CricInfo has published a World XI for Test cricket. It’s fun to play selector for hypothetical teams. This was going on for some time on CricInfo and Pakistanis must have voted for Miandad while New Zealanders must have voted for Martin Crowe as the second best middle-order batsman ever.
It’s all hypothetical. No point in arguing with the format of the game or the venues. All cricketing rules as of the end of 2009 will be deemed valid. Third umpire will be in place. Five unsuccessful review requests per innings per team will be allowed. The two teams will play a ten-game series of five-day test matches at the following venues over a year.
- Eden Gardens, Kolkata, India
- The Lord’s, London, England
- Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia
- Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, Pakistan
- Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
- Newlands Cricket Ground, Cape Town, South Africa
- The Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand
- The Oval, Kennington, England
- Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia
- PCA Stadium, Mohali, India
I have used the pool of cricketers created by CricInfo. It is easier that way. But I do not necessarily agree to their 5-batsmen 4-bowlers 1-allrounder approach. In a test match, a team needs to have four main bowlers and two to three change bowlers. This is particularly true for batsman-friendly pitches.
Some people may argue that names like Dennis Lillee, Ricky Ponting, Ian Botham etc should not be considered here because they have more shameful acts to their names than heroics on the field. But, that way, most of the Australian and some of the British, and a few of the Indian, Pakistani, Kiwi, ……… players should also be ignored. The teams will look oridinary!
My two best teams will comprise:
An Attacking Opener
Keeping an opener who can dominate the ball from the very beginning is a viable option here because we should have a solid middle order. Graeme Smith (91 tests 7457 runs @ 49.7 22×100 29×50) and Sehwag (87 tests 7694 runs @ 53.4 22×100 27×50) are my choices. I have a feeling that no one else would choose them in their all-time cricket eleven. This selection is not to say that these two are better openers than, say, Barry Richards or Gavaskar. This is just to say that these two would compliment the rest of the teams in the best possible way. For my list of best cricketers in the major roles, please see the table at the end of the post.
Barry Richards played in too few international matches to be considered in an all-time XI. Sehwag and Smith are clearly the best attacking openers, going by statistics and by what contemporary players have to say. Gordon Grinidge, Conrad Hunte etc have far worse staistics than these two.
An Anchoring Opener
Hutton (79 tests 6971 runs @ 56.7 19×100 33×50) and Hobbs (61 tests 5410 runs @ 56.9 15×100 28×50). They can come in based purely on batting average. Gavaskar (125 tests 10122 runs @ 51.12 34×100 45×50) could replace any of the two, though. These three are among the best five opening batsmen of all time.
Three Middle-Order Batsmen
Three middle-order batsmen to dominate the bowling or build a defence, as the situation may demand. Bradman (52 tests 6996 runs @ 99.94 29×100 13×50) is an automatic choice. The other five are Tendulkar (177 tests 14692 runs @ 56.94 51×100 59×50), Lara (131 tests 11953 runs @ 52.88 34×100 48×50), Richards (121 tests 8540 runs @ 50.23 24×100 45×50), Headley (22 tests 2190 runs @ 60.83 10×100 5×50) and Hammond (85 tests 7249 runs @ 58.45 22×100 24×50). (I guess any of these guys, save Bradman, can be replaced by any of Border, Ponting, Steve Waugh, Dravid, The 3W’s, RG Pollock, Greg Chappell and Sangakkara!). Going by statistics, these are the best middle order batsmen of all time. Some of these players even have a decent bowling record, too.
At least one of the all-rounders should better be a quality spinner, the oppsite variety of the main spinner. But since we have a few good spinners from amongst the batsmen, this is not an absolute necessity.
One Batting All-Rounder
Sobers is an automatic choice. The other one should be Kallis. These are the two best batting all-rounders of all time.
One Bowling All-Rounder
Imran Khan and Keith Miller. If Imran Khan is not discredited for his ball tampering, he is one of the two best all-rounders in cricket history, the other one being Gary Sobers. Keith Miller had very Imranesque records. Both Kapil Dev and Ian Botham were outstanding all-rounders, specially during the early days of their careers, but would lose out to Imran and Miller in terms of statistics over the whole internationsal career. Shaun Pollock was another great bowling all-rounder to be considered here.
A quality wicket-keeper, both for fast bowling and spin, who is at least a useful batsman. Alan Knott and Adam Gilchrist are the two best here.
Three Strike Bowlers
Two Fast Bowlers
Marshall, Barnes, McGrath and Hadlee. It could have been Trueman, Lillee, Akram and Garner as well. Or Waqar Younis, Alan Dadidson, Alan Donald and Ambrose/Walsh. Even Dale Steyn could easily be picked based on his phenomenal strike rate. But I kept the search simple. At least 150 wickets taken, a strike rate of at most 60, a bowling average of at most 24, and all these conditions are true for over-all career as well as in only away-games (other than for Barnes) against fairly strong oppositions.
Warne and Muralitharan. This is purely based on statistics and consistency of their performance. Kumble, Jim Laker, the Indian Spin Quatret, Subhas Gupte, Underwood, Mankad, Grimmett etc could be considered, too. But Warne and Muralitharan remain the two best spinners of all time.
[An 'All'-Time Indian Test XI may have a different combination than the above, though. Since India has not produced a match-winning fast bowler yet, the team may have to be a little all-rounder heavy, i.e., having a few players who are good bowlers and decent batsmen. Here is the combination:
Two opening batsmen from among Gavaskar, Sehwag, Gambhir and Vijay Merchant
Three middle-order batsmen from among Tendulkar, Dravid, M Amarnath, Laxman, Ganguly, Vijay Hazare
One wicket-keeper from Dhoni and Kirmani
Five from the three categories below, depending on the pitch and some other conditions
Two/three all-rounders from Mankad, KapilDev and Phadkar
One/two pacer(s) from Zaheer Khan, Srinath, Amar Singh, Nissar
Two/one spinner(s) from Kumble, Gupte, Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna and Harbhajan
Mankad, KapilDev and Phadkar are very good batsmen capable of scoring centuries. Harbhajan, Zaheer, Srinath, Amar Singh and Kumble are also decent batsmen. On the other hand, M Amarnath, Vijay Hazare and Ganguly are decent medium pacers and Sehwag and Tendulkar can spin the ball
A very valid point to remember here:
An Indian team with eight of the players listed above (Gambhir, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid, Dhoni, Laxman, Zaheer and Harbhajan) has been white-washed by England in England and by Australia in Australia in 2010-2011!
How about this as the best Indian test XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, M Amarnath, Mankad, Dhoni, Kapildev, Amar Singh, Kumble, Bedi? Bats deep - other than for Bedi, everyone is capable of scoring some runs. Has three good medium pacers and three excellent spinners. Dhoni would be the captain, and Kapildev would be vice captain.
Another combination could be Gavaskar, Mankad, Dravid, Tendulkar, M Amarnath, Ganguly/Laxman, Dhoni, Kapildev, Amar Singh, Kumble, Bedi - this allows one extra batsman and one extra seamer in Ganguly if played in the British conditions.]
The Final Teams
Any of these two can be the first team and the other would be the second team. I would not name them in any order. Just two random names. The team containing Bradman and Sobers may look like the first choice team, though. Bradman is statistically the most dominant player in a major sport, and Sobers is considered the greatest cricketer ever by many. But the batsmen in the ‘second’ team are more well-rounded, in the sense that most of them play pace and spin equally well.
Both the teams bat very deep. The first team has four quality pace bowlers, one great off-spinner and two other good spinners (Gary Sobers doubling as a spinner, and Viv Richards). The second team has four quality pace bowlers, one great leg-spinner, two good off-break bowlers (Hammond and Sehwag) and one good leg-spinner (Tendulkar). Warne never had to lead any test side, but I think he is the best choice to lead the ‘second’ team.
My composition and Richie Benaud’s composition have very similar structures even though I had no idea that Benaud picked an all-time eleven in 2004.
|My Best XI||My World XI||CricInfo XI A||CricInfo XI B||Richie Benaud’s XI||Bradman’s XI|
|Len Hutton||Jack Hobbs||Jack Hobbs||Sunil Gavaskar||Jack Hobbs||Arthur Morris|
|Graeme Smith||Virender Sehwag||Len Hutton||Barry Richards||Sunil Gavaskar||Barry Richards|
|Don Bradman (vc)||George Headley||Don Bradman||George Headley||Don Bradman||Don Bradman|
|Brian Lara||Sachin Tendulkar||Sachin Tendulkar||Brian Lara||Viv Richards||Sachin Tendulkar|
|Viv Richards||Wally Hammond (vc)||Viv Richards||Wally Hammond||Sachin Tendulkar||Gary Sobers|
|Gary Sobers||Jacques Kallis||Gary Sobers||Imran Khan||Garry Sobers||Don Tallon|
|Imran Khan (cp)||Adam Gilchrist (wk)||Adam Gilchrist||Alan Knott||Imran Khan||Ray Lindwall|
|Alan Knott (wk)||Keith Miller||Malcolm Marshall||Bill O’Reilly||Adam Gilchrist||Dennis Lillee|
|Malcolm Marshall||Richard Hadlee||Shane Warne||Fred Trueman||Shane Warne||Alec Bedser|
|Muttiah Muralitharan||Shane Warne (cp)||Wasim Akram||Muttiah Muralitharan||Dennis Lillee||Bill O’Reilly|
|Sydney Barnes||Glenn McGrath||Dennis Lillee||Sydney Barnes||Sydney Barnes||Clarrie Grimmett|
You should better disagree with this ‘selection’ if you have ever watched any form of cricket. Please post your own Best World XI as a comment here. Just remember not to pick Salil Ankola, Ian Chatfield, Alan Mulally etc. As long as you have Bradman and Sobers, and nine other players from the names mentioned in bold letters in this post ( a couple of players may be from elsewhere, too), you have a good Cricket World XI. Well, you have to have the combination right, too. Can’t have five spinners and six openers! Here is a pool to choose from (Benaud’s final selections have been italicised):
|Richie Benaud’s Greatest XI & Pool (2004)||My Pool (more or less in order)||Names featuring in two/+ final lists|
|Openers||Jack Hobbs||Len Hutton||Len Hutton|
|Sunil Gavaskar||Jack Hobbs||Jack Hobbs|
|Victor Trumper||Sunil Gavaskar||Sunil Gavaskar|
|Gordon Greenidge||Virender Sehwag||Barry Richards|
|Len Hutton||Graeme Smith|
|Arthur Morris||Barry Richards|
|First-down||Don Bradman||Don Bradman||Rahul Dravid||Don Bradman|
|Walter Hammond||George Headley||Ricky Ponting||George Headley|
|George Headley||Walter Hammond||Walter Hammond|
|Middle Order||Viv Richards||Sach Tendulkar||Alan Border||Viv Richards|
|Sachin Tendulkar||Viv Richards||Sangakkara||Sachin Tendulkar|
|Graeme Pollock||Greg Chappell||Brian Lara|
|Brian Lara||Brian Lara|
|Frank Worrell||Graeme Pollock|
|Greg Chappell||Steve Waugh|
|All-rounders||Garry Sobers||Garry Sobers||Garry Sobers|
|Imran Khan||Imran Khan||Imran Khan|
|Ian Botham||Keith Miller|
|Richard Hadlee||Kapil Dev|
|Kapil Dev||Ian Botham|
|Keith Miller||Jacques Kallis|
|Wicket-keeper||Adam Gilchrist||Alan Knott||Alan Knott|
|Rod Marsh||Adam Gilchrist||Adam Gilchrist|
|Ian Healy||Rod Marsh|
|Spin-Bowler||Shane Warne||Muralitharan||Vinoo Mankad||Shane Warne|
|Bill O’Reilly||Shane Warne||Indian Fab4 *||Muralitharan|
|Abdul Qadir||Anil Kumble||Jim Laker||Bill O’Reilly|
|Pace-Bowlers||Dennis Lillee||Sydney Barnes||Wasim Akram||Sydney Barnes|
|Sydney Barnes||Malc Marshall||Dennis Lillee||Malc Marshall|
|Ray Lindwall||Richard Hadlee||Alan Donald||Dennis Lillee|
|Fred Trueman||Glenn McGrath||Waqar Younis|
|Glenn McGrath||Fred Trueman||Alan Davidson|
|Harold Larwood||Curt Ambrose||Joel Garner|
The Wisden list published in 2001 tried to quantify and rank single individual performances as well as overall career performances for all cricketers who have played test matches. The merit and acceptability of this list is suspect, but we may use this as another pool of great cricketers. Only, Wisden is a little biased towards British and Australian cricketers. The top (“most influencial”) ten test batsmen, according to the list that takes the entire careers into account, are (in order): Bradman, Tendulkar, Dravid, Sobers, Border, Hobbs, Barrington, Gavaskar, GS Chappell and Lara. The top ten bowlers are Muralitharan, Hadlee, Barnes, Warne, Grimmett, McGrath, Lillee, Marshall, Imran Khan and Walsh. Other than for Barrington, all the names are there in my pool.