Saturday, 2 June 2007

The Greatest Test XI

Over the coming months, Third Umpire will be engaging in the seemingly impossible task of picking the greatest Test side from all players who made their Test debuts in the last hundred years. It will, we hope, spark great debate, even if picking a side everyone agrees on will no doubt prove impossible.

Statistics will be used to some degree, but they will be far from the overriding criteria - emphasis will be placed on those who changed the game beyond the length of their career. Of great significance will be players' records against the best side of their era (or, if they played in it, the second best side). Records in other first-class cricket will be taken into account, as they can reveal much of a player's enduring quality, particularly when it comes to those South Africans who had their Test careers cut short by apartheid. However, I have decided all candidates must have played a minimum of 20 Tests so there is substantial evidence of a player's durability in Tests, rather than conjecture based on excellence in first-class cricket.

To begin with, I have long-listed 56 players who have a case for being selected in this side, although this list is by no means definitive:

Opening batsmen (6):
Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Sunil Gavaskar, Geoff Boycott, Len Hutton, Arthur Morris

Middle-order batsmen (21):
Everton Weekes, George Headley, Brian Lara, Viv Richards, Gary Sobers, Frank Worrell, Rohan Kanhai, Javed Miandad, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Don Bradman, Steve Waugh, Allan Border, Stan McCabe, Greg Chappell, Neil Harvey, Wally Hammond, Ken Barrington, Denis Compton, Ricky Ponting, Graeme Pollock

Wicket-keepers (4):
Clyde Walcott, Andy Flower, Adam Gilchrist, Les Ames

Allrounders (5):
Imran Khan, Keith Miller, Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Shaun Pollock
For the purposes of this exercise, 'allrounder' is someone who can bat at seven or above and be one of only four bowlers, which is why Sobers, Hadlee and Akram just miss out and appear elsewhere instead.

Spinners (6):
Shane Warne, Bill O’Reilly, Muttiah Muralitharan, Abdul Qadir, Derek Underwood, Jim Laker

Fast bowlers (14):
Dennis Lillee, Ray Lindwall, Malcolm Marshall, Curtley Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Allan Donald, Glenn McGrath, Fred Trueman, Harold Larwood, Joel Garner, Alan Davidson, Richard Hadlee
NB: Sydney Barnes is not eligible

If you can, I recommend you have a look at the profiles on Cricinfo.

Picking XIs such as these are, perhaps, an exercise in futility - but we hope it'll be entertaining. Do leave your comments below - we'd love to hear if any players should be in this list, but aren't, and, especially, who of these brilliant players do not deserve to make the final shortlist.


Richard Lake said...

That's a pretty good list Tim. As always, you have personal favorites who you would add.

For my mind, I'd probably add Gordon Greenidge, Peter May, Richie Benaud, Michael Holding and Alan Knott. Benaud and Knott in particular changed the game immeasurably.

Tim said...

I am trying to make this as subjective a possible, having posted around on several forums (like - and got excellent responses (this is only a preliminary list) so my own favouritism is not too pronounced!

The players there has been most clamour for are Knott, Holding, benaud and Greenidge, wih the middle two having a particularly good case. the problem, though, comes not in finding worthy candidates but in finding players they are superior to, as I do not want to keep expanding the list.

Richard Lake said...

Had a look at that - interesting discussion!

As for looking to replace players, from my list I'm not sure Greenidge gets in above any of the openers mentioned, although he was a much more modern type of opener.

Peter May would replace Dravid, Barrington, Border or Waugh (if not Harvey, Tendulkar).

Richie Benaud I guess qualifies as an all-rounder and certainly ahead of Shaun Pollock in terms of his influence on the way cricket developed. If as a spinner then ahead of Jim Laker, who I'm not sure was as good as Tony Lock, the 19 wickets notwithstanding.

Alan Knott to my mind could replace any of the keepers. He was the first genuine wicket-keeper batsman.

I'm not sure about Ambrose and Walsh in the all time greats list. Had there been much greater competition for places in the WI team, they wouldn't have played so many games. I'd have Holding ahead of both.

Averages are useful, but it's also worth having a look at the historical world rankings to see who is statistically at the top.

Nick Gammons said...

As you say yourself it's a tough task to pick an all-time XI and I think your list includes most of the best candidates.

However, I would add Inzamam-ul-Haq, Kallis and Kumble, as well as the aforementioned Holding, Knott and Benaud. All of these six have had long and significant careers, both statistically and in terms of their impact on world cricket.