mycroft and brother Thomas played for Derbyshire as fast bowler and keeper, while Frank Shacklock and Mordecai Sherwin, from whose surnames one can get Sherlock played the same roles for Nottinghamshire), and in this XI he has a team mate with the middle name Holmes (Frank Holmes Tyson).
This team has an excellent top six, the ultimate in x-factor no 7s and four very fine and varied bowlers. Tyson, Barnes, Mycroft, Bates, Woolley, Sobers, Grace, Jessop and Macartney provide a wealth of bowling options. Do you open with Mycroft and Barnes and have Tyson come on first change, do you open with Tyson and Barnes and bring Mycroft on first change, or do you attempt to persuade Barnes to accept coming on first change so that you can open up with Tyson and Mycroft?
HONOURABLE MENTIONS AND SEGUE
Of course I have a stack load of regrets about players I could not accommodate, and many of you will have ideas of your own, but my principal regrets are:
Could not find a place for Denis Compton’s batting and left arm wrist spin bowling.
No place for Keith Miller.
Tyson was one of three choices for that slot – Harold Larwood, who also terrorized the Aussies in their own backyard and Charles Kortright of Essex were both in my thoughts.
Bill O’Reilly, Doug Wright, Derek Underwood, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar and Jack Iverson were all highly individualistic bowlers I would have loved to be able to accommodate.
Having attended to the past it is now time for…
TS FUTURE STARS XI
Prithvi Shaw – right handed opening batter. Has a remarkable record for someone so young, and will surely be a superstar before too many more years have passed. India would not want to break up the Sharma/ Agarwal opening pair an earlier than necessary, but perhaps they could accommodate Shaw by playing him at 3, with Kohli at four.
Dominic Sibley – right handed opening batter. His South African tour pretty much established him in the England side, especially his first test century. The restart of test cricket has not been good for him – in the brief passages of play that the weather has allowed he has been dismissed for a duck, but he will be back scoring runs again before long.
Shreyas Iyer – right handed batter. He has a magnificent record in all forms of cricket that he has played, and that will surely continue when he gets his chance at test level.
Daniel Lawrence – right handed batter, occasional off spinner. He played at no 4 in last week’s warm up game at The Ageas Bowl and made 58 in the first innings, and was then not called on to bat in the second. He was then left out of the test squad, with Denly being chosen for the batting spot vacated by Joe Root being on paternity leave. His time will surely come soon.
James Bracey – left handed batter, occasional wicket keeper. He made 85 in that warm up game at the Ageas Bowl, and again was overlooked for the test match. He has done some work on his wicket keeping, but regards himself primarily as a batter, and that is the role I see him playing for England when he gets the call up.
*Ben Stokes – left handed batter, right arm fast bowler, captain. The one member of this side who is indisputably established at the very highest level, and in a nod to what is happening at the Ageas Bowl I have named as captain.
+Ben Foakes – wicket keeper, right handed batter. England’s best (and worst treated) current wicket keeper. Among 21st century keepers his only rival with the gloves is the now retired Sarah Taylor, and he averages over 40 for those few tests he has been selected for. Bairstow is no longer able to perform in red ball cricket, and Buttler is barely even a competent keeper, and has never had a good red ball batting record, and yet it is this latter named individual who is currently taking the place behind the stumps that should be Foakes’. Stokes is an established test cricket, while Foakes should be but is not yet.
Lewis Goldsworthy– left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter. He had a good under-19 world cup, and I expect to see him notable first class performances from him before too much longer. He may yet develop into a genuine all rounder, but at the moment he is definitely more bowler than batter, hence his positioning at no eight in this order.
Rashid Khan – leg spinner, useful lower order batter. Four test matches have yielded him 23 wickets at 21.08, a magnificent start at that level, and he has a phenomenal record in limited overs cricket. He has also already racked up a test 50 with his lower order batting. I look forward to seeing him establish himself as one of the greats of the game.
Oliver Edward Robinson– right arm medium fast bowler, useful lower order batter. I use his full name because there is a young wicket keeper from Kent, Oliver Graham Robinson, who is on the fringes of the England set up. He takes his wickets at 22 each in first class cricket, and bowled well in the warm up match at the Ageas Bowl. Whether he has sufficient pace to trouble top level batters remains to be seen, but he should get his opportunity before too long. Yes, one has to pick for the present, but the future should also be considered, and England are due to go to Australia for their 2021-2 season, by when James Anderson will be 39 years of age, probably too old to spearhead the attack out there (the last England new ball bowler to succeed out there at that sort of age was Syd Barnes on the 1911-2 tour).
Jasprit Bumrah – right arm fast bowler. He has played 14 test matches, the second most of anyone in this side, in which he has taken 68 wickets at 20, including shaking the Aussies up in their own backyard in the 2018-9 Border – Gavaskar Trophy. I hope to hear more of him in the not too distant future – talents of this type can only be good for the game.
This team has a fine top five, the x-factor player of the current era at six, the best current keeper and a beautifully balanced selection of bowlers. Bumrah, Robinson and Stokes look a fine pace trio, and Goldsworthy and Khan should combine well as spin twins.
Pakistan left arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi has made an impressive start to his career, and would be my first reserve quick should one or other of Bumrah or Robinson be unavailable. Hamidullah Qadri was the other English success story of the u-19 world cup, although at the moment he would have to be considered as at best third in the senior off spinning queue behind Bess and Virdi, though in red ball cricket he is certainly ahead of Ali in my pecking order. Finally, a suggestion of a type that might be regarded as akin to heresy in certain quarters, all rounder Amelia Kerr has had success with both bat and leg spin for the New Zealand Women, is still only 18, and the Kiwis do not have a long queue of spin bowling options – will they take a chance on giving a female the opportunity to play alongside the men?
Today in my all-time XIs series I look at a test playing line up and put myself in the firing line for 1.3 billion of the game’s most avid fans – yes it’s India in the spotlight.
Welcome to the latest of my variations on an ‘All Time XIs‘ theme. Today for only the second time since starting this series I am doing a test XI, and I my choice puts me in the firing line of 1.3 billion avid cricket fans – yes it is India in the spotlight today. I am going to begin from players whp featured in the time that I have been following the game, and will then move to on the all-time element of the selection.
INDIA FROM MY CRICKET LIFETIME
For this element of the post I have set my cut off point at that 1990 series in England – I caught snatches of the 1986 series, but the 1990 one is the earliest involving India of which I can claim genuine recollection (England should have visited India in 1988-9 but that tour was cancelled for political reasons).
Mayank Agarwal – 11 test matches, 17 innings, 974 runs at 57.29, no not outs to boost the average. He has made a sensational start at the highest level, and is also part of a tremendously successful opening partnership with…
Rohit Sharma – 2,164 runs at 46.54 in test cricket sounds good but a little short of true greatness. However, Sharma was initially played at test level as a middle order batter, and his results since being promoted to the top of the order have been utterly outstanding.
Rahul Dravid – 13,288 test runs at 52.31 for ‘the wall’. In the 2002 series, he and Michael Vaughan of England took it in turns to produce huge scores. Dravid assisted in one of test cricket’s greatest turnarounds in 2001, when India were made to follow on and emerged victorious by 171 runs, and I shall have more to say about this match in due time.
Sachin Tendulkar – more runs and more hundreds (precisely 100 of them) in international cricket than anyone else in the game’s history. He was one of the few batters of his era who could genuinely claim to have had the whip hand on Shane Warne. I first saw him in that 1990 series when he was 17 years of age, and his personal highlights included a maiden test century and an astonishing running catch (he covered at least 30 metres to get to the ball).
*Virat Kohli – one of the top few batters in the world today (the Aussies Smith and Labuschagne both have higher test averages, and Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson bears comparison, and heterodox as I am about such matters I would also when it comes to long form batting throw Ellyse Perry into the mix), and has certainly already achieved enough to be counted among the greats.
+Mahendra Singh Dhoni– wicket keeper and dashing middle order batter. Of the contenders for the gloves he alone has a batting record the enables me to select five front line bowlers.
Ravindra Jadeja – left arm orthodox spinner, lower middle order batter and superb fielder. His averages are the correct way round (35 with the bat and 24 with the ball).
Kapil Dev – right arm medium fast, attacking lower middle order batter. He spent much of his career with no pace support whatsoever, having to attempt to be the spearhead of an attack that was often moderate. At Lord’s in that 1990 series he played an innings that should have saved his side from defeat, though it did not. Facing 653-4 declared (Gooch 333) India were 430-9, with Narendra Hirwani, a fine leg spinner who had captured 16 West Indian wickets on test debut but a genuine no11 bat at the other end, when Kapil faced off spinner Eddie Hemmings. There were four balls left in the over, and Kapil’s task was to score 24 to avert the follow-on. He proceeded to hit each of those last four balls for six to accomplish the task. Hirwani, as predicted, did not last long, and England had a lead of 199. Gooch crashed a rapid 123 in that second England innings (a record 456 runs in a test match, the triple century/ century double was subsequently emulated by Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara), and India collapsed in the fourth innings of the match, giving England what turned out to be the only victory of the series.
Anil Kumble – leg spinner, lower order batter. One of only two bowlers, the other being Jim Laker, to have taken all 10 wickets in a test innings, and the third leading test wicket taker of all time.
Mohammed Shami – right arm fast bowler. India has not generally been known for producing out and out quick bowlers, but Shami’s 180 wickets at 27.49 are a testament to his effectiveness.
Jasprit Bumrah– right arm fast bowler, 14 test matches, 68 wickets at 20.33. Save for when the West Indies were in their pomp visiting fast bowlers have rarely been able to claim to have blitzed the Aussies in their own backyard. Bumrah, who virtually settled the destiny of the Melbourne test of 2018, and with it the Border-Gavaskar trophy, with a devastating spell in the Australian first innings is one of the exceptions.
This combination boasts a stellar top five, a wicket keeping all rounder at six, and five varied and talented bowlers, the first three of whom can all contribute with the bat as well. I believe that Kapil Dev as third seamer in a top quality attack rather than spearhead in a moderate one, which was too often the role he had to play, would be even finer than he was in real life. Now we look at the…
This section begins with an explanation (nb not an excuse, there being in my opinion nothing to excuse) of one of my choices:
JADEJA V ASHWIN
The choice for the second spinner role was really between these two, and there will be many wondering at the absence of Mr Ashwin. Here then is the explanation:
Jadeja – 1,869 test runs at 35.24, 213 test wickets at 24.62. Ashwin – 2,389 test runs at 28.10, 365 wickets at 25.43
Jadeja outdoes Ashwin both with bat and ball, which is why he gets the nod from me.
Now we on to the other honourable mention to get his own subsection…
THE VERY VERY SPECIAL INNINGS
Against the mighty Aussies in 2001 Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman came in in the second innings with India having followed on and already four down and still some way behind. He proceeded to score 281, at the time the highest individual test score ever made by an Indian, India reached 657-7 declared (Dravid 180 as well), and with 383 to defend rolled Australia for 212 to win by 171 runs. India took the next match and with it the series as well – Laxman in one brilliant, brutal innings had upended the entire series. Laxman finished his career with 8,781 test runs at 45.24, a very respectable record, but not quite on a par with the middle order batters I actually selected – India has always been hugely strong in this department.
OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Two other opening batters besides my chosen pair featured in my thoughts – Virender Sehwag, scorer of two test triple hundreds, and a shoo-in for Agarwal’s partner had I decided not go with the known effective partnership, and Navjot Singh Sidhu, an attack minded opener in the 1990s, who had a fine test record, but not quite fine enough to make the cut. For much of my time as a cricket follower India have struggled to find openers, often selecting makeweights to see of the new ball before the folks in the middle order take control (Deep Dasgupta, Shiv Sunder Das, Manoj Prabhakar and Sanjay Bangar, the last two of whom also served as opening bowlers are four examples that I can remember). In the middle of the order Mohammed Azharruddin, Sourav Gangulyand Vinod Kambli were three of the highest quality performers to have missed out, although the first named is of course tainted by his association with match fixing. Cheteshwar Pujara was a candidate for the no 3 slot I awarded to Dravid, but for me ‘the wall’ just shades it. Kiran More, Nayan Mongia, Rishabh Pant and current incumbent Wriddhiman Saha are a fine foursome of glove men all of whom would have their advocates. Among the spinners I passed over were Chauhan and Raju in the 1990s, Harbhajan Singh in the early 2000s and Narendra Hirwani the leg spinner who took 16 on debut but did little else in his career. Also, while mentioning Indian spinners who I have been privileged to have witnessed in action I cannot fail to mention Poonam Yadav, who nearly bowled her country to this years T20 world cup. The seam bowling department offered fewer alternatives, but Javagal Srinath, the first Indian bowler of genuine pace who I ever saw, left arm fast medium Zaheer Khan and dependable fast medium Bhuvneshwar Kumarwould all have their advocates, but I had already inked Kapil in the for role of third seamer and wanted the two out and out quick bowlers of the current era as my shock bowlers.
INDIA ALL TIME
I will only mention the players I have not already covered, before listing the batting order in full and moving on to the honourable mentions.
Sunil Gavaskar has a test record that absolutely demands inclusion – he was the first to 10,000 test runs and made a good portion of those runs against the West Indies when they were stacked with fast bowlers. I could not include him in the team from my time as a cricket follower, because he was finishing his great career just as my interest in cricket began to develop. I saw one reminder of his past glories, when he batted for The Rest of The World v the MCC in the MCC Bicentenary match and made a chanceless century, never giving the bowlers a sniff.
Cottari K Nayudu was an off spinning all rounder and India’s first ever test captain. His seven test matches left him with a modest looking record at that level, but his first class record, built up over a span of 46 years looks very impressive indeed.
Syed Kirmani is generally considered to be have been India’s greatest wicket keeper.
Amar Singh was a shooting star across the cricketing sky, India’s first great fast bowler, and for many years the only one of international repute that his country produced. His seven test appearances produced 28 wickets at 30.69, but it is record in 92 first class appearances, 506 wickets at 18.35 that gets him the nod from me, especially given what cricket in India was like in that period.
Palwankar Baloo was a left arm spinner who played his cricket before India was a test playing nation, and had to contend with huge prejudice as a member of a low caste. Unlike the various Jam Sahebs, Maharajas and Nawabs who were able to strut their stuff in English county cricket he had to settle for those games people would pick him for in India. The 33 games he played at first class level yielded him 179 wickets at 15.31 each. Although I am open to correction on this I believe he is also the only first class cricketer to share a name with a character from the Jungle Book (Baloo is the big brown bear who teaches Mowgli the law of the jungle in Rudyard Kipling’s magnum opus).
Thus my all-time Indian team in batting order is: 1)Sunil Gavaskar 2)Mayant Agarwal who in spite of his short career to date holds his position 3)Rahul Dravid 4)Sachin Tendulkar 5)*Virat Kohli 6)Cottari K Nayudu 7)Kapil Dev 8)+Syed Kirmani 9)Amar Singh 10)Palwankar Baloo 11)Jasprit Bumrah
This combination features a stellar top five, 6,7 and 8 all capable of useful runs, and three superb specialist bowlers. The wicket keeper is top drawer. The bowling attack features two genuinely fast bowlers, Kapil Dev as third seamer and two contrasting spinners in Baloo (left arm orthodox) and Nayudu (off spin).
Other than those mentioned earlier the only other opener I considered was Vijay Merchant, who had the second highest first class average of anyone at 71.22. His test average was a mere 47 however, a massive decline on his first class output for reasons I shall go into later, and for this reason I reluctantly ruled him out. In the middle order Vijay Hazare, Pahlan Umrigar and Gundappa Viswanath would all have their advocates, will I also had to ignore the possessor of the 4th highest first class score in history, Bhausaheb Nimbalkar. Among all rounders the biggest miss was Mulvantrai Himmatlal ‘Vinoo’ Mankad, who completed the double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in test cricket in his 23rd match (only Botham has required fewer), but I was determined to select Baloo, which meant that there would be less scope for Mankad’s left arm spin, so in the interests of balance I left him out. My view on the mode of dismissal named after him is that it is the batter who is trying to gain an unfair advantage by leaving the ground earlier, and if the bowler spots and runs them out well done to them, although delaying before going into delivery stride in the hope of catching a batter napping is taking things a little too far. Dattu Phadkar, a middle order batter who was often used as an opening bowler was another who could have been considered. With all due respect to Messrs Bedi, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan who each had more than respectable records the only one of the great 1970s spinners I really regretted not being able to find a place for was Bhagwath Chandrasekhar the leg spinner who was a genuine original. His right arm was withered by polio, and that was the arm he bowled with. Among specialist pace bowlers there are, as I have previously indicated, few contenders, but Chetan Sharma had has moments in the 1980s. It is now time for…
A CODA ON THE DOMINANCE OF THE BAT IN INDIAN CRICKET
For a long time first class matches in India were timeless, which is to say they were played out until a definite result was reached. Some of the scores were astronomical, with the only two first class matches to have had aggregates of over 2,000 runs both played in India. I will use one match as a case study:
BOMBAY V MAHARASHTRA 1948
This match featured in Patrick Murphy’s “Fifty Incredible Cricket Matches”, and he used a phrase about matches such as this one that I just love “a meaningless fiesta for Frindalls” (William Howard Frindall, aka ‘Bearders’, was the second chronologically of two legendary statisticians to have initials WHF, the other being William Henry Ferguson). Bombay scored 651-9 declared in their first innings, Maharashtra made 407 in response, and Bombay declined to enforce the follow-on, racking up 714-8 declared at the second time of asking to set Maharashtra 959 to win. Maharashtra managed 604 of these, losing by 354 runs in a match that saw 2,376 runs and 37 wickets, the highest aggregate for any first class match ever. Three batters notched up twin centuries, Uday Merchant (nb Uday, not the famous Vijay) and Dattu Phadkar for Bombay, and Madhusudan Rege for Maharashtra. Phadkar was a test regular, Rege played one test match in which he aggregated 15, and even in first class cricket averaged only 37 in all, while Merchant had a first class average of 55.78 but was never picked for a test match, and there were three other individual centuries. What this kind of thing meant was that Indian bowlers tended to operate under a collective inferiority complex, while the batters would flounder any time they faced other than a shirt front. Fred Trueman, who bowled against Pahlan Umrigar in the 1952 test series (at his retirement Umrigar held a fistful of Indian test records), and claimed that there were times when he was bowling and the square leg umpire was nearer the stumps than Umrigar, the batter, and while this story may have grown in the telling, it would have been an exaggeration rather than a complete invention. This is why I would need a lot of convincing of the actual merits of some of those who had fine looking batting records in those years, while any bowler with a good looking record is likely to get huge credit, and it is one reason why I make no apology for my choices of Amar Singh and Palwankar Baloo in my All Time Indian XI.
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
We have reached the end of our journey through Indian cricket, and it only remains to put in a couple of links before applying my usual sign off. First, finishing with the cricket I draw your attention to the pinchhitter’s latest offering, which will certainly repay a read. Finally, a splendid piece on whyevolutionistrue in defence of governor Andrew Cuomo who has been pilloried by religious zealots for daring to not give god full credit for such success as has been had in the fight against Covid-19. And now, in my own distinctive way it is time to call ‘Time’:
Continuing my “100 cricketers” series, starting the fourth XI with the bowlers for reasons that should be self-explanatory. Also features some of my photographs.
Welcome to the latest post in my “100 cricketers” series. I am taking the my 4th XI in a different order from usual, starting with the bowlers, for reasons that should become clear during this post. The series will continue with the opening batters, then nos 3,4 and 5 and then all-rounders, which post will se my fifth XI introduced in batting order. The introduction to the whole series can be found here, and the most recent post in it, listing the 4th XI in batting order at the end, can be found here. Before getting into the meat of my post I have a but of related business to attend to…
AFGHANISTAN VERSUS IRELAND DAY 3
Ireland, helped by a substantial last wicket stand for the second time in the match did just enough to keep interest in this match alive. They brought their second innings tally to 288, setting Afghanistan 147 to win in the final innings. By the close Afghanistan had reached 29-1, needing a further 118 to win with nine wickets remaining. If either:
a) Ireland pick up wickets early tomorrow morning or
b)Afghanistan score score slowly in the morning and then lose wickets immediately before the lunch interval
Or both of the above happen, nerves could set in leading to a very close result. Whatever happens tomorrow, one team will have its first test match victory on the board and the other team, though defeated will not have been disgraced.
It is unfortunate for Ireland that as I acknowledged in response to a comment yesterday their elevation really came five years too late for them, with the result that most of the players who had earned it had either finished their careers or were finishing their careers, while Afghanistan were elevated as they hit the crest of a wave.
The official close of play report can be read here.
It is now time to look at those bowlers starting with…
My four selections who are in this XI purely as bowlers (there is also a seam bowling all-rounder to back them up, plus an occasional off-spinner) comprise two spinners and two quicks. We start with the person who caused me to take the bowlers first when dealing with this XI…
The 20 year old legspinner is already rated the world’s number one bowler in T20, and has just a very successful season in the Australian Big Bash League, but today he made history by becoming the first Afghan to take a five wicket innings haul in a test match. His 5-82 followed 2-20 in the first Ireland innings, meaning that in the two test matches his country have now played he has total figures of 9-256, a bowling average of 28.44. I can see this improving considerably as he gains more experience (before his 1993 visit to England which really set him on his way Shane Warne had been cuffed around at test level, notably by Ravi Shastri on his debut test), and especially if he gets to bowl second and fourth rather than first and third as he did in this game (pitches which have had more use tend to help spinners a bit more). The match now approaching its denouement will be remembered for many things – Tim Murtagh’s two remarkable efforts from no 11, the second innings batting of Andrew Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brienand Rahmat Shah’seffort in the Afghanistan first innings that came up just two short of being their first ever test century, but probably the single most important individual achievement in the game will end up being Khan’s five-for. As the saying goes – watch this space! On which note we move on to our second spinner…
The 19 year-old left arm spinner has only played in one test match (the women play far too little of this form of the game), but her records in ODIs (25 wickets at 18.96 each) and T20Is (24 wickets at 20.04) show that she is already a very fine bowler, and at her age she will still be improving for a number of years. Although she has yet to record an international five-for she has a 4-14 in ODIs to her credit and a 4-18 in T20Is, and I for one will be surprised in 2019 does not see a five-for to her credit somewhere. Note that once again I have a pair of spinners who do different things with the ball, and a part-time spinner who purveys yet a third variation. Now it is time to move on to the…
My two specialist pacers are a genuine speedster, who recently rattled the Aussies on their own pitches and someone who started out quick before slowing down later in his career and becoming pretty much unhittable, such was his accuracy. I am going to start with…
His 421 test wickets at 23.11 each are testament to his class as a bowler, while a batting average of just over 32 makes him a good person to be coming in at number 8. His father Peterwas a magnificent fast bowler for pre-isolation South Africa, and until the recent career of AdamVoges (average 61.87 from 20 test matches) his uncle Graeme was second among those who had played enough innings to qualify behind Bradman in the test batting averages with 60.97. In his early days when he bowled seriously fast and his temperament seems to have matched his red hair Shaun Pollock is reckoned to have hit the helmets of over 30 opposition batters, but his career had a second phase when he mellowed, the pace was down, but replaced with intense accuracy to the extent that along with Glenn McGrath he was among the last ODI bowlers to have an economy rate below 4 runs per over. Playing as an overseas player for Warwickshire he once took four wickets in four balls, a very rare occurence in top-level cricket. In this XI of mine I see his accuracy as a counterpoint to the sheer pace of…
His recent effort at the MCG, when his nine wickets in the two innings, including a career-best 6-33 in the first, sent Australia reeling to the defeat the saw India wiin the Border–Gavaskartrophy is a performance (I listened to it on the radio) which I will remember for a long time to come. His ten test matches so far have brought him 49 wickets at 21.89, though with a current batting average of 1.55 he is heading for the title of “Number 11’s Number 11”, being 0.45 of a run per innings below current holder Mpumelelo Mbangwa of Zimbabwe. The fact he is only 25, and my spinners are 20 and 19 respectively is why I want specifically the Shaun Pollock from the latter part of his career – as well as steadiness he will bring experience to the bowling attack.
As usual, I finish by showing some of my recent photographs…
Accounts of a meal out last night and of the state of play at the MCG (very satisfying for a Pom, who by default supports Australia’s opponents!).
This post deals with two unrelated events – last night’s supper at The Market Bistro in King’s Lynn (another staging post in my convalescence from cancer – coping with an evening out in public, which for an autistic person can be a challenge even at the best of times) and the amazing happenings overnight UK time at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I have some pictures as well.
SUPPER AT THE MARKET BISTRO
I intended to eat a full meal and have the one alcoholic drink I can allow myself at present. My father arrived to give me a lift there as planned at about 6:30. Then he went to collect my sister from West Lynn where she was staying, a taxi firm having her down.
The food was excellent – I ate an amuse bouche but declined the bread and butter as I had ordered two courses to which I intended to do full justice (and succeeded). My starter was a duck terrine covered by a potato cage and missing (at my specific request) the egg that should have been part of it. It was delicious, though an incongruously small portion to be served in the middle of a monster sized plate. For the main I opted for pork belly accompanied by smoked beetroot, various salad type vegetables and game chips. It was excellent in every respect, and judging from the fact that every plate at the table was clean by the time we finished so was everyone else’s. I washed the meal down with a beer that was brewed in Wisbech and was absolutely delicious (and at 5% alcohol not fiendishly strong – I rejected a couple of other options as being too strong in the circumstances).
By the time I drained the last of the beer it was just after 8:30PM and I was feeling the need for home. My father gave me a lift back, and that was the end of my activity for the day.
INDIA TAKE CONTROL AT THE MCG
Over the first two days play in the Boxing Day test match at the MCG it looked like a repeat of last year’s Ashes match at the same ground with the drop-in pitch (in spite of retaining its name the MCG is preimarily an Aussie Rules venue these days) apparently lacking any pace or life. Bowlers could not get wickets and the lack of pace meant that batsmen were scoring slowly. Going into day three the scoreboard read India 443-7D, Australia 8-0.
Suddenly things started to happen. First Jasprit Bumrah bowled magnificently to record a test best 6-33 as Australia were rock ‘n’ rolled for 151. India then decided that a lead of 292 was not quite sufficient to go for the innings win and batted a second time. Patrick Cummins proceeded to knock the top of that second innings, backed up by some nasty stuff from Josh Hazlewood (both bowlers regularly propel the ball at over 145 kilometres per hour), and India closed the day at 54-5 in their second innings, a lead of 346, and almost certainly given the difficulties of chasing big runs in the final innings a victory awaiting. Nonetheless I think Kohli was wrong not to enforce the follow on – I would have much preferred to see him go for the quick kill. In the context of test cricket I would decline to enforce the follow on only if one up in the final match of a series, which this is not. Out of some 2,500 test matches a mere three have been won by teams who were made to follow on – England did it aided by the weather at Sydney in 1894, England did it again at Headingley in 1981 when Ian Botham famously “gave it some humpty” and Bob Willis then bowled like a man possessed to take 8-43 and then there was the Kolkata match when Laxman made 281, Dravid 180, India declared their second innings at 657-7 and dismissed a demoralised Australia for 212 to win by 171 runs (yes folks, the only test team ever to have lost a test match after enforcing the follow on are the Aussies, victims on the only three occasions such a comeback happened).