Monday, 16 July 2007

Sobers is a certainty; but what about Imran and Miller?

To continue the analysis of the short-listed players for the Greatest Test XI of the last century, we look at the three all-rounders in the 28 – Garfield Sobers, Keith Miller and Imran Khan.

Garfield Sobers would probably have made the final XI as a batsman alone; add in his brilliant fielding and incredibly versatile bowling, and he may well be the finest Test cricketer of them all. Sobers simply excelled at all aspects of the game; he could play all the shots, though his offside play was particularly memorable; but his bowling (which struggled initially in Test cricket) was almost equally impressive. To be able to get Test wickets with three distinct types of bowling – brisk fast-medium (he often opened the bowling), left-arm orthodox and wrist spin must be unique in cricketing history. Though Sobers scored 26 Test hundreds, including the then-record Test score of 365* against Pakistan, arguably his best innings was 254 for the Rest of the World against Australia, but the games were not awarded Test status.

Keith Miller was never a player to be judged merely on statistics; but his Test averages – 37 with the bat and 23 with the ball – are nonetheless extraordinary. Miller, a famously brave fighter pilot during world War Two, was gregarious and played his cricket to entertain; this he achieved magnificently. His batting was classical and attacking; he scored seven hundreds, though it is now recognised that his best batting was for Dominions against England in 1945. With the ball, he was, though sometimes a slightly reluctant bowler, very fast and adaptable, capable of bowling excellent off-cutters. He averaged only just over three wickets a match, because opening bowlers Lindwall and Johnston would often clean the opposition up; but, on the 1956 Ashes tour and at the age of 37, Miller heroically bowled 70 overs in the game at Lord's, claiming 10 wickets in the Australian win.

Imran Khan began in the Pakistan side as a bowler who could bat; but, in his last 51 Tests, he averaged an astonishing 52 with the bat and 20 with the ball. Moreover, he was Pakistan’s captain and icon; undoubtedly their ever greatest player, he inspired them to their World Cup win, aged 39 and, towards the end of his career, Pakistan clung to West Indies’ coattails in the Test arena, drawing three series 1-1 in the late 80s and early 90s – in nine Tests against them, Imran averaged 32 with the bat and, remarkably, took 45 wickets at under 15, including 11/121 in a thumping victory in Georgetown. His bowling record is even more remarkable considering the generally docile Pakistani tracks – with his pace, indefatigability and lethal reverse-swinging yorkers, batsmen were never safe. As a batsman, he developed a sound technique and became both middle-order stabiliser and aggressor through sheer force of will. A question to consider is how high he could conceivably bat in this side.

Do one, both or neither of Imran and Miller deserve to be in the Greatest Test XI? Leave a comment below.


Samir Chopra said...

Imran's career was rarely that of the genuine all-rounder; its more properly understood as a bowler who could bat a bit, then a pure batsman while he was injured, then again as a bowler who had lost most of his fire when his batting came to the fore again.

I'd use only one all-rounder in the all-time World XI, and for that we already have Sobers.

Richard Lake said...

I'd agree with Samir. Sobers is capable of beig picked in this team on his batting skills alone as well as being a superb bowler. Neither Miller nor Imran make it into the team as a batsman or a bowler. While both are clearly great all-rounders, picking one means leaving out a true specialist.

Nick Gammons said...

Imran Khan is one of the greatest players ever to grace a cricket field. He could have been included as a bowler alone, having taken 362 wickets at 22.81 in just 88 Tests, but add in his batting and leadership and you have a true allrounder.

He also played extraordinarily well against the best team of his era, as well as having a great record against all the others.

Sobers would be in at six in my team and Imran at either seven or eight, depending on the wicket-keeper.

Richard Lake said...

I'm not denying he's a great player Nick, but I believe that he was first and foremost a bowler and if he is to be considered, he should be considered with the bowlers

Tim said...

But an average of 37, including 52 in his last 50 Tests, means he surely must be considered an all-rounder and, perhaps, one who could bat at number six or seven in a side such as this.

The Atheist said...

Sorry, but in terms of all-round cricketing genuis in all areas of the game, Sobers has no equal.

'fraid I won't be able to help you much with your test XI Tim, I'm far too busy at work for even my own blog.

If you need a spinner, I'd reluctantly pick Warne. With Murali, you need to subtract all the easy wicket against the minnows first.

Cricket Guru said...

I would have picked Imran if he were competing with Keith Miller. But certainly not ahead of Sir Gary. In my books, Sobers, Imran and Miller are the all time best all-rounders. In that order too.

More over, since we are looking at number 6, would you like Imran to come that early in the batting line up, with an average of 37?

As for selecting both Imran and Sobers, I am sorry. This is a world XI and you need only the very best in the line up. I doubt whether Imran would qualify as THE BEST bowler even in all time Pak XI. I would rate Akram and Waqr as better bowlers than him.

Nick Gammons said...

If it's a choice between Sobers and Imran for one allrounder place then Sobers would clearly win it. However, as Sobers would be picked purely as a batsman there must surely be room in this team for Imran?

I know you have not moved onto the spinner yet, Tim, but as it has been raised it's time, once again to dispel the Murali versus the minnows myth. As we know Sri Lanka have never been allowed to play as many matches against the top teams as Australia so Murali has had to bowl at what's in front of him. That he has done so with such skill is hardly his fault.

Even if you take out all his and Warne's matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe Murali still has a far better average - 23.38 compared to Warne's 25.40. He also has a superior economy rate.

Murali has also played far less Tests than Warne - 113 compared to 145.

Imagine if Murali had played as many Tests against England as Warne - 36 compared to Murali's mere 13 - with his far superior average against them - 19.74 compared to Warne's 23.25 - he would have an even better overall average.

It really is time for people to admit that Muralitharan is the greatest spinner that has ever played the game. By the time he's done there's a good chance he'll be remembered for his stats as a bowler in the same way Bradman is for his stats as a batsman.

John said...

Yeah, I don't think its an either/or situation with Sobers and Imran. Sobers would almost certainly make the team as a pure batsman. Imran, Miller, Mankad and Hadlee will have to fight it out for a spot.

Richard Lake said...

It's the make-up of the team. By having Sobers at 6, we're able to have a 5 man bowling attack.

Miller and Imran clearly don't get into the team on their batting. With Imran in particular, he should now be considered on his bowling. However, when comparing him against Hadlee, Marshall, Trueman and the rest, his batting should be considered.

Mark said...

Sorry Nick, I think Murali is going to be remembered for his chucking more than anything else.

I don't think Miller or Imran can justify a place - I'd put Botham ahead of Miller anyway.

Nick Gammons said...

Mark, it is sad to note that Murali will be remembered by some as a chucker, despite having been proven not to be under the most rigorous of testing.

For those who recognise his genius he remains the greatest exponent of slow bowling that cricket has ever seen. Long may his career last and then his legend endure.

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