ICC Dream Team | all-time XI – I don’t think

A full slips cordon of nine men, employed by A...

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ICC Dream Team | all-time XI.

Everyone loves lists, and no-0ne loves lists more than male sports-followers. This week sees the release of the so-called International Cricket Council ‘Dream Team’ – supposedly the best 11 cricketers ever to take the field – voted on by the aforementioned male cricket loving public.

I made a list like this about 6 months ago, and mine is quite different – and a shit-load better. Demographics have played a big part in the voting for this team. For a start it’s heavily skewed towards cricketers of the last 30 years, with only one – the incomparable Bradman – getting a guernsey. Beyond that the overwhelming number of Indian supporters accounts for the preponderance of Indian cricketers – vastly surprising given the history of cricket, which has generally seen India as being one of the weaker teams until recent times. No English players make the list at all.

Some selections are no-brainers: Bradman, Tendulkar (despite some reservations), Warne. There are others more contentious and open to discussion, but which I concur with: Gilchrist, Akram (a favourite of mine), probably Lara. Of the rest some are clearly borderline in or out – Ambrose, McGrath, maybe Gavaskar, but that leaves a couple of Indian selections I think are plainly wrong.

To select Kapil Dev over Sobers, or even Miller, is just rash. Kapil Dev was a fine player, but there are probably half a dozen better all-rounders in the history of the game. You’d select Botham ahead of him, but Botham doesn’t get in my best side. And Imran Khan! And even Jacques Kallis. Fail.

Sehwag is a great player on his day, and one of the most destructive of all time, but I doubt he’s even the best opener of his generation, let alone of all time. I think Hayden ranks ahead of him in this era, Greenidge is probably his equivalent, but I actually selected a couple of Poms when I nominated my best ever: Hobbs and Sutcliffe, statistically the best opening partnership ever. If we’re to select them then Gavaskar misses out, which is a tad tough given how good he was, so let’s just say he’s in the mix (as would be Hayden, but neither Sehwag or Greenidge).

I may be partial, but a lot of people have claimed Dennis Lillee to be the best fast bowler of all time – he certainly is in my viewing of the game (which covers the golden age of fast bowling). He’s in definitely, probably in for Ambrose. McGrath, great as he was, doesn’t survive either. I’m partial to Andy Roberts, who many no longer remember and too easily discount. If you’re looking for balance in the bowling attack then you have the tearaway-cum-clever seamer in Lillee, the great left-armer Akram, Sobers who can roll his arm over either medium or spin, and of course the greatest of all, Warnie with his leg spinners. You could do with a McGrath type, steady as the day is long – probably 12th man here – which leave the tall bouncy type bowler like Garner, a express skidder like Marshall, or the precision of a Hadlee. I’ll go Hadlee, a handy batter too.

What remains are some great batsmen who miss out. Lara, in, is hard to leave out – but so to is someone like Ponting, the best number 3 of the generation, outstanding fielder, captain, and all-round tough guy. Not to mention Greg Chappell, Viv Richards, Len Hutton, Allan Border, Neil Harvey, Steve Waugh, and probably a good dozen more… Take your pick.

There is no perfect team. These are very subjective judgements influenced by what we’ve seen against what we haven’t, and in some instances, national prejudices. India certainly doesn’t deserve four in the team, and England merit at least one.

My best ever Aussie cricket team

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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:

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.

He was great to watch. Great batsmen to miss out : Neil Harvey, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Ian Chappell, Stan McCabe, Victor Trumper.

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.

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