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July 18, 2000


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Ananth Narayanan

send this story to a friend Calling all readers: You are invited to send your comments on the selection of the players and the possible result of the series to me, latest by July 25, 2000. The writers of the five best letters will receive a copy of the CD "World Cup Challenge", created by Stump Vision, and based on its universally acclaimed simulation engine. Please note, however, that this selection given below is the final one, and will be used for the simulation.

In this set of two articles, I propose to select two all-time best teams and play a series of five one day internationals, on five famous grounds (Lord's, MCG, SCG, Calcutta and Wanderers), using the Simulation engine created by Stump Vision.

The two teams taking part are the All Time XI, taken from players who have never played a single ODI match, and the All Time Best ODI XI, taken obviously from those who have actually played one day internationals in their lifetimes.

The two teams will be known as "Vintage XI" and "Modern XI". And frankly, the qualification for the second XI -- which is, that the player should have played at least one ODI in his career -- is personally convenient, since it enables me to consider Garfield Sobers for the Modern XI, although, in spirit, he belongs to the Vintage XI.

So, without further ado, the teams, and my reasons for picking them:

The selection of this team is obviously based on their Test records, their specific playing skills, and my own judgement. The selection will be described here without reference to specific career figures, which are given at the end.

Jack Hobbs The opening batsmen virtually select themselves. Jack Hobbs was, with very few arguments, the best opening batsman who ever played. He formed one of the most formidable opening combinations ever with Sutcliffe. His defence was immaculate and in range of strokeplay, he was second to none. Lots of his runs were scored on the uncovered wickets of the early 1900s. With regret, I break up the partnership of Hobbs and Sutcliffe. George Headley of the West Indies was, without doubt, the second best batsman of his generation. His attacking skills will complement the outstanding defensive skills of Hobbs. He has scored nearly 100 runs per Test match. Amongst the other batsmen considered and regretfully not selected are Sutcliffe, Trumper and Jackson.

Sir Donald Bradman The number three batsman is the easiest choice anyone ever made -- easily the best batsman (and player) who ever graced the 22-yard strip, a player for the Gods, Sir Don Bradman. It would have been sacrilege to even consider anyone else for this position.

Walter Hammond (left) with Sir Donald Bradman My number four is Walter Hammond. He was one of the most attacking batsmen ever. No one can ever forget his 336 not out against New Zealand, which was made in less than 6 hours. As if his batting is not enough, he is one of the few top batsmen ever, who could bowl his full quota of 10 overs of seam in every match. A great slip fielder to boot. Very little in terms of competition to Hammond.

Graeme Pollock Number five presents a few choices. The contestants were Compton, Graveney, Dexter, Harvey, O'Neill, McCabe, Graeme Pollock, Weekes and Worrell. All great players, capable of playing both styles, either attacking or tactical late-order consolidating innings. The final selection went to Graeme Pollock for his dazzling skills and his stroke-making ability all around the wicket. It was a great tragedy that his best years were lost to the game. An average of nearly 100 runs per Test speaks volumes about his outstanding skills. Most importantly, a left-hander to break the sequence of right-handers.

Sir Clyde Walcott It is unfair, but it has to be done. I would pick Clyde Walcott, with his outstanding batting record, as a wicket-keeper, where many would argue that he could be picked as a batsman in his own right. But then we are strengthening the side and maintaining the balance at the same time. No real competition to Walcott as a wicketkeeper-batsman, although it must be mentioned that Evans and Oldfield were better keepers.

It was a pity that Keith Miller was born 30 years too soon. Otherwise he would have taken to one day cricket in a flash and made a contribution comparable to any great all-rounder of the recent past. A great striker of the ball, an outstanding fast bowler who could switch to top class swing bowling, he is the first choice all-rounder, ahead of Richie Benaud and Vinoo Mankad.

Now for the second all-rounder. Alan Davidson is my choice. Possibly one of the two greatest left arm swing bowlers ever (the other being Wasim Akram), he was one of the most accurate bowlers who ever bowled. His batting was at par with that of a number of top line batsmen. He could open the bowling and bowl at the death, equally effectively. He is the choice for the No.8 position. Ray Lindwall

For the next two positions, there was close competition between Lindwall, Davidson, Trueman, S.F.Barnes, Lohmann, Statham and Hall. Ray Lindwall, a great bowler and a very competent batsman gets the first place ahead of the others Though this player might never get a look in while batting. Also, what a pleasure to see the great fast bowling combination of Lindwall and Miller.

S.F.Barnes gets the other fast bowling position ahead of others purely on the basis of his bowling skills and strike rate. He has taken an average of 7 wickets per Test over 27 tests. An outstanding exponent of seam and swing bowling, God knows how many wickets more he would have taken with the recently discovered art of reverse swing.

Now for the lone spinner's position. There are only two real contenders for this place. Verity and O'Reilly. Both have similar career figures, very accurate, very attacking bowlers and unplayable on helpful wickets. Hedley Verity gets the nod, since his type of bowling would be preferred slightly to the leg spin of O'Reilly. Surely, if this had been a Test match, O'Reilly would have been the choice.

Now for the full team list -- a mouth-watering proposition for the connoisseurs and a nightmare for the opposition:

Vintage XI
  Tests Runs Avge Wkts Avge RPO
Jack Hobbs (England) 61 5410 56.85      
George Headley (West Indies) 22 2190 60.83      
Donald Bradman (Australia) 52 6996 99.94      
Walter Hammond (England) 85 7249 58.46 83 37.8 2.4
Graeme Pollock (South Africa) 23 2256 60.97      
Clyde Walcott (West Indies) 44 3798 56.69      
Keith Miller (Australia) 55 2958 36.97 170 22.98 2.2
Alan Davidson (Australia) 44 1328 24.59 186 20.53 1.97
Ray Lindwall (Australia) 61 1502 21.15 228 23.03 2.3
Sid Barnes (England) 27     189 16.43 2.4
Hedley Verity (England) 40     144 24.38 1.88

Please note that these are Test career figures and are suitably extrapolated for the simulation. In general, the batting averages are scaled down about 25 per cent, the RPO and bowling strike rates are scaled up about 50 per cent, and the batting strike rate is determined based on available data.

Continued: The Modern XI...

Photographs: Allsport

Anant Narayanan

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