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


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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.

WC 2011


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The cricket world cup begins today in India and the sub-continent. Winners of the last three competitions and with a remarkable WC winningstreak of 27 (or is it 28?) Australia go into the competition the number ranked team in the world, but aren't favourites. They may be respected still and even feared by some, but much of the shine has rubbed off after a good beating in the Ashes.

There are millions of people around the globe happy to see Australia fall from its perch. It's perfectly understandable and if I weren't an Aussie I'd probably want to be one of them. Over the last 10-12 years the Australian cricket team has won just about every major competition on offer. It's a fair call thinking it might be the turn of someone else. In relative terms I can even understand how the decline of the Australian cricketing hegemony is good for cricket; as an Australian, however, I find it hard to agree.

Though we were well beaten by the Poms in the test series I reckn we're still a strong chance to win this comp again. In characteristic style the team bounced back from that defeat to flog England 6-1 in the one day series following it. It doesn't make up for losing the Ashes, but it was still pretty impressive. There's a lot of pride in this team.

In fact I reckon it's that pride that will steer Australia a fair way through the tournament. Over the course of this contest they've been  lot of teams touted as contenders, and most have either fallen away or been bludgeoned out of the way by Australia. The stats don't lie: Australia is incredibly good at the key moments in the key tournaments. They don't blink, they just better – and they know it.

Of course Australia no longer has that plethora of great stars. I've been watching a program on the history of the World Cup. It has been great fun looking back at some of the great games and great players. Clive Lloyd for example, and Imran Khan. Then there was Wasim Akram, one of the best bowlers I've seen, and the day Pakistan beat England to the title in Melbourne in 1992. I was there.

There have been many other players, but what captured my imagination again were some of the great contests. The classics were 1999 in England when Australia down and out fought back to beat South Africa – the favourites – on the back of a Steve Waugh century to make the semi-final.

The semi-final was one of the great limited over games of all time. After posting a modest score Australia looked done for until Warne struck. The game ebbed and flowed from there until it climaxed in the most unbelievable way. How well I remember that! I lay in bed watching it on TV at about 3am with work on the next day. I couldn't turn the TV off. The last over began with South Africa needing 9 runs to win and Lance Klusener at the crease. Fleming came in to bowl the first ball and was smacked to the boundary – Klusener was a scary hitter. He bowled the second ball and Klusener did it again. With 4 balls to go the scores were tired – South Africa were a shoo-in. To the third ball Klusener miscued a drive to mid-on, and narrowly avoided a run-out. The next ball he hit hard to mid-off and ran. Donald, at the bowlers end, paused, watching the ball before running. Too late. Fleming rolled the ball down the middle of the pitch and Donald was run out. The game was over, the scores were tied – and on the strength of the previous win Australia made the final.

It's amazing to think that Australia have not lost a game in World Cup comp[etition since then. They murdered Pakistan in the fanal, as they did to India in 2003, and Sri Lanka in 2007. For every final Australia played they elevated their game to a clinical level that no-one else could match.

In 2003 in South Africa there were a few close scrapes – against England particularly, I remember – until Ponting's majestic innings in the final secured the title. In 2007 no-one came close to Australia. Never will their be a more dominant display in a tournament than that. In the final in Gilly's swansong he scored 149 to kill the contest.

Over the journey there have been all time great players – Ponting, Gilchrist, Hayden, Warne, McGrath, the Waugh brothers, Lee, Symonds, Bevan and so on. In this two tournament only two remain: Ponting and Lee.

What do I expect? Firstly that Australia will extend it's winning streak to beyond 30, never to be surpassed. I'd be disappointed to if Australia doesn't make the semi-finals at a minimum. Injuries, and perhaps interesting selections have not helped Australia, but the team remains formidable. In our way I think are India – potentially frail playing at home in front of their crowds; Sri Lanka – very talented, but possibly not quite ready; and South Africa, the antithesis of Australia in many ways. They are always contenders, but in the opposite of Australia have always choked on the big stage. It's heavy baggage, but I think they may overcome that finally. This is their time if they take it. Hopefully it is Australia again who will stop them.

 

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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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