Dream Teams: The Art of the XI

At the start of Shehan Karunatilaka’s Chinaman, one of the few “cricket novels”, there’s a punch-up at a wedding over the selection of an all-time Test XI. There’s been a similar Twitter reaction recently following Wisden’s selection of theirs. As someone who has spent many an hour (and maths lesson) drawing up best-ever teams, I recognise the impulse to do so, but also the difficulty. I also find the reaction slightly strange – the certainty that some hold in their picks is remarkable considering the difficulty of the task. It’s a good job Wisden picked Sachin. Even the parameters are hard to select – team balance, comparing different eras, different teams for different conditions. I think my All-Time Test XI, constructed with the aid of reports and YouTube, would be something like this:

  1. SM Gavaskar
  2. JB Hobbs
  3. IVA Richards
  4. DG Bradman
  5. BC Lara
  6. GS Sobers
  7. AC Gilchrist +
  8. Imran Khan *
  9. DK Lillee
  10. M Muralitharan
  11. MD Marshall

Something of a modern bias, I realise. This is perhaps inevitable, and this is the sort of activity that benefits from a panel of experts. You could select three interchangeable teams quite easily.

More interesting would be an XI of favourites, eleven players you’d love to see perform together, who you root for beyond simple team loyalty. This is a far more personal selection, and reveals a lot about preferences and sporting enjoyment? Is yours an aethestic XI? Or a team of childhood heroes? Mine would be something like:

  1. MA Atherton
  2. MH Richardson
  3. RS Dravid
  4. IVA Richards
  5. IR Bell
  6. SR Waugh *
  7. AB de Villiers +
  8. DW Steyn
  9. CEL Ambrose
  10. M Muralitharan
  11. GD McGrath

All are players I have enjoyed watching – Richards apart – and show my preference for fast bowling and technically correct batting, much of which must stem from Atherton and Ambrose’s duels in 2000, my first summer of watching cricket. The selection of personal teams is far more pleasurable and far more civilised than All-Time XIs. I’d love to see what the members of the Wisden panel would come up with.

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One Response to Dream Teams: The Art of the XI

  1. I very much like and approve of the choice of Mark Richardson.

    I always really liked the fact that someone so limited in terms of ability and technique (and who had begun his career as a specialist slow left-arm bowler) could make large numbers of Test and first-class runs through sheer bloodymindedness.

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