Since All-Time XIs or Dream XIs are the talk of the town these days with the announcement of Wisden All Time XI, here is a look at who would feature in my ALL TIME XI:
Note: I started watching cricket from the year 1992, hence I did not get to see the players like Richards, Sobers, Bradman in real life match situations. I cannot judge a player just on the word of mouth (legendary stories of others), without seeing him in a real life match situation and conditions. Therefore those players will not feature in my ALL TIME XI.
Another fact is, this is NOT just a Test XI or an ODI XI (Wisden XI was based more on Tests). This XI will be able take on any team, on any surface and in any format; Tests or ODIs. Nor these selections are based on STATS of individuals i.e. averages, aggregates, but solely on the IMPACT the individual had on the respective teams and game.
1. Sanath Jayasuriya
Playing role: Opening Batsman/Spinning Allrounder
Test batting average- 40.07
ODI batting average- 32.36
Test bowling average- 34.34
ODI bowling average- 36.75
Special Feature: Unrelenting Counter-Attack
His ability to counter punch when the chips are down in a match situation is almost unparallel. Many times he has provided starts to Sri Lankan innings that were so explosive that the opponents were shell shocked into defeat. A great testament to that is only 4 of his 28 ODI centuries end up in Sri Lankan defeats. Such was the impact he had on the outcome of a game of cricket. An ideal example would be the Asia Cup 2008 final in Karachi, where SL were struggling at 66-4, Jayasuriya again launched a counter offensive and scored a 114-ball 125 to take SL to a score of 273 (SL end up winning by 100 runs). He practically re-arranged the method of ODI batting by adding relative consistency to his unprecedented aggression which made him one of the most feared batsmen game has ever seen.
2. Sachin Tendulkar
Playing Role: Opening Batsman
Test batting average- 53.86
ODI batting average- 44.83
Special Feature: Adaptability to any surface/conditions
While most people chase his stats, his ability to adapt to any surface with minimum fuss goes unnoticed. Be it the fast and bouncy surface of Perth or low and turning dust bowl of Eden Gardens, he will find a way to score runs by changing minor details of his technique. In the Wills World Cup, 1996, semi final, on a heavily deteriorating Kolkata pitch, he alone found the way to score runs batting second while all his other mates fell . His skill meant so much to India in that match, that his dismissal meant game for Sri Lanka. His battle with Dale Steyn at Cape Town is well known, again yet another example of adapting his game to suit the surface. Leaving aside man’s obsession for records, he was as comfortable a batsman can get facing pace and spin alike.
3. Jacques Kallis
Playing Role: Seaming Allrounder
Test batting average- 55.65
ODI batting average- 45.26
Test bowling average- 32.58
ODI bowling average- 31.69
Special Feature: Durability/Longivity with bat & ball
When the man can score a century on a fast, seaming track with a cracked rib, any team will be more than glad to have him batting at NO.3 position. His durability as an all-rounder is priceless in any format of the game. Another piece of evidence of his durability is at the age of 35+ he was still able to bowl a 145kph+ bouncer on any surface and surprise the batsman. His centuries may not be the fastest but they will be sure to lend stability to the innings and set up the platform to launch. His ability to cope with the heavy work load of a modern cricketer while not giving up either of his batting or bowling and maintaining the high standards bears witness to his longitivity.
4. Brian Lara
Playing Role: Batsman
Test batting average- 52.88
ODI batting average- 40.48
Special Feature: Temperament to make big runs
The fact that he holds the records for highest individual score in first class cricket (501*) and two of the highest individual scores in international test cricket including the highest ever score of 400, shows how much ahead he is of everyone else in terms of temperament. A man who is skilled at planning innings no matter how long it is, will be a great asset to have in the middle order. He carried his team almost single handedly most of his career, also shows he does not wilt under pressure, but keeps a level head and keeps on ticking and guiding the team.
5. Michael Hussey
Playing Role: Batsman
Test batting average- 51.52
ODI batting average- 48.15
Special Feature: Ability to back-up any batting position/Consistency
His ability to back-up any position in the batting line up makes him a stand out player among the rest. From opening the batting to finishing the game at NO.7 he will change his game plan according to the match situation seamlessly; if the call of the hour is keep the score board ticking, he milks the singles and turns singles into 2s and if the call is for 28 runs in 6 balls, he will unleash his big hits and take the team home. He will not only back-up any batting position without any flaw but will do it consistently and successfully as well.
6. Adam Gilchrist
Playing Role: Wicketkeeper-Batsman
Test batting average- 47.60
ODI batting average- 35.89
Special Feature: Relentless Aggression/ Dependable wicketkeeper
If there is a batsman who can challenge Jayasuriya in ‘hitting his way out of trouble’, it is Gilchrist. Like Jayasuriya, he will counter punch when everyone else finds the going tough. On his day, there are few bowlers capable of stopping him in his tracks. And add to that his secondary skill of wicket keeping in supreme condition; the team does not only get a hard hitting batsman but almost another all rounder. If the team looking for a declaration in a test match after some quick lower order runs or an explosive start for an ODI inning, he will be the man to call for.
7. Imran Khan
Playing Role: Seaming All-Rounder/Captain
Test batting average- 37.69
ODI batting average- 33.41
Test bowling average- 22.81
ODI bowling average- 26.61
Special Feature: Effective in all conditions/ Aggressive & Tactical Captaincy
Arguably most effective all rounder in his generation. What made him the most ‘effective’ is the fact he was not able to star only in helpful conditions but, in unfavorable conditions as well. That too both as a batsman and a strike bowler. He was also considered as a pioneer of reverse swing, which had a significant impact on the game itself, let alone Pakistan.
In addition to his skill-set, other valuable contribution he brings to the team is his leadership. Leading an ever conflict prone team of Pakistan players to world cup glory speaks volumes of his leadership skills. Not only he had to handle the external pressures on the field as well as internal pressures within the team itself, which proves he is a master of man-management and get the best even out of the individuals who are not so much team players.
8. Wasim Akram
Playing Role: Fast Bowler
Test bowling average- 23.63
ODI bowling average- 23.52
Special Feature: Effective on all conditions regardless of type of surface
Widely considered as the best left arm fast bowler ever to play the game. What made him stand head and shoulders above others is his effectiveness with the ball in all conditions and surfaces. He managed to make the bastmen jump around on green tops as well as dust bowls and did not only stop there, he went on to be effective with the new ball in the beginning of the innings as well as with the older ball later in the innings. A successful exponent of reverse swing, countless times he has single handedly ripped through batting line ups. Another factor that contributed to his success was he was never a one-dimensional bowler; having a toe-crushing yorker as well as a break-neck bouncer which made him lethal to any quality batsman.
9. Shane Warne
Playing Role: Leg-Break Bowler/Vice-Captain
Test bowling average- 25.41
ODI bowling average- 25.73
Special Feature: Ability to out-think most batsmen
Even though most attention was given to his “ball of the century” and how much he can spin the cricket ball, his greatest asset was his ability to out-think any batsman. He would know what the batsman would be thinking when he walks up to his delivery stride. He did not need a googly to fox a batsman. His dramatic ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ were enough to create doubt in batsman’s mind as after his retirement he admitted he never had a slider or a flipper, but only the leg break and the googly. It was only creating doubts in batsman’s mind which did the trick for him, and he was a master at that. In that sense, it really did not matter to him whether pitch is aiding spinners or not.
10. Curtly Ambrose
Playing Role: Fast Bowler
Test bowling average- 20.99
ODI bowling average- 24.12
Special Feature: Impeccable line & length at extreme pace
Usually the fast bowlers who have impeccable line and length do not possess the aggressive pace, but he did have both impeccable line and length and express pace at 145kph+. With his natural height he was even more awkward to face for any batsman. Again due to these traits, the type of pitch rarely mattered to him as he ripped through batting line ups without any fuss. His ability maintain his composure even in the heat of the battle contributed to his consistency in hitting an awkward length and was unfazed by any pressure situation as keep delivering those yorkers when the situation asked for it in containing the batsmen.
11. Muttiah Muralitharan
Playing Role: Off Break Bowler
Test bowling average- 22.72
ODI bowling average- 23.08
Special Feature: Ability to extract turn from any type of surface
If Warne did not need the pitch to get a batsman out due to his mind-tricks, neither did Muralitharan as he could spin the ball miles regardless of the surface. Most of the time it was a matter of time the batsman was defeated by the turn he generated with his ultra-flexible wrist. Add to that his doosra he was near unplayable at times. There is no other bowler who carried his team to glory alone like Muralitharan did. The captains were so confident in his wicket taking ability that they sometimes only bothered to stop the runs from the other end and let Muralitharan go to work. And the talent he was, that was all the support he needed from the other end, nothing more.
12th man: Garry Pratt (The guy who ran Ponting out in Ashes ’05)
*Ricky Ponting came very close to making the cut, but since he only offered what is already there in mix, he missed out.
*Michael Bevan would have made the cut if he had better impact in Tests, but he didn’t
*McGrath and Waqar both missed out to Akram and Ambrose due latter’s above mention traits
Obviously not all of you would agree with this. Your suggestions/comments/disagreements are welcome in the comments section
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