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For some reason I lay in bed post-midnight last night and contemplated who would be in my best ever Australian cricket team. Speculations like that are always fun, especially for a man. Men will happily debate the likes of this for hours on end while their girlfriends roll their eyes; and most men are inveterate and informal listmakers. We may not put them on paper, but we're always ranking things.
Anyway, here's my team:
- Matthew Hayden
- Bill Ponsford
- Don Bradman
- Ricky Ponting
- Greg Chappell
- Adam Gilchrist
- Keith Miller
- Alan Davidson
- Shane Warne
- Dennis Lillee
- Glen McGrath
The first thing to note is that it has an extra bowler. I ummed and aahed over this as I lay in my cot, but reasoned eventually that the great all-round talents of Miller and Davidson made up for the deficiency. It's a great bowling attack. Miller is a romantic choice maybe, the dashing, glamorous ex fighter pilot, he had serious chops as a fast bowler and is the best all-rounder Australia has produced. Davidson is possibly the most contentious choice but he was selected largely on the basis of being a left-armer, and occasional match-winner. He was the stalwart of the Australian bowling attack for many years, and was also a damaging batsman. Warne picks himself. There have been great spinners play for Australia, but Warne is the greatest of all from any country, and quite possibly the best bowler of any type of all time. Handy batsman, great competitor, shrewd cricket brain and larger than life character, he's impossible to overlook.
D K Lillee is similar in his own way. He is the best fast bowler I have ever seen and I grew up devoted to his deeds, as were most of my contemporaries. Like Warne he combined great skill with a magnetic personality mixed in with a dash of flamboyance. I loved Dennis. McGrath gets a gig not because he's took more wickets than any other Australian bowler, and I wonder on the balance of things whether he is one of the best five Australian bowlers of all time. He gets the nod for the balance of the bowling attack. Lillee and Miller both started as tearaways before maturing into canny operators. Davidson is the left-armer, Warne the spinner, and McGrath the line and length bowler who will winkle you out. He's a great bowler, but great bowlers have missed out: Lindwall, Spofforth, O'Reilly, Benaud and so on.
Batting is tough too, and a lot of greats missed out. The toughest call were the openers. I considered Morris, Lawry, Woodfull, Simpson, but eventually plumped for Ponsford and Hayden. They are similar in that they were capable of compiling huge scores. Ponsford had his flaws, but his record for Australia is pretty good. Hayden is simply one of the most intimidating batsmen the world has seen. And he's a left-hander, which counts for him in this team.
Bradman picks himself obviously. The biggest name in cricket still years after his death, by far and away the greatest batsman ever, a once in a millennium cricketer who averaged 40 runs better than the next serious contender. He's the captain too, a position I thought long and hard on. Counting against him was his puritan streak, but he was also a very canny skipper and a man of superior intelligence. Next in is the current Aussie captain, Ricky Ponting. He's scored more runs and more centuries than any other Australian. He's a great batsman capable of ripping teams apart, and of batting for hours to save a situation. Cometh the hour cometh the man – that's Ponting. Just about the toughest cricketer I've seen.
Greg Chappell was one of the great stylists of the game. A fluid driver through the covers and owner of a famous and ever graceful flick off his pads to the mid-wicket boundary. Also a very handy medium pace bowler who would complement the attack well.
There have been some great Australian keepers and great names – Grout, Tallon, Marsh, Healy. In the end though it's an easy selection. Adam Gilchrist may not be the best pure keeper of them all, but he didn't miss much. As a batting keeper though he was unsurpassed. One of the most exhilarating players to watch in full flight, he was also one of the most destructive. He's personal favourite of just about everyone, not just for his great cricket but for the style of the man. This was a no-brainer.
So that's it. Match it against the best ever from other countries and it would win 3 out of 4 such has been the pedigree and dominance of Australia over the journey.Of that team there are two who would be first selections in a world team – Bradman and Warne. I think Lillee and Gilchrist would likely make it too, and Ponting, Hayden and McGrath would be considered closely.
Funnily enough the West Indian team might be the most likely to challenge in a heavenly match-up: (my estimate) Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lara, Walcott (c), Sobers, Dujon, Roberts, Hall, Garner, Gibbs. That's a great team too and leaves out greats like Worrell, Weekes, Headley, Lloyd, Marshall, Ambrose, Holding. They would be great contests.
England? Well you're really testing my knowledge of cricket history, but I'll take a punt regardless: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Barrington, Hammond, Hutton, Knott, Botham, Bedser, Trueman, Snow, Underwood. Hobbs and Sutcliffe are probably openers for the World XI such was their partnership, and it's full of great players, but easy to discern the difference in styles – maybe because the bulk of their players come in the period around the war. There are exceptions – Botham and Snow for example, but generally they are more craftsmen in the traditional English way, less aggressive and attacking, more methodical, Barrington was a grafter as was Hutton to some degree, Bedser a great bowler with unerring control, likewise Underwood. Just missed out: May, Compton, Gooch, Gower, Paynter, Evans.
This is fun, and I haven't even looked at half the teams.