Cricinfo XI September 13, 2007

Different era, same brilliance

Martin Williamson and Siddarth Ravindran
Which players from the past would have done well at Twenty20? We put our thinking caps on.

Although Twenty20 is in its infancy, there is little doubt that the format would have suited some of the great players of yesteryear. Here is our best XI from the past, not a balanced team but XI of the best. Who would be in your all-time XI? Let us know.

Don Bradman: class will out © The Cricketer
Don Bradman
Bradman's record as a run machine is well documented, but while he scored quickly and efficiently, he was no big hitter. He hit six sixes in Tests, and only one of those came before he had made a hundred. His simple logic was that if you don't hit the ball in the air, you don't get out. He could thump it when he needed to and, in 1931, responded to suggestions he could not play Chuck Fleetwood-Smith with a calculated onslaught. It is inconceivable that someone who dominated the game to such an extent would not be able to adapt to the challenges of Twenty20.

Viv Richards
Perhaps bowlers would prefer facing Richards in the Twenty20 format because the frenetic pace of the game offers less time between deliveries for the contemplation of either long-term therapy or a change in career. Richards' strokeplay was characterised by power, flair and innovativeness - in other words, perfect for Twenty20. These qualities were best exemplified by his walk-across-the-stumps hoick to deposit a Mike Hendrick full toss on the off stump beyond the square-leg boundary in the '79 World Cup. In the event of a batting failure he could change a game with his fielding - as in the '75 World Cup final - or his tidy offspin.

Garry Sobers
It is hard to imagine any post-war player better suited to the format than the multi-dimensional Sobers. As a belligerent batsman alone he would be worth his place - he was the first player to smash six sixes in an over - but throw into the equation his brilliance as a close fielder and his ability to bowl both slow and fast as well as almost anyone and he'd be a shoo-in for an all-time XI in Test, one-day and Twenty20 cricket.

Kapil Dev
Indian cricket folklore is littered with instances of Kapil's whirlwind hitting rescuing the side. He possesses an eye-popping ODI strike-rate of 95 that puts even latter-day biffers like Sanath Jayasuriya in the shade, and remains India's leading six-hitter in Tests. His natural athleticism kept him in good stead in the field - most memorably when he plucked a running catch to dismiss the marauding Richards in the '83 World Cup final. And, of course, there's the small matter of his retiring as the highest wicket-taker in both Tests and ODIs.

Denis Compton: a master of improvisation © The Cricketer

Denis Compton
What made Compton stand out from the crowd was his ability to improvise - often to such a degree that he would toy with fielders, deliberately hitting into an area from where a fielder had just been moved, and sweeping and cutting balls that lesser men would not even think about attacking. All this he did with panache, and he scored quickly as well. In 1948-49 he smashed the fastest triple-hundred of all time, in three hours. He was also a surprisingly effective chinaman bowler, a bonus in a format where slow men are among the most effective.

Ian Botham
There wasn't much the charismatic Botham couldn't do on the field - score a Test double-century, take 13 wickets and hit a century in the same game, single-handedly turn a match on its head as he did at Headingley in 1981, slam 32 runs in an over in a first-class game. Botham's power-hitting packed stadiums and by the time he retired he possessed, among others, the records for the fastest fifty and double-century in Tests, and for the most number of sixes hit in an English summer. What makes him an even more perfect fit for Twenty20 is his exceptional fielding: he was something of a legend at second slip and his powerful arm made many batsmen waver when thinking of taking a second run.

Keith Miller
Like his old sparring partner Compton, Miller was a playboy of the post-war period. With film-star looks and a happy-go-lucky attitude, the World War Two fighter pilot's approach was summed up by his famous quote: "Pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse. Playing cricket is not." Initially a batsman, in 1945 Miller clubbed 185 at Lord's in a innings that left spectators amazed, and included seven sixes deep into the stands. As a bowler he was among the fastest and most deadly. "A pitch-perfect ball, snaking off the seam, might easily be followed by a leg-break or googly or a round-arm offcutter," Wisden noted. "His run-up comprised nine easy paces - ostensibly. As likely as not, he would come off a few yards and let loose a snorting bouncer that sucked the crowd breathless." Perfect.

Wasim Akram: all-round excellence © Getty Images

Wasim Akram
Arguably the game's best left-arm fast bowler, Akram's trademark was his ability to move the ball prodigiously in both directions. Despite four international hat-tricks and once having taken four wickets in five balls, his two magic deliveries in the '92 World Cup final are probably his most famous. Those two balls illustrate some of his versatility - the first swung in and held its line after pitching to hit the stumps, beating Allan Lamb's outside edge; the second jagged viciously in off the pitch to bowl Chris Lewis, going past his inside edge. Akram's batting averages weren't spectacular and he wasn't the greatest runner between the wickets but his record of clouting sixes is comparable to Ricky Ponting's in both Tests and ODIs.

Learie Constantine
Statistics don't do justice to Constantine, whose appearances were limited by his time spent playing the far more lucrative league cricket. He too scored at around 80 runs an hour, was never restricted by adherence to the coaching manual, and believed that attack was the way to bat. At Lord's in 1933, on being bowled a deliberate beamer by a fast bowler tired of being hit, Constantine swivelled and smashed the head-high ball over the wicketkeeper for six. He was a genuine fast bowler as well, accurate enough to have bowled Bodyline at Douglas Jardine, and his fielding verged on the breathtaking in an era when few bothered to make more than a cursory effort.

Brian Lara
For a man with Lara's massive appetite for runs, needing to play only 20 overs would be a mere aperitif. Then again, this is a man who once scored 174 runs in a single session of a first-class match. Twenty overs would be more than sufficient to unveil the dazzling array of strokes, all starting with that thrilling back-lift, to leave the opposition facing an unreachable target.

Gilbert Jessop
A century on, it is hard to gauge how effective some of the old-timers might have been. But Jessop appears to have been a man ahead of his time, one who would have excelled in limited-overs cricket. His strike-rate was close to 80 runs an hour - at a time when his peers averaged between 40 and 50 - and he hit the ball high and hard. The public loved him. HS Altham wrote: "No cricketer that has ever lived hit the ball so often, so fast and with such a bewildering variety of strokes". Jessop was also considered to be the best cover fielder the game had seen until that time.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aditya on September 19, 2007, 5:32 GMT

    I cannot, but not disagree, with the above analysis of the players, who would have coruscated in T20 cricket. But, I wonder, what about a certain Mr Salim Durani, who never got the chance to play International Cricket, much, but who might have shone in a format like T20 cricket. Also, Richard Hadlee, and Imran Khan, were notable omissions in a format of cricket close to that of One Day Cricket.

  • Adnan on September 16, 2007, 12:38 GMT

    Hiya, Just wondering, Do you not think Waqar Younis would have done really well in Twenty Twenty, WIth the best Strike Rate in the history of the Game

    Saeed Anwar also, With his great agressive Starts to the game...

    Imran Khan??

  • Kushan on September 16, 2007, 6:19 GMT

    Im thinking they left out lance klusner and aravinda de silva..... How bout saeed anwar he scored da highest one day score anywayz. and imran khan, and.. umm Romesh Kaluwitharana would be good as an pinch hitter and an excellent keeper...

  • Rizwan on September 15, 2007, 18:15 GMT

    may be if we had waseem now, we would have won the bowl out (which is a stupid rule, IMHO) and i would like to remind every one that i) this article is on retired cricketers, and moreover 11) cricketrs who would have been at home with T20 Imran khan was a cool, balanced player, he would not have been at home with is impulsive game... just my .02 cents

  • sruthisagar on September 15, 2007, 17:26 GMT

    mark waugh-sachin-Richards-lara-kapil-klusner- sobers-clive- wasim- mcgrath - warne. To me the 11 here form the greatest 20/20 side. No one can ignore warnne and mcgrath in any form of the game and ignoring clive and klusner, arguably the biggest hitters the game has seen! Mark waugh was so fantastic in the 50 over games that i cant find any reason why u should ignore him. Along with sachin i thnk they wud be a deadly opening duo!

  • arijit on September 14, 2007, 22:08 GMT

    You all forgot Gavaskar & Boycott - they should open the cricinfo XI team :) and then Kallis in no. 3. Throw in Mohinder Amarnath (slowest fast bowler)and Romesh Powar (arguably the slowest bowler on earth) -you got a great boawling combo.


  • Krishnan on September 14, 2007, 21:43 GMT

    Oops, what blunder by you guys, leaving out Imran Khan of all cricketers of the past. Don't tell me, he was considered but he didn't make the grade!

  • Subanesh on September 14, 2007, 20:44 GMT

    Ya Lance Klusener should have been a choice given his bowling....And how about Kris Srikkanth he use to score a odd 30 to 40 runs in no time and he is not a poor fielder too..

  • akram on September 14, 2007, 20:37 GMT

    why not imran khan & saeed anwar and please forget wasim akram his 300 wickets of 400 in ODIs are of tailenders

  • Atul on September 14, 2007, 9:26 GMT

    Some cricket stars like Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards and Eddie Barlow would have been useful. Richie Benaud, the outstanding captain in the tests would have been an outstanding leader here in the T20 version also.

    A.K.Srivastava, Mysore

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