Friday, January 03, 2003

Iain Murray has responded to the discussion going on in my comments section about best cricket teams of all time. Iain has challenged other people to select the best team for each country (from all players who have ever played for that country). Here is my first draft. When selecting a team like this, one wants to go beyond merely great players and into players who can be described as "giants of the game". For some reason, as Iain has demonstrated, the West Indies have an awful lot of these. Australia have plenty of great players, but relatively few of the giants. Anyway, my side:

Arthur Morris
Bill Ponsford
Victor Trumper
Don Bradman
Greg Chappell
Adam Gilchrist
Keith Miller
Alan Davidson
Shane Warne
Dennis Lillee
Bill O'Reilly

Some comments: Most of Australia's very best bats tend not to have been openers. I will take Morris, because both Bradman and O'Reilly had such a high opinion of him, and at his best he was clearly something to behold. As for the other opener, that is hard. (Hopefully, in five years time the answer will be "Hayden" but we are not quite there yet. You can take a pre-war great like Ponsford, or one of a number of outstanding post-war openers: Hassett, Lawry, Simpson, Taylor. I will go with Ponsford in the end because of his propensity to make big scores. As for the number three, I will go for Trumper due to his being held above all other batsmen of his day, at least in Australia, and because people who saw both Trumper and Bradman still often rated Trumper very highly. (Statistically, he was no great shakes, but I will blame that on sticky wickets). Of modern Australian batsmen that I have seen, the best was Chappell, who had great power and elegance, plus gritty determination when he needed it. Gilchrist isn't the best keeper to play for Australia, but given his batting I will forgive him this. Miller is the only absolutely top notch all rounder Australia has ever produced. Not quite Sobers, but still quite a player. Davidson is statistically the best Australian quick bowler of the last 100 years, and he also has the added advantage of being a left armer for the sake of variety. Lillee was the canniest and smartest of fast bowlers, and had as fine an action as you will see.

Finally, I have selected two leg spinners. This won't work for all conditions, but with these two spinners it will work for most. I commented on Australia having a lack of players who were giants of the game: well, O'Reilly and Warne both quality, so I need to select them both. If the strongest competition that this all time Australian side encounters is Iain's all time West Indies side, the two leg spinners might be an advantage. Perhaps the one weakness of the great 1980s West Indian sides were their inability to play decent legspin bowling. In the 1980s, they didn't encounter one bowler of the class of O'Reilly or Warne: two against them would be interesting.

If you were playing in Perth, you could drop one of the spinners and play another quick: perhaps Lindwall, McGrath, or even Spofforth. If you wanted to strengthen the batting, you could drop one of the spinners and play another batsman: maybe Harvey, Border, Steve Waugh.

All that said, I think Iain's West Indian side would mostly win.

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