A World Cricket XI for the Ages
By  Paul Howarth

A couple of months back, I posted a rather nerdy Facebook status.  An all-time fantasy cricket match between a ‘B’ team and an ‘H’ team.  Boycott, Boon, Bradman, Barrington, Border, Botham, Benaud (c), Boucher (wk), Bishop, Bedser, Barnes versus Hobbs, Haynes, Hutton (c), Hammond, Haq (Inzamam ul-), Harvey, Healy (wk), Hadlee, Hall, Herath, Holding, if you’re interested.

About a week later, I came across an article in one of our august broadsheets dealing with precisely the same topic.  The piece prompted not just debate (my Gs would whoop your Ls any five days of the year, you mug) but also an outpouring of emotional recognition.  All of a sudden, I realized I wasn’t alone in lying awake for hours, agonizing over leaving Bishan Bedi out of the Bs or delighting in the unbeatable bowling attack of Marshall, Morkel, Muralitharan, McGrath.  It was virtual therapy: “My name’s Paul and I’m an alphabetical fantasy cricket user.  With all of your help, I’ll beat this thing…Greenidge!”

It was gratifying in one sense, galling in another.  I wanted to be the one to unleash this glorious affliction on the world and I’d been beaten to the publishing punch.  There was only one thing for it.  I’d have to go further, ramp up the geekiness, explore ever-more specialist areas and dark recesses.

Here’s what I’ve come up with.  You pick a single player from each decade from the 1910s through to the 2010s.  The only rule is each player must have played the lion’s share of his Test cricket in that particular period.  Certain careers span decades – Shane Warne was equally, irritatingly successful in the 90s and the 00s, for example – so there’s leeway in some cases.

Clearly this additional dimension to your standard all-time XIs leads to a necessarily ruthless selection policy.  Take the Noughties.  By picking Adam Gilchrist, I’ve ruled out – amongst other modern greats – Muralitharan, Ponting, Lara and Tendulkar (these last two were also eligible for the 90s but, then, I had to have Warne).  And of course it’s not as simple as picking the Player Of The Decade for the last hundred years; you have to shape an XI with balance in every department.

You can see the intricate complexities of the task, can’t you?  Still, after a month or so of self-induced insomnia, here’s my All-Time Decades XI:

  • Hobbs 1910s
  • Hanif Mohammad 1950s
  • Bradman 1930s
  • Hammond 1920s
  • Compton 1940s
  • Sobers 1960s
  • Gilchrist (wk) 2000s
  • Imran (c) 1980s
  • Warne 1990s
  • Lillee 1970s
  • Steyn 2010s

The team has an intriguing shape to it.  It’s not by design but my bowling attack is drawn from recent times, while I’ve reached further back for the batters.  I’d like to see an alternative XI that inverts this approach – who fancies picking up that gauntlet…? - Courtesy The Independent



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