Quite a team isn’t it?
To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Wisden, the world famous cricket publication named its all-time Test XI.
Although most of the players in the team are obvious selections, the inclusion of the rest has raised a few eyebrows. Some of the greats like Sir Donald Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Viv Richards, Sir Garry Sobers and Shane Warne automatically pick themselves.
However, the inclusion of wicketkeeper Alan Knott, WG Grace, Sydney Barnes and Malcolm Marshall ahead of the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Denis Lillee and Walter Hammond has predictably ruffled plenty of feathers in the cricketing fraternity.
Again, World XIs have always stirred up a lot of debate and Wisden must have had their own criteria and delved into hours of research before naming the above eleven.
So instead of criticising it or harping over the ones who missed out, let’s look at a team that might be rival the Wisden XI if ever a Test match was played between them.
Here are is the XI, according to me, that can put up a stiff challenge for the Wisden team.
Tests – 54
Runs – 4555
Average – 60.73
Hundreds – 16
The opening partner of the legendary Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe was one of the greatest openers of all time in Test cricket. In a cricketing career that extended over two World Wars, Herbert Sutcliffe scored more 50,000 runs in all forms of cricket.
Known for his courage and concentration, this right-hander from Yorkshire was one of the greatest players of the new ball. A ferocious player of the hook shot, Sutcliffe was also an example of how to use the dead bat while facing the faster men.
Although, his Jack Hobbs was much more celebrated as an opener, Herbert Sutcliffe’s Test average of 60.73 is still the highest among all Englishmen.
Runs – 10,122
Average – 51.12
Hundreds – 34
It’s an absolute shame not to see Sunil Gavaskar’s name in the Wisden Test XI. Probably one of the best Test openers ever, Sunil Gavaskar, was the first man to go past the milestone of 10,000 runs in Test cricket.
He was India’s first great batsman and the man who showed the world that Indians could handle pace bowling too. After scoring a mammoth 774 runs in his debut series against the mighty West Indies, Sunil Gavaskar went on to become the lynchpin of Indian batting.
One of the best players of the new ball, Gavaskar showed his class by scoring as many as 11 hundreds against a West Indies side that boasted of the most fearsome pace bowlers during the 70s and the early 80s.
Tests – 168
Runs – 13,378
Average – 51.85
100s – 41
A perfect man to walk into number three after the two solid openers. Undoubtedly the second best Australian batsman ever after Sir Don Bradman and the closest competitor of Sachin Tendulkar. When Ricky Ponting made his debut for the Australia team in 1995, not many rated him that highly as he struggled against the spinners and failed to pile up the big scores.
However, the turn of the millennium saw Ricky Ponting come out of his slumber and elevate himself to a different level of greatness. He moved up the order in the batting line up and started to rip apart bowling attacks across the globe.
Runs – 11,953
Average – 52.88
100s – 34
If Tendulkar is the number four of the Wisden side, this team has to have Brian Lara at four. A magician with the willow, Brian Lara was perhaps one of the most stylish batsman who has even graced the cricket field. A contemporary of Sachin Tendulkar, this left-hander was at times rated even higher than the Indian master by the opposition bowlers.
His panache for scoring big scores was unparalleled, and the way he got to them was a treat for the spectators. A maverick with the bat, this Trinidadian is the only batsman in cricket history to have scored a hundred, a double hundred, a triple, a quadruple and a quintuple hundred in first class games.
If his highest of 400 not out in Tests remains unbreached, his score of 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham is another world record that is yet to be broken.
Tests – 163
Average – 55.64
Wickets – 288
100s – 44
If Lara and Ponting were the answers to Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar, the only man who can stand up to Sir Gary Sobers is Jacques Kallis. Undoubtedly one of the best all-rounders of all time, this big South African is a perfect example of consistency and solidity.
Although there have been more flamboyant all-rounders in the past such as Imran Khan and Ian Botham, Kallis’s solidity puts him into a different bracket altogether.
Batting at number three for South Africa for well over a decade, Kallis is a legend in his own rights and is perhaps the only man who has a realistic chance of breaking Tendulkar’s monumental feat of 51 Test hundreds.
However, what makes Kallis special is his ability to turn a match with the ball as well. A feisty medium pacer, Kallis has often broken through with his team in need and can be a handful for any batting line up.
Tests – 23
Runs – 2256
Average – 60.97
100s – 7
Don’t be fooled by those numbers. Graeme Pollock was one of the finest left-handed batsmen of his generation. And don’t take my word for it either; he was described as the best batsman since Gary Sobers by none other than Sir Don Bradman.
A natural timer of the ball, Pollock’s game had the unique combination of power and elegance. Deprived by the isolation inflicted on South Africa, Pollock could not show his full flare on the international scene, but in the 23 Tests that he played, this tall left-handed proved that he could have been one of the world’s finest ever.
Although he batted higher up the order, in this team, he could create devastation at number six.
Adam Gilchrist – Wicket Keeper
Tests – 96
Runs – 5570
Average – 47.60
100s – 17
Alan Knott ahead of Gilchrist? Not a chance! Adam Gilchrist was a phenomena that changed the way the world looked at wicket keepers. He was not only one of the best behind the stumps; he could turn a match upside down with his scintillating batting.
A true match winner in every sense, Gilchrist could change the match from either behind or in front of the stumps. Although his “hammer and tong” batting was more celebrated, his craft behind the stumps was also top notch.
It’s not easy to keep against the best bowling attack in the world, especially if it comprises of the serious pace of Brett Lee and the guile of Shane Warne.
But the true value of Adam Gilchrist lay in the way he walked in and used his top-handle grip to smash the opposition bowling to change the entire script of any Test match.
Imran Khan – Captain
Tests – 88
Runs – 3807
Wickets – 362
Again a few might argue the case of Sir Richard Hadlee, but the aura of Imran Khan surpasses any other cricketer. He not only walks into this team as an all-rounder but also will be the man who goes out to flip the coin.
One of the fastest bowlers that the world has ever seen, Imran Khan was a true inspiration for an entire nation. His deadly bowling combined with his exploits with the willow made him one of the most feared all-rounders in the world.
However, more than his cricketing skills, Imran Khan is remembered for his leadership. He not only groomed the finest pace bowlers in Pakistan, but also inspired an ordinary Pakistan side to World Cup glory.
Tests – 70
Wickets – 355
A complete package of pace, swing and devastation, Dennis Lillee is regarded as the most “complete” fast bowler ever to have played the game. Armed with one of the best bowling actions in the game, Dennis Lillee was nothing short of poetry in motion.
A tear away fast bowler he bowled with frightening pace and broke the then record of the most number of wickets in Tests by going past Lance Gibbs.
In the latter half of his career, he had to cut down on his pace but his “never-say-die” attitude and his fiery temperament made up for it.
Test – 133
Wickets – 800
800 wickets, yes, 800 Test wickets – that stat alone makes him an obvious choice as a spinner in any world XI. Perhaps one of the most controversial cricketers in the modern era, Muralitharan created his own place in the history with his unique variety of off spin.
He was a rare bowler who was always a threat on any kind of a wicket, owing to his ability to turn the ball. As his career went on, he developed an array of deliveries that left batsmen bamboozled.
A match winner in every format, Murali not only rewrote the record books, he rewrote the laws of the game and changed cricket forever.
Test – 46
Wickets – 193
Perhaps the only controversial selection in this team, Jim Laker makes the cut above a few others because of his ability to bowl impeccable line and length. In a team that consists of such attacking bowlers, Jim Laker is the perfect bowler who would hold up one end and dry up the runs.
However, that doesn’t mean that he could pick up wickets. Before Anil Kumble, Jim Laker was the first bowler to pick up 10 wickets in an innings. Not only that, he picked up nine in the other innings.
So here’s the team that’s ready to take on the Wisden XI.
Rival XI: Sunil Gavaskar, Herbert Sutcliffe, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis, Graeme Pollock, Adam Gilchrist (WK), Imran Khan (C), Dennis Lillee, Muttiah Muralitharan, Jim Laker
A few greats missed out, but the ones who are included have enough fire power to put up a tough fight. Any clue about which team would have won? Well, that’s something that even time also won’t be able to tell!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of the site.