Sunday, 24 June 2007

Greatest Test XI

The original 56-man shortlist has now been cut to 28. The list now reads as follows:

Opening batsmen (4):
Len Hutton, Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe, Sunil Gavaskar

Middle-order batsmen (7):
George Headley, Brian Lara, Viv Richards, Don Bradman, Wally Hammond, Ricky Ponting, Graeme Pollock

Wicket-keepers (2):
Andy Flower, Les Ames
Clyde Walcott, the best batsman of all keepers, only played a third of his Tests as a keeper - but if anyone has some evidence to suggest he was also an excellent gloveman he would be strongly considered.

Allrounders (3):
Imran Khan, Keith Miller, Gary Sobers

Spinners (4):
Shane Warne, Bill O’Reilly, Muttiah Muralitharan, Derek Underwood

Fast bowlers (8):
Dennis Lillee, Ray Lindwall, Malcolm Marshall, Curtley Ambrose, Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath, Alan Davidson, Richard Hadlee

Regarding the selection of the final XI, this notiional side will play on an unknown wicket - which means players must have proved themselves in a variety of conditions and, ultimately, those who did best in the trickiest conditions they faced will be in a better position to be selected.

Candidates are selected on their performances over an extended period of time but certain players' statistics were damaged by poor performances at the beginning or end of their careers, and this must be taken into account. We should assume players operate at their 'peak' - but this must have been not merely a series or two but a significant duration of their careers.

Statistics are obviously hugely significant, but not overly so - there will be no hesitation in selecting, say, a batsman with a lower average than someone else on the list not included. Particularly important is how players fared during the toughest challenges of their Test careers - it is for this reason that Sir Ian Botham, although he averaged 38 with the bat and 23 with the ball during his first 54 Tests, has been omitted: he was consistently poor against the best side of his era, the West Indies, averaging 15 and 31 during this time span and 21 and 35 overall.

The final XI will be a balanced side with the tools to thrive in all conditions so, for instance, the side would not include four swing bowlers even if they were the best four quicks of all time.

I will begin analysing each facet of the 28 shortly but, first, there will be a few days for appeals to be made regarding the list. Please leave your comments below, and feel free to join the discussion for this Greatest Test XI, already stretching to 10 pages, at the World A-Team forums.

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