World’s Dullest XI, part 1 (Appendix)
Tomorrow (here it is, Ed.) will bring the long-awaited announcement of numbers 7 to 11 in the Confectionery Stall Post-1981 All-Time Dullest World XI, putting tedious cricketers and lovers of tedious cricket out of their misery at last.
In the meantime, this is clearly an issue that has stoked the fires of Confectionery Stallers throughout the universe. Many thanks for your responses to this most emotive of topics, and I fully understand the uproar generated by the omission of some of the most negative players of the modern era: men who have driven you to hair-rending, eye-poking frustration with their refusal to countenance the idea of a full follow-through.
Here, therefore, are explanations for the exclusion from the Dull XI batting line-up of some of those you have nominated.
Geoffrey Boycott: excluded purely because this is a 1981-Ashes-and-after team. Boycott therefore only had the final few months of his Test career in which to press his claims. And press them he did, grinding along merrily at 34 runs per hundred balls. Were this a 1964-1981 team, he would be the first, second and third names on the teamsheet.
Rahul Dravid, Sir Michael Atherton, Jacques Kallis: too classically orthodox and stylish for this team of the awkward, inelegant and pokey. Although each has had innumerable moments of spectacular unspectacularity – Dravid’s 61-ball 3 against England in Bangalore in 2001-02; Atherton’s 11 off 90 against New Zealand in 1999; Kallis’s six-hour unbeaten 85 as South Africa powered towards a declaration against England in 1999-2000, to pick just three especially turgid cherries from a smorgasbord of strokelessness – a soporific scoring rate is not sufficient in itself to qualify for selection. You must be fundamentally unwatchable on every level, even when making your rare sorties into attack. If Kirsten had ever scored a 130-ball double century, it would still have felt like you had taken cricketing Mogadon.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul: too quirky and too good. Disqualified for scoring a 69-ball century against Australia. Reinstated for 11-hour 136 against India. But redisqualified for ethereal timing and heroic defiance of the orthodox.
Jimmy Adams: too influenced by injury. A man who had the patience, nerve and sheer unadulterated rudeness to score a 370-ball century against Zimbabwe (let me confirm that: against Zimbabwe) would appear to be a shoo-in, but it should be remembered that, before having his cheekbone squished by an Andre van Troost bouncer in 1995, Adams rattled along at a relatively jaunty 45 per 100 balls in Tests. After his appalling injury, he squirreled out his runs at a joyless 31 per 100 (and his average sunk from 62 to 29).
Wasim Jaffer: Test strike rate of 48 per 100 balls. Cut the guy some slack.
Kepler Wessels: unarguable contender on grounds of his sub-zero-frills style, but tonked it around at 50 per 100 in his Australian incarnation, before returning home to South Africa, and winding himself back down to an acceptably Protean 40. What does this reveal about the cricketing cultures of the two nations? Everything.
Mudassar Nazar, Shoaib Mohammad, Mark Richardson: selectorial whim. Formidable candidates, but there is no shame missing out to grinders of the dullness of Edgar, Marsh, Kirsten, Tavare, Shastri and Tillakaratne.
Grant Flower: up against Shastri. Could have done little more to convince the selectors with his unthreatening but tidy left-arm spin and unthreatening but tidy right-handed batting, but up against Shastri.
Brendon Kuruppu: possible flash-in-the-pan. One innings of unimpeachable dull greatness – a 777-minute double-hundred on debut – cannot compete with the years and years and years and years and years of creasebound inactivity which the members of this very special XI have demonstrated. Kuruppu also spanked England around Lords for an hour in 1988, raising doubts about his true grinding status.
I hope this has quelled the seething resentment that your own particular least favourite blockers and nudgers have not received the recognition they deserve. Being a selector is a difficult job at the best of times. When honing down a team of world-class snooze-inducers, with so many outstanding candidates to choose from, it becomes impossible to please everyone.
The wicketkeeper, bowlers and twelfth man will be unveiled tomorrow.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer