Monday, 2 August 2010

Cricket: Fantasy Teams

A few years ago, a poll was held to pick what would have been the greatest cricket team of all time. As I recall, the people chosen were:-

Hobbs
Hutton
Bradman
Richards (Viv)
Grace (capt)
Sobers
Botham
Evans (wk)
Lindwall
Trueman
Bedi

Certainly a very strong team!
Christopher Martin-Jenkins recently produced a book, “The 100 Best Cricketers of All Time”: his top eleven names make interesting reading (in this order):-

Bradman
Grace
Sobers
Warne
Hobbs
Tendulkar
Barnes
Hammond
Richards
Gilchrist
Marshall

This is not quite a team, having too many batsmen and insufficient bowlers. (The next four names on his list were all bowlers: McGrath, Muralitharan, Imram Khan and Rhodes)

The “dream team” of the great cricket writer Sir Neville Cardus, from all the cricketers he had watched, was said to be:-

Hobbs
Trumper
Bradman
Macartney
Jackson (capt)
Faulkner
Miller
Rhodes
Oldfield (wk)
Larwood
Barnes

Cardus always preferred the elegant stroke-players and the “characters” to the grafters!

After Don Bradman’s retirement in 1948, journalists selected what they thought would have been his ideal Australian team from his era:-

Ponsford
Morris
Bradman (capt)
Macartney
McCabe
Gregory
Miller
Tallon (wk)
Lindwall
Grimmett
O’Reilly

And for an equivalent English team:-

Hobbs
Hutton
Hammond
Duleepsinhji
Compton
Jardine (capt)
Ames (wk)
Tate
Larwood
Verity
Wright

The Australian team looks stronger; the English team being somewhat short on bowlers.

More recently, when Ritchie Benaud retired as a TV commentator, he nominated the ideal Australian team of his time:-

Morris
Taylor
Chappell (Ian) (capt)
Chappell (Greg)
Harvey
Miller
Gilchrist (wk)
Warne
Lillee
McGrath
Alderman

and also the ideal England team:-

Hutton (capt)
Boycott
May
Compton
Dexter
Botham
Knott (wk)
Laker
Trueman
Statham
Bedser

It is noticeable that these two teams have much the same overall structure and balance. The Australians would be more difficult to bowl against, having more left-handers.

You can create fantasy teams of your own. For instance, here is a postwar team consisting entirely of Bs:-

Boycott
Boon
Bradman
Barrington
Border
Bailey
Botham
Boucher (wk)
Benaud (capt)
Bedser
Bedi

The team could probably do with another fast bowler from somewhere; otherwise it looks very powerful

As far as real teams are concerned, rather than fantasy ones, the strongest team ever assembled in my time was, I think, the “Rest of the World” XI that played England in the summer of 1969 :-

Richards (Barry)
Barlow
Kanhai
Pollock (Graeme)
Lloyd
Sobers (capt)
Bland
Proctor
Engineer (wk)
Mackenzie
Intikhab

Although Mackenzie was a little past his best, and Bland was selected mostly for his exciting fielding, I’m confident these players could have held their own against any fantasy side.

The most thrilling Test Match side I remember was the West Indies team of 1963 - the first series I ever watched on television. Ten of the team played in all 5 tests, beating England 3-1, with one match drawn. Oddly enough, they never settled on who should open the batting with Conrad Hunte. This is the team from the Lord's Test, the drawn match, which was the most exciting one in the series:-

Hunte
McMorris
Kanhai
Butcher
Sobers
Solomon
Worrell (capt)
Murray (wk)
Hall
Griffith
Gibbs

It's a shame the West Indies can't manage to find such a team nowadays!

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