Continuing my extended analysis of how the all time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. Also a huge photo gallery.
Welcome to the next series of match ups in my extended analysis of how the all-time XIs I selected for each letter of the alphabet fare against one another. The Ds continue to occupy the spotlight. They come into today with 38 of a possible 80 points.
THE Ds V THE Rs
The Rs have the better opening combo, the Ds win the number three slot, though no 4 has to go the Rs purely on sample size, while nephew ‘Duleep’ beast uncle ‘Ranji’ in the number five slot. D’Oliveira out bats Robins, but Robins’ bowling is more likely to of value than D’Oliveira’s, and additionally the Rs have the better captain. Dujon was the better batter than Russell, the Russell definitely the finer keeper. Roberts, Rabada and Richardson are possibly just short of Davidson, Donald and Daniel as a pace trio, but as against that Rhodes clearly outpoints Dennett (Rhodes the bowler was one of the two, along with Blythe, who was chiefly responsible for Dennett not gaining any test caps). It is very close on batting, but the Rs have a clear advantage in bowling – their attack is better balanced, and they win the spin department by a bigger margin than they lose the pace department. I score this Ds 1.5, Rs 3.5.
THE Ds V THE Ss
The Ss win the batting comfortably, with only Dravid of the Ds top eight definitely outpointing his opposite number . Starc, Steyn and Statham are fractionally behind Davidson, Donald and Daniel as a pace trio, but the Ss back up options, Stokes and Sobers in his quicker incarnations are both ahead of D’Oliveira. Dennett outpoints Sobers the left arm orthodox spinner, but Sobers the left arm wrist spinner and Stevens are both unmatched by anyone from the Ds line up. The Ss thus have a much more powerful batting line up, a marginally inferior pace trio, more spin options and much better back up seam/ pace options. I score this one as Ds 0, Ss 5.
THE Ds V THE Ts
The Ts have the better opening pair, the Ds win the number slot comfortably, the Ts win the number four slot, Thorpe’s inferiority vis a vis Duleepsinhji is lessened by the vastly increased sample size on which his figures are based, and Ross Taylor outbats D’Oliveira, while Tarrant is far ahead of D’Oliveira as a bowler. Dujon beats Bob Taylor with the bat, but Taylor was the finer keeper. Tyson, Trueman and Thomson are at least a match for Davidson, Donald and Daniel, and Trumble outranks Dennett as a spinner. Mark Taylor outranks Dennett as a skipper as well. The Ts are well clear in this contest and I score it Ds 0.5, Ts 4.5.
THE Ds V THE Us
The Ds absolutely boss the batting side of this, have the better keeper, are totally dominant in pace bowling, though outmatched in spin bowling and having the inferior skipper. I score this one Ds 4, Us 1.
THE Ds V THE Vs
The Ds have the better batting, the better keeper and are ahead in the pace bowling department, though by less than the figures make it look – Vaas would fare better as third seamer in a strong attack than he actually did as opening bowler in a moderate one. As against that Verity is clear of Dennett, and Vogler and Vine have no equivalents in the Ds line up, and the Vs have the finer skipper. I score this one Ds 3, Vs 2.
THE Ds PROGRESS REPORT
The Ds have scored nine of a possible 25 points today, meaning that they now have a total of 47 points from a possible 105, 44.76%.
My exploration of the all time XIs theme continues with a team of players whose surnames begin with R, including a hugely detailed honourable mentions section, and a bumper photo gallery.
After yesterday’s struggles to produce an XI of players who could all be filed under the letter Q, today’s task of selecting an XI of players with surnames beginning with the letter R presents an altogether different challenge.
THE XI IN BATTING ORDER
Chris Rogers (Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Middlesex, Australia). The immense strength of Australia’s batting when he was in his prime meant that he got the test call up very late in his career. Nevertheless, 25 matches at that level yielded him over 2,000 runs at 42.87, respectable by any standards. In FC cricket he scored over 25,000 runs at almost 50.
Barry Richards (Hampshire, South Africa). His test career was nipped in the bud by the expulsion of apartheid South Africa. Four matches at the highest level yielded him 508 runs at 72.57. He was also the leading run scorer in the first year of Packer’s World Series Cricket, when the bowling was seriously good. Don Bradman, certainly qualified to assess the merits of batters, rated him the best right handed opener he ever saw in action.
Viv Richards (Somerset, Glamorgan, West Indies). The ‘Master Blaster’ was the only cricketer from the Caribbean to achieve the career milestone of 100 first class hundreds. In England in 1976 he was untouchable, tallying 829 for the series even though he missed a match due to injury. He was also the first authentically great ODI batter. West Indies in his playing days were frequently accused of intimidatory bowling, but it was also noted that he was capable of intimidatory batting.
Joe Root (Yorkshire, England). Certainly the greatest batter England have produced in my lifetime, and a strong case could be made that he is England’s greatest ever (Grace, Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hammond, Hutton and at a pinch May and Barrington would merit consideration in this discussion).
KS Ranjitsinhji (Sussex, England). He averaged 56.48 in first class cricket, though his appearances at test level were limited, he scored 989 runs at 45 at that level, including twice topping 150 against Australia. He was the first known to deliberately score behind the wicket on the leg side, pioneering the leg glance. He was born in a princedom in northern India, and India;s oremier domestic FC competition is still named in his honour.
*Walter Robins (Middlesex, England). A leg spinning all rounder, and a great captain who conjured a county championship in 1947 for a Middlesex side that was strong in batting but did not have a great bowling attack. Denis Compton, one of Middlesex’s all time greats, and a star of the team in Robins’ day rated him the best captain he ever played under.
+Jack Russell (Gloucestershire, England). One of the greatest keepers ever to play the game and a hugely underrated left handed batter. He scored a test century against the 1989 Australians when they were running rampant against a frankly shambolic England. He scored a defiant half century when Ambrose was ripping his way through England in Barbados in 1990. Another example of his unyielding determination came against South Africa at Centurion. He joined Atherton with England pretty much buried, and the pair proceeded to bat through two complete sessions to salvage a draw for their side.
Andy Roberts (Hampshire, Leicestershire, West Indies). The spearhead of the original West Indies pace quartet in 1976, he took 202 test wickets at 25 a piece, morphing as he matured from a fire and brimstone type bowler into an unhittably accurate one. He was also a useful lower order batter.
Kagiso Rabada (South Africa). At the age of 27 he is just about in the age range usually regarded as a cricketer’s prime years, and he already has 243 test wickets at 22 a piece, sufficient whatever happens in the rest of his career to underwrite his claim to the status of a great fast bowler.
Wilfred Rhodes (Yorkshire, England). One of the most extraordinary of all cricketers, he had a five-phase career: specialist left arm fast bowler, all rounder, specialist batter (in the 1911-12 Ashes he was England’s number two batter both in terms of his position in the order and in terms of his position in that series’ averages and didn’t bowl), all rounder (having hardly bowled in the years leading up to WWI, he picked up his bowling in 1919, and as though he had never abandoned it, he proceeded to top the national averages for that season), and finally, as his eyesight began to go, a few final years as a specialist bowler, before retiring to make way for the emerging Hedley Verity, who he summed up in typically laconic fashion “he’ll do”, which from Rhodes was a positively euphoric assessment. Given the cricketers available for the letter R I choose to use him in this XI as the specialist bowler he was both at the start and the end of his amazing career, one of the greatest ever. He was the only bowler ever to take over 4,000 first class wickets, and only three others even tallied 3,000, and none of those were ever of any great value with the bat. Of the top ten all time FC wicket takers only the mighty WG Grace outranks Rhodes as a batter. A final comment to end this section, from the legendary Victor Trumper, when Australia were piling up a massive total on a flat one, 185 of them from Trumper himself, and amidst the carnage Rhodes took 5-94 from 48 overs, at one point leading to Trumper saying “for goodness sake Wilfred, won’t you give me a moment’s peace?”.
Tom Richardson (Surrey, Somerset, England). Only 14 tests for the lion hearted fast bowler, but he took 88 wickets at 25 a piece in those matches. He took more FC wickets for Surrey than any other bowler, and reached the career landmarks of 1,000 FC wickets (134 matches) and 2,000 (327 matches) quicker than any other bowler.
This XI has one great (B Richards) and one very good opener, a power packed engine room of Viv Richards, Root and Ranjitsinhji, an all rounder who happens also to be great skipper, one of the greatest of all keepers, who was also a useful batter, and four great specialist bowlers. A fast attack of Roberts, Rabada and Richardson, backed by the spin of Rhodes and Robins, plus possible part time off spin support from Root and the Richardses is an any reckoning a stellar bowling unit. This is one of the strongest XIs to feature in this mini-series.
This is a multi-part section. The first subsection deals with probably the finest of the eligible cricketers not to make the XI…
26,000 FC runs at 41, 900 FC wickets at 21, and no place for him? The problem is that this letter has immense strength available, and he never played test cricket due to circumstances. There is no way to know how he would have fared at test level – some (e.g Herbert Sutcliffe) do better against tougher opposition, some like Graeme Hick and someone we will be meeting later in this piece do very much worse. Also, fitting him in to the XI would be a major challenge – I would either have to drop one of my top five, all of whom have ironclad claims to their places, or change the balance of the side by dropping Robins and naming someone else as captain, or drop one of my three unarguably great fast bowlers to accommodate a batting all rounder, again changing the balance of the side.
CAG ‘Jack’ Russell averaged 59 in his brief test career, including becoming the first English batter to record twin tons in a test match, but the brevity of his career at the top tells against him. Jack Robertson, who contributed 12 tons to Middlesex’s 1947 championship winning season, played 11 test matches, averaging 46, and had he been left handed would have been a challenger to Rogers, but given that he played less than half as many tests as the Aussie and his average was not that much greater I felt that he had to be left out. Tim Robinson had an impressive start against India away in 1984-5 and Australia at home in 1985 but was unceremoniously found out by the West Indies mean machine in the Caribbean in 1986. Pankaj Roy shared an opening stand of 413 with Mulvantrai ‘Vinoo’ Mankad, but that was a rare major success at the top level for him – he averaged 32.56 at test level overall.
THE MIDDLE ORDER
Mark Ramprakash has the best FC batting record of anyone I omitted for this letter, but he failed miserably to transfer that form to the test arena, managing just two centuries in 52 test matches. Richie Richardson had a similar test average to Ranjitsinhji and played more matches at that level, but I felt that I could not overlook Ranji. Vic Richardson was one of the greatest all round athletes ever produced by the state of South Australia, but his record in the test arena was modest – he was comfortably outdone at that level by two of his three famous grandsons. Two J Ryders, Jack who played for Australia in the mid 1920s, and Jesse who played for New Zealand much more recently had good test records, but not quite good enough. Ajinkya Rahane has done some good things at test level for India, but for me he is just a fraction short of being genuinely top class and therefore misses out. Clive Radley did all that could be asked of him when called up for England in his mid-thirties. Also, a name check for one of the greatest batters the women’s game has seen, Mithali Raj.
Other than Rice who I have already mentioned, and Robins who I selected there are two other all rounders who merit a mention: Wasim Raja, a batter and leg spin bowler for Pakistan, and Ravi Ratnayeke of Sri Lanka.
Mushfiqur Rahim of Bangladesh was closest to challenging Russell for this slot. Jack Richards of Surrey and England had one great Ashes series in 1986-7, but left the game early after a dispute over terms with Surrey. Oliver George Robinson (Kent) is a fine keeper, and has recently scored 206* in a 50 overs a side game. Some Worcestershire fans would doubtless make a case on behalf of Steve ‘Bumpy’ Rhodes, but he was in truth not Russell’s equal in either department. Denesh Ramdin of the West Indies probably believes he should be in this XI but I don’t reckon anyone else does.
Oliver Edward Robinson has done very well for England when he has been fit to bowl – and it is that caveat that prevents him from meriting serious consideration as yet. Wahab Riaz of Pakistan was a fine pacer in his day, but I cannot place him ahead of any of Roberts, Rabada or Richardson. Rumesh Ratnayake was often the only member of the Sri Lankan sides he was part of who could bowl at anything above medium pace, and I acknowledge his efforts with an honourable mention. One solitary spinner might have displaced Rhodes: Sonny Ramadhin. As good as the first half of ‘those two little pals of mine, Ramadhin and Valentine’ was he does not get in ahead of Rhodes.
I always select with long form cricket in mind unless I have specifically stated otherwise. The following names who could not be accommodated in a long form side would merit consideration in white ball: Rilee Rossouw (South Africa), KL Rahul (India), Luke Ronchi (Australia/ New Zealand), Jason Roy (England) and Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh, a left arm pacer with a great record in limited overs matches and a very moderate one in long form cricket).
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN?
Rayford Robinson was an Australian batter and near contemporary of Don Bradman. The Don himself reckoned that in pure talent Robinson outranked him, but he managed one test appearance, in which he scored 2 and 3. He appears to have had an attitude problem.
Harold Rhodes was a fast bowler whose career was ruined by suspicions about his bowling action (he was actually perfectly legitimate, doing what is today described as ‘hyperextending’ his bowling arm).
ONES FOR THE FUTURE
Two last names to conjure with. Mohammad Rizwan of Pakistan has not yet done enough to claim a place for himself, and would probably have to force his way in as a specialist batter, given the keeping standards set by Russell. James Rew of Somerset is going places in a big way – at the age of 18 he already has centuries in both first class and list A cricket. I would be very surprised if a version of this XI in ten years from now did not feature him.
Our cricketing journey through the letter R is complete, and it remains only to apply the usual sign off…
Today in a break from some of my more esoteric ‘all time’ XIs we take a look at the West Indies. Also features, politics, nature and a couple of family blogs, plus a mention for the fulltossblog.
Welcome to the latest installment in my series of ‘All Time XI‘ themed posts. It being a Monday (yes, even in the somewhat strange circumstances in which I am currently living I am managing to keep track of what day of the week it is!) I am looking at an international outfit, in this case the West Indies, before reverting to more esoteric matters for the rest of the week. As usual with an international set up I will start with a team from my cricket lifetime and move on from that to an all-time version.
THE WEST INDIES WITHIN MY LIFE TIME
For this purpose I am considering only players I actually witnessed.
Gordon Greenidge – right handed opening batter, for Hampshire as well as his home island of Barbados and the West Indies. He scored two contrasting double centuries in the 1984 series, 223 not out in ten hours at Old Trafford, and 214 not out in about half of that time to win the Lord’s test for his side. I saw him score a ton in the MCC Bicentennial match, when he hit one square cut with such ferocity that the ball actually went through an advertising board. He was one half of a legendary opening partnership with…
Desmond Haynes – right handed opening batter, also Barbadian, and played county cricket for Middlesex for many years as well as international cricket for the West Indies. Where Greenidge was an attacker by instinct but capable at need of defending for long periods, Haynes was by inclination an anchor man, who could when circumstances demanded it absolutely annihilate bowling attacks, as shown by his magnificent ODI record.
Brian Lara – left handed batter. The Trinidadian holds the record test and first class scores, one of only two ever to have the double distinction (Bradman did so for a couple of years, between Headingley in 1930 where he made 334 to go with his 452 not out for NSW v Queensland and Christchurch 1933 where Hammond scored 336 not out) – 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994 and 400 not out v England at Antigua in 2004. Ten years earlier he had hit 375 v England on the same ground, the only player to hold the world test record twice (Hayden intervening with 380 v Zimbabwe at Perth). A small caveat over these feats of tall scoring by Lara is that none came in winning cause – all three matches were drawn. Just for the record, the full progression of test record high scores is: Bannerman 165 in the first test innings of all in 1877, Murdoch 211 at The Oval in 1884, Foster 287 at Sydney in 1903, Sandham 325 at Kingston in 1930, Bradman 334 at Headingley in 1930, Hammond 336 not out at Christchurch in 1933, Hutton 364 at The Oval in 1938, Sobers 365 not out at Kingston in 1957, Lara 375 at Antigua in 1994, Hayden 380 at Perth, Lara 400 not out at Antigua in 2004.
Viv Richards – right handed bat, occasional off spinner. The ‘Master Blaster’. Among his many credits are a 56 ball hundred v England at Antigua in 1986, and an innings in 1990 against the same opposition when he twice mishit Devon Malcolm for sixes. He came into bat in a manner equivalent to a prima donna taking centre stage in an opera – all eyes immediately focussed on him, while everyone else, especially opposition bowlers, seemed simply to have the task of feeding him lines.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul – left handed bat, occasional leg spinner. He announced himself by scoring a double century in an under-19 match, and unlike his English equivalent who went straight back to his county second XI after doing so, he was fast tracked in the West Indies full team, and immediately began scoring runs (he would tally over 12,000 in test cricket).
Carl Hooper – right hand bat, semi-regular off spinner. This man simply exuded elegance and class – the main criticism that he attracted being that he did not often enough go on for the really big score.
+Jeff Dujon – Wicket keeper, right handed middle order bat – quite simply the best keeper the West Indies have had in my lifetime, and an average of over 30, including four test tons. He tended to get his runs when the team really needed them, not by thrashing already demoralized bowlers.
Malcolm Marshall – right arm fast bowler, useful lower right handed lower order bat. By my reckoning the greatest fast bowler of the West Indies’ golden age of fast bowling – and 376 test wickets at 20.94 is substantial backing for that claim. He was pretty much the ultimate pro, as he demonstrated during his years as Hampshire’s overseas star, and developed bucketloads of craft and guile to go with the pace he always possessed.
Michael Holding– right arm fast bowler, aggressive right handed lower order bat. ‘Whispering Death’ as he was known because of his silent run up was another magnificent fast bowler, one of the stars of the attack during both the ‘blackwashes’ the West Indies inflicted on England in the 1980s.
Curtly Ambrose – right arm fast bowler (later in his career slowed to fast medium, if not medium fast). Twice he won test matches by destroying the England batting, once with 8-45 in an innings at Bridgetown, and he was only prevented from the being the match winner at Headingley in 1991 by the batting of Graham Gooch (154 not out in a total of 252 all out on a pig of a pitch, second highest score 27 jointly by Ramprakash and Pringle) and a display of ineptitude by his own colleagues in the face of England’s much less threatening bowling ‘attack’. Against the Aussies in Perth he once produced a spell of 7-1 which unsurprisingly settled the outcome of that match. I saw him in action last year for Lashings World XI, when he bowled two overs off a reduced run up, and the opposition simply could not lay a bat on him.
*Courtney Walsh – right arm fast bowler (slowed late in his very long career to fast medium if not medium fast). The first bowler of any description to capture 500 test wickets. Although I do not usually think that fast bowlers make the best captains, he did the job well, suffering mainly from the fact that a once great side was becoming ordinary around him. His last bow, in England in the year 2000, showed up the problems in sharp relief (under the captaincy of Jimmy Adams), with the batting folding on a regular basis, and the bowling other than that of the then 38 year old Walsh being little to write home about – Trescothick made his test debut in that series, showed great character to survive the new ball but was still on 0 not out when Walsh was relieved, and got off the mark from the first ball bowled by Walsh’s replacement, going on to a fine 66.
This team has six quality batters, five of them definitely meriting the label ‘great’, a top drawer glove man who knew how to bat and four of the finest fast bowlers you would ever meet. There is little in way of spin for reasons I will go into in the next section of this post, with Hooper’s off breaks the nearest thing to a front line spin option.
EXPLANATIONS, HONOURABLE MENTIONS AND A SPECIAL FEATURE
I will start with a few honourable mentions: Chris Gayle, ‘Universe Boss’, scored two test triple centuries, and I saw him make a classic 167 not out at Adelaide in 2009, but I felt that the value of the Greenidge/Haynes combo was too great to include him. Richie Richardson was a fine batter, at one time rated no1 test batter in the world, but I could only have got him in by sacrificing Hooper at no 6. Clive Lloyd was a fine batter and captain, but I never actually witnessed him in action, so could not select him. Ramnaresh Sarwan was also a fine batter who I regretted not being able to fit in. Denesh Ramdin probably believes he was a candidate for the keeper’s slot, but in truth, a double ton against England on a feather bed of a pitch in Barbados notwithstanding, he was not in Dujon’s class in either department.
SPECIAL FEATURE: BALANCE, ALL ROUNDERS, BOWLERS AND THE WEST INDIES GOLDEN AGE
As mentioned in my overview of it the team lack either an all-rounder or a genuine spinner. The reason for this is that in my lifetime the West Indies men have only produced four cricketers who could be dubbed all rounders, Eldine Baptiste, Hamesh Anthony, Franklyn Stephenson and Ottis Gibson, and none were really good enough with the bat to drop a front liner for, nor with so many genuine fast bowlers to pick from could they force their way in that category. If I am mandated to select an all rounder then Stephenson comes in for Hooper, but under protest. Roger Harper, a middle order batter who bowled off spin and was a great fielder, was not quite good enough in either department to be considered. I only gave serious consideration to two specialist spinners, Suleiman Benn and Sunil Narine, but although Narine especially would have his advocates, neither have a test record that really commands respect, though Narine is an outstanding limited overs bowler.
Even had there been a spinner in the period concerned with a really fine test record, I had a particular reason for picking four specialist pace bowlers (albeit Marshall and Holding were both capable of scoring useful runs) – the four pronged pace battery propelled the West Indies to the top of the cricket world under Clive Lloyd and kept them there under Viv Richards. At Trinidad in the 1975-6 series against India Clive Lloyd, in anticipation of a turner was given a team containing three front line spinners, Inshan Ali, Albert Padmore and Raphick Jumadeen, to match the three India would play, Bedi, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan. For three of the four innings, things went to plan, and India were set 406 to win. India knocked those runs off, a test record at the time, for the loss of just four wickets, the three West Indies spinners leaking 220 of the runs. Lloyd decided there and then that he wanted his best available bowling attack irrespective of conditions, and secured an all pace quartet (initially Andy Roberts, Wayne Daniel, Bernard Julien and Vanburn Holder) for the future. The West Indies did not look back from that point. One series was lost to New Zealand in 1980, but otherwise the West Indies ruled supreme until the rise of the Aussies in the 1990s. Other pace stars who featured for greater or lesser periods in this period were Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Sylvester Clarke, Milton Small and Tony Gray. Later, even after their domination had faded the West Indies produced a few other notably quick bowlers – Ian Bishop who was blighted by injuries, Kemar Roach (who I saw bowling at over 150kph at Adelaide, not a ground beloved of many bowlers) and most recently Shannon Gabriel. It is now time to move on to…
WEST INDIES ALL TIME
Of the players I named in the XI from my life, Lara, Richards, Marshall, Holding and Ambrose make the all-time XI. They are joined by the following:
George Headley – right handed bat, nicknamed ‘Atlas’ because he carried the team on his shoulders, like the titan of Greek mythology carried The Earth on his shoulders. He averaged 60.83 in test cricket, converting 10 of his 15 fifty plus scores into centuries. He usually batted three, but the West Indies in his day so often lost an early wicket that he was effectively opening anyhow, which is how I use him in this team.
*Frank Worrell – right handed bat, left arm fast medium and occasional left arm spin. He sometimes opened, which is the task I have given him in this team, and CLR James’ ghost would haunt me for eternity if I dared named anyone else as captain of an all-time West Indies XI. He was the first black player to be West Indies captain, breaking a particularly vile shibboleth that black fellows needed to be led by someone with white skin, and he led the West Indies to the top of the cricket world, becoming the first to succeed in banishing inter-island rivalries from the dressing room.
Everton Weekes – right handed bat, averaged 58 in test cricket, including a run of five successive centuries (ended by a run out 90). He also represented his home island of Barbados at Contract Bridge, a game that I enjoy playing.
Garry Sobers – left handed bat, left arm fast, left arm swing or seam and left arm finger and wrist spinner, brilliant fielder. Quite simply the most complete cricketer the world has ever seen, averaging 57.78 with the bat and taking 235 test wickets. If Ellyse Perry (still only 29 years old, though she has been around a long time) takes up spin bowling to add to her other cricketing accomplishments she may match him in that regard. Sobers was actually first selected as a left arm spinner, developed his batting after that, and then as a Lancashire League pro developed the ability to deploy pace, seam and swing because pros there are expected to be able to contribute heavily with both bat and ball no matter what, and the heavy skies and green surfaces that are both such regular features of north western England tend to lend themselves more to pace, swing and seam than to spin.
+Clyde Walcott – right hand bat, wicket keeper. He was a recognized wicket keeper, as well averaging 56 in test cricket, and the only way I could have got him in as other than a keeper would have been by dropping King Viv.
Lance Gibbs – off spinner, taker of 309 test wickets (world record at the time). While there was a reason why the West Indies team from my lifetime should feature an all-pace battery, for this combo I revert to a more balanced attack.
Thus my all-time XI in batting order reads: Headley, *Worrell, Lara, Weekes, Richards, Sobers, +Walcott, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Gibbs. This combination has a splendid looking opening pair, a stellar 3,4 and 5 with Lara a left hander for extra balance, the most complete cricketer of all time at six, a batter/keeper at 7, three fast bowlers and an off spinner. The bowling, with the three specialist quick bowlers backed up by Gibbs’ off spin, Sobers’ variety of left arm options, Worrell and possibly Richards as seventh bowler, looks awesome (the only base not covered is right arm leg spin).
George Challenor and Percy Tarilton, the pioneers of ‘Caribbean style batting’ never got to show what they could do at test level. Allan Rae and Jeff Stollmeyer were a highly successful opening combo, but had I opted to pick an opening partnership Greenidge and Haynes would have got the nod. Conrad Hunte was a great opener who never benefitted from having a truly established partner. I have the word of CLR James that Rohan Kanhai was an absolute genius with a bat in his hands, but just who could I drop to make way for him?
Among the great fast bowlers not getting the nod were: George John who flourished before his country played test cricket, Herman Griffith (also a tough captain – he was once captaining a youngster of whom big predictions were being made and when it came to time for the youngster to bowl he requested a suggestion of field placements beginning with the word ‘deep’, and when he prefaced his fourth successive position with that word Griffith snapped, and called up another bowler, saying “No, you obviously intend to bowl foolishness” – a refusal to accept low standards of which I wholeheartedly approve), Learie Constantine, Manny Martindale, Roy Gilchrist, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith. Spinners to miss out included Ellis Achong (from whom the term ‘chinaman’ for the left arm wrist spinner’s equivalent of a googly derives – his parents came to Trinidad as indentured labourers, and were indeed Chinese, and the story is that when Walter Robins fell LBW to him, misreading the spin, he said en route back to the pavilion “fancy being done by a chinaman” and so the term was born), and my little pals Ram and Val (Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine, who took the first eight wickets to fall in the first test innings in which he bowled). Had I been able to accommodate a specialist wicket keeper Deryck Murray would have got the nod, but with only 11 spaces to fill there was just no way to do so.
I am well aware that at least one of the regular readers of this series of posts knows a very great deal about West Indian cricket, and I hope that ‘africanherbsman’ as he identifies himself feels that I have done something approaching justice to the cricketers of his islands, for whose achievements I have great admiration.
LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Well, our virtual Caribbean cruise is at an end, but I have a few links to share before applying my usual sign off…
The fulltoss blog, which I highly recommend, have an excellent post up titled “The Joe Root Dilemma“. This refers to the fact that Root the captain averages whicless than Root the pure batter. My own view is that the best way to handle replacing Root as captain would be to appoint Burns as his successor, with Dominic Bess being made vice-captain and prepared for long-term succession to the role (I have stated before that other considerations being equal spinners, especially spinners who can bat a bit, should make the best captains, a view also expressed by Arthur Mailey, a test match spinner in his day, in his autobiography).
Another variation on the ‘all time XIs’ theme, this time pitting blockers against hitters.
Welcome to another variation on the ‘All Time XIs‘ theme. Today I present two XIs, one made of players noted for blocking with both bat and ball, and to take them on a much more explosive combination. We start with…
THE BLOCKERS XI
Gary Kirsten – left handed opening batter. He once scored 275 in 14 hours at the crease v England. After a distinguished career for South Africa he became a coach, in which role he has also enjoyed considerable success.
Hanif Mohammad – right handed opening bat, holder of the record for the longest test innings ever played, a 970 minute marathon in which he accrued 337, at the time of its compilation the third highest ever test score behind Sobers and Hutton.
Rahul Dravid – right handed bat. He was referred to as ‘The Wall’ in his playing days, a moniker that explains his inclusion.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul – left handed bat, occasional leg spinner. Holder of various records for longest periods of time between dismissals – four times in his test career he went more than 1,000 minutes between dismissals. He is also, with due respect to Graeme Smith of South Africa, exhibit A in the case against the proposition that left handed batters are naturally more elegant than their right handed counterparts.
Jimmy Adams – left handed bat, occasional slow left arm orthodox, occasional wicket keeper. His approach to batting got him dubbed ‘Jimmy Padams’.
Trevor Bailey – right handed bat, right arm fast medium. Famous for saving the Lord’s test match of 1953 in company with Willie Watson, his 71 in four hours on that occasion was comparatively sprightly next to his effort in the second innings at The Gabba in 1958. He took 357 minutes to reach the slowest fifty in the history of first class cricket, ultimately scoring 68 in 458 minutes at the crease. Jack Fingletonin his book about that Ashes tour, “Four Chukkas to Australia”, notes that of the 428 deliveries Bailey faced in this blockathon no fewer than 388 were dots. Bailey’s innings was cast into even grimmer light by the performance of Aussie debutant Norman O’Neill who in the final innings of that match scored 71 not out in under two and a half hours to carry his team to victory. Jimmy Burkein that Aussie chase was unbeaten on 28 from 252 minutes at the crease, but as again noted by Fingleton, he was playing for his partners, giving them the strike whenever possible, whereas Bailey hogged the bowling, reducing his team mates, who numbered Graveney and Cowdrey among others to the same level of strokeless impotence as himself.
+Jack Russell – wicket keeper, left handed bat. He played second fiddle to Mike Atherton in a famous escape act at Johannesburg, being 29 not out after over four hours at the end of it. He performed other notable acts of batting defiance, including a determined century against Australia at Old Trafford which dragged England back from 59-6 and a gallant effort to save a match in the Caribbean, in which he batted most of the final day for 55
Bapu Nadkarni – slow left arm orthodox bowler, left hand bat. He conceded just 1.67 runs per over through his career, and against Pakistan once had 0-23 from 32 overs. His greatest blocking spell came against England when he had figures of 0-5 from 32 overs!
Joel Garner – right arm fast bowler, right handed bat. A notoriously parsimonious bowler, though in fairness he did take over 250 wickets in his 59 test matches as well.
*Alfred Shaw– right arm medium pace, right hand bat. The man who bowled more overs (albeit four ball overs in his day) than he conceded runs in his first class career. He once took 7-7 in 41 overs.
Hugh Tayfield – off spinner, right hand bat, once bowled 137 successive dot balls, including 16 successive eight-ball maidens. He was also South Africa’s leading test wicket taker from their first period as a test nation.
The Blockers XI is a well balanced side, with Garner, Shaw and Bailey to bowl seam, contrasting spin options in Tayfield and Nadkarni, good batting depth and even a respectable mix of left and right handers. It is now time to meet…
THE HITTERS XI
Sanath Jayasuriya – left handed opening bat, slow left arm orthodox bowler. A scorer of a test match triple century among other fine innings at that level, he was also the star of the 1996 World Cup, which his country, Sri Lanka, won. In the quarter final of that tournament, against an England side who had only made it that far because they had two non test-playing countries in their group he made an insufficient total of 235-7 look positively puny by slamming 82 off 44 balls.
Victor Trumper – right handed opening bat. The first ever to score 100 before lunch on the opening day of a test match (at Old Trafford in 1902, facing an England side who had set themselves to “keep Victor quiet before lunch”, reckoning that once the run up area dried sufficiently for him to use that Bill Lockwood would be deadly). He averaged over 40 runs per hour through his career, and in the course of that 1902 tour he amassed 11 centuries in all. Ashley Mallett, the former test match off spinner, is the author of a biography of him, and account of the 1902 tour titled “Victor Trumper and the 1902 Australians” by Lionel H Brownis also well worth a read.
*Donald Bradman – right handed batter. The finest batter the world had ever seen. At Leeds in 1930 he had 100 on the board by lunch, 220 by tea and then slowed down a little in the final session to end the day 309 not out, going on to 334 on the second morning. His 452 not out for NSW vs Queensland, at the time the highest score in first class history and still the highest ever made in a team’s second innings, came in just 415 minutes. His record score for his second state, South Australia, 369 against Tasmania, came in just four and half hours.
Viv Richards – right handed bat, occasional off spinner. The ‘Master Blaster’ scored what was then the fastest ever test century in terms of balls received, 56, and remains no 2 on that list at his home ground at St Johns, Antigua in 1986. England were the victims, as they had been of his 138 in the 1979 world cup final, his two double centuries in the 1976 test series and his then ODI record score of 189 not out in 1984. His highest first class score, a then Somerset record 322, came in less than a full day’s play against Warwickshire (RH Moore for Hampshire, Eddie Paynter for Lancashire and ‘Duleep’ for Sussex are others to have managed this in a County Championship match.
+Adam Gilchrist– wicket keeper and left handed bat. The fastest Ashes century ever in terms of balls received, 57, at the WACA in 2006. Among his many other blistering efforts was a 149 in a World Cup Final innings reduced by the weather to 38 overs.
Gilbert Jessop – right handed bat, right arm fast bowler. The fastest scorer in the history of the game, with no fewer than 11 of his 53 first class centuries taking less than an hour to complete. He holds joint second and fourth place in the list of fastest first class double hundreds, 120 and 130 minutes respectively, and his 191 in 90 minutes at Hastings would have been at least 213 under post 1910 rules (for most of his career a ball had to go out of the ground to count six, not just to clear the ropes before bouncing as now). His 40 minute century against Yorkshire remains the second quickest ever in first class cricket in non-contrived circumstances (efforts when the bowling side are deliberately giving away runs to set up a declaration are nowadays quite rightly reduced to footnotes). I recommend “The Croucher”, a biography of him by Gerald Brodribb.
Wasim Akram – left arm fast bowler, left handed batter. His highest test score, and the highest ever by a number eight, 257, included 11 sixes, and that was not out of keeping with his approach to batting. His left arm pace bowling netted 414 test wickets at 23.62.
Shane Warne – leg spinner, right hand bat. More test runs than any other non-centurion, with 3,154 of them, and his inclination was very much to attack, as it was with his bowling, and of course it is his708 test wickets at 25.41 that get him into this team.
Michael Holding – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. He once played an innings of 59 against England that included five maximums, but it is of course as ‘Whispering Death’, taker of 249 test wickets at 23.68 in his 60 test matches that he is included.
Muttiah Muralitharan – off spinner and right handed batter. He scored his test runs at 72 per hundred balls, and 174 of his 1,261 test career runs came in sixes, but it is of course his 800 test wickets at 22.72 in 133 appearances that earn him his place.
This team boasts a magnificent top five, the greatest keeper/batter the game has ever seen, the ideal number 7 in Jessop and four guys selected primarily as bowlers who are as varied as they are formidable. Wasim Akram and Michael Holding look every inch a deadly new ball pair, with Jessop a more than handy third pace option, while an aggregate of 1,508 wickets from 278 matches suggests that my selected spin twins can do the job. Additionally, with Wasim bowling left arm and Holding right arm the pace attack has an extra level of variation. Finally, Jayasuriya’s left arm spin is not an entirely negligible quantity.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CONTEST AND HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Obviously the matches would have to be timeless to prevent the blockers from being able to settle for a draw. For my on field umpires I choose Ray Julian to restrict the output of Jimmy ‘Padams’ and Kumar Dharmasena with his two World Cup finals worth of experience. The TV Replay umpire can be Aleem Dar. The hitters will probably have to bowl a lot of overs, but they have the wherewithal to do so, and they are not going to be short of runs. In a five match series, with all games to be played out I would expect the hitters to emerge comfortable winners, estimated margin 4-1.
For the hitters, among the many contenders to miss out were:
Left handed openers: Saeed Anwar – not quite the equal of Jayasuriya as a fast scorer, and also Jayasuriya gives me an extra bowling option. Chris Gayle, two test triple centuries, more T20 centuries than anyone else (22 of them), but his off spin is not as useful as Jayasuriya’s slow left arm to this team.
Right handed openers: Virender Sehwag – to be able to score 300 in a day in test cricket is remarkable, but I could not drop Trumper even for Sehwag, though this was a very close call. Rohit Sharma, with a 264 in an ODI to his credit and a good start as a test match opener was also in with a shout.
In the middle order: Charlie Macartney, another member of the ‘hundred before lunch on day 1 of a test match’ club and a left arm spinner was close, while the biggest miss by far was Sir Garry Sobers, who I was close to giving Graeme Pollock’s no four slot. Kevin Pietersen would also have his advocates, but would they really drop the ‘master blaster’ to make way for him?
Among the all rounders: Stokes may command a place if he continues on his current trajectory, Botham was an alternative to Jessop for the no 7 slot, but I felt that leaving ‘the croucher’ out of a ‘hitters XI’ to not be an option. Flintoff of course was also a huge hitter, but not a serious rival to Jessop or Botham. Arthur Wellard, the Somerset fast medium bowler who clubbed over 500 maximums in his first class career was another who I regretted not being able to find a place for. There are many others who will have their advocates. Another intriguing possibility, could I have countenanced dropping Jessop would have been to give the no7 slot to the most complete all round cricketer among current top level players: Ellyse Perry. If I could imagine a team called the ‘Hitters XI’ without Jessop I think that giving Perry his no 7 slot would be my choice.
I wanted an awesome foursome of bowlers who all approached their batting as aggressively as they did their bowling, and although I am open to suggestions I do not think that element of the team could be improved upon.
The blockers had some big misses as well. I could only select two openers of course, which meant no place for such masters of the blockers art as Alastair Cook, Geoffrey Boycott, Dick Barlow (the Barlow of ‘my Hornby and my Barlow long ago”) and Alick Bannerman. ‘The Wall’ had an inalienable claim to the no 3 slot, which meant no place for William Scotton or Chris Tavare. Bailey kept out his fellow Essex all-rounder Johnny Douglas (“Johnny Won’t Hit Today, from his initials JWHT) and the first of the great Aussie gum chewers, Ken ‘slasher’ Mackay. In the wicket keeper’s slot I might have had Brendon Kuruppu, scorer of one of the most drab and featureless double hundreds ever compiled. JasonGillespie’smonumental effort in what turned out to be his final test knock was close to earning him a place among the bowlers. Alfred Shaw’s Aussie counterpart Harry Boyle might also have had a bowling slot.
The stage has been set for the clash between the blockers and the hitters, which of course, especially with me doing the selecting, the hitter are bound to emerge victorious from, and all that remains is my usual sign off…
The latest in my “100 cricketers” series, dealing with numbers 3, 4 and 5 in my fifth XI. Also features some of my photographs.
Welcome to the latest post in my “100 cricketers” series. We are now moving on to look at numbers three, four and five in my fifth XI. The introductory post to the series can be found here, the post which introduces the fifth XI is here and the most recent post is here. Now into the main meat of our post…
The man who became known as “The Wall” because he was so hard to dislodge and scored over 13,000 test runs down the years for India. Most of the people who opened the innings for India while he was batting at no 3 were distinctly unmemorable, and he did not all that often get to spend huge amounts of time in the pavilion before starting his innings. However, as he often had Tendulkar,Ganguly and Laxman following him in the middle order he could certainly never complain about not having support. He played county cricket for Kent as well, and once almost single-handledly won them a match against Hampshire because while the latter’s overseas star, one S K Warne, had the rest of the Kent batting at his mercy, Dravid made a century in the first innings and 73 not out in the second.
I recall his test debut innings against England in 1996, when he made 95. In 2002 in England he was in sensational form right through the summer, rivalled only by Michael Vaughan for England who was warming up for a winter in which he would relieve the Aussie bowlers of 633 runs.
Although Dravid is quite rightly remembered for his skill at the long form of the game, at which he was certainly one of the all-time greats, an ODI average of 39.16 shows that while it was not his preference he could handle shorter formats as well. We have given out batting order a very solid start, and it is now time to introduce some extra aggression, beginning with…
The only West Indian ever to score 100 first class hundreds (and given the reduction of county champsionship games to 14 per season, the infrequency with which overseas players are available for full seasons and the small number of first class games played in the Caribbean this record is highly likely to stand unchallenged), and until it was beaten a couple of years ago by Misbah-ul-Haqthe holder of the record for the quickest test century in terms of balls received, a 56-ball effort against England in his native Antigua to help his country to a second straight 5-0 series victory over the inventors of the game.
As well as his amazing batting Richards was an exceptionally fine fielder, running out three Australians in the inaugural mens World Cup final in 1975 to help win that match after Clive Lloyd had set the Windies up with a century (in 1979 Richards scored 138 not out against England in the final to make it two out of two for the Windies, but in 1983 against India he and his team came unstuck against Kapil Dev, Madan Lal,Balwindersingh Sandhu, Roger Binny and Mohinder Amarnathlosing that final by 43 runs). Finally, although it would be an exaggeration to describe him as an all-rounder his part time off-spin was sometimes useful for the West Indies.
Still the holder of the highest first-class score by a South African (337 not out), Cullinan also held their record individual test score (275 not out, beating Graeme Pollock’s 274) until first Graeme Smith (captain of the “so left handers are naturally more elegant are they?” team – possible subject of a future blog post on a quiet day!) with 277 and then Hashim Amlawith 311 not out beat it. He struggled against Shane Warne (he was not alone in that respect), but one occasion at least he got the better of him:
Warne: I’ve been waiting two years for another opportunity to humiliate you.
Cullinan: Looks like you spent it eating.
One on occasion against England Cullinan gave so much strike to the number eleven batter that Darren Gough, never a shrinking violet, made a symbol in the air implying that Cullinan was playing for the ‘not out’ and subsequent boost to his batting average.
The presence of Richards (especially) and Cullinan at nos 4 and 5 give us some middle order aggression before we get to the all-rounders who feature in the next post in this series.
I took a lot of photographs at the session I attended this morning which was the subject of my previous post and was cunning enough to withold a few to end this one..
Continuing my “100 cricketers” series and using the photography section to mention an NAS West Norfolk coffee morning.
Welcome to the latest installment in my “100 cricketers“. Today, having finished the second XI we start going through the third XI, with the opening pair. For those who are new to the series and would like to catch up here are the most important staging posts so far:
She owes her presence in my list to one innings , but what an amazing innings it was. In the 2017 Women’s World Cup, facing one of the pre-tournament favourites Australia she scored 178 not out. None of her team mates were able to handle the strong Aussie bowling attack – her dominance of this innings is reflected in the fact that Sri Lanka as a whole tallied only 255.
As a one-person show it had few precedents (Viv Richards, 189 not out in a total of 272-9 v England at Old Trafford in 1984 and Kapil Dev, 175 not out coming in at 9-4 to get India to an ultimately winning 266-8 v Zimbabwe in the 1983 world cup are two that come to mind, while in test cricket there was Graham Gooch’s 154 not out at Headingley in 1991 which got England to 252 all out). Unfortunately for Atapattu her amazing innings was not quite enough – Australia won the match in spite of it. A full account of the match can be read here.
The England Women are starting a series in Sri Lanka this Saturday, and I for one hope for more fireworks from Atapattu during it.
One of the select few batters to have scored two test match triple hundreds (Don Bradman, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle are the others), and alone in having scored 100 runs in each session of a test match day (Bradman’s 309 on the opening day at Headingley in 1930 saw him score 220 not out in the first two session and then add a mere 89 in the third), Sehwag’s aggression has been well an truly backed by results. I remember a series opener between India and England when India needed 384 to win in the fourth innings of the match and a very rapid innings from Sehwag completely knocked the stuffing out of England, enabling India to win with considerable ease.
He also bowled occasional off-spin, with his batting and bowling averages being just the right way round, although it would be a risible over-statement of the case to describe someone who paid 47 runs per wicket as an all-rounder.
Finally, as a right-handed bat he contrasts nicely at the top of the order with the left-handed Chamari Atapattu, meaning that opponents of this XI would face a varied challenge right from the start.
In my next post in this series I will cover nos 3, 4 and 5, and given who two of those are, and who I have down at number 6, I think most would agree that the luxury of an all attacking opening pair is one that this XI can well afford.
This morning was an NAS West Norfolk coffee morning, using a new venue, a Caribbean Soul Food establishment which has recently opened on Tower Street. It is an excellent space, and they were sensible about the background music – they did play some, even though it was a morning, but the volume was not too loud. There was a good tunrout, including several very welcome new faces, and I had an enjoyable morning getting away from my bungalow for a bit (something that has not been easy of late). Here are some photographs I took while I was there: