Different era, same brilliance ... Pt 2
After their first attempt at picking XI former players suited to the Twenty20 format attracted considerable feedback, Martin Williamson and Siddarth Ravindran offer another XI choices, based on your feedback.
New Zealand's Atlas for much of the seventies and eighties was a shining example of a player who maximised potential through rigorous practice and a sharp cricketing brain. With a model side-on action that delighted the pundits, he carried New Zealand to their first Test victory over England and helped them (temporarily) gain the upper hand in the bitter trans-Tasman rivalry. A master at exploiting a batsman's weakness, his one-day record is underrated: he finished with 158 wickets at an impeccable 21.58. While his batting was explosive, it lacked the class of his bowling - though he did score 99 in a match where England mustered 82 and 93 in their innings.
Read any contemporary account of Barnes and they all speak of his unerring accuracy, variation of pace, and ability to move the ball off the pitch and in the air. John Arlott wrote that Barnes was "a right-arm fast-medium bowler with the accuracy, spin and resource of a slow bowler, whose high delivery gave him a lift off the pitch that rapped the knuckles of the unwary and forced even the best batsmen to play him at an awkward height". Barnes played little first-class cricket, preferring the lucrative rewards of league cricket, and so his records look sparse. But even in the bat-dominated format of Twenty20, Barnes, one of the greatest bowlers of all time, would have been the scourge of the most bullying batsman.
Klusener's astonishing bat speed ensured that a baseball-style back-lift didn't hinder his unmatched ability to dispatch death bowling's most potent weapon - the low, fast full-toss. His tenacious attitude was on display early in his career - after being dismantled by Mohammad Azharuddin in the first innings of his debut Test, he bounced back with eight wickets in the second. A calm temperament coupled with the ability to hit big helped him take South Africa over the line many a time. While his heroics with the bat are legendary, his six five-fors in ODIs (fourth highest of all-time) demonstrate his match-turning skills with the ball.
In the brief period during which he played against the world's best, before South Africa's expulsion from international cricket, Pollock left nobody in any doubt about his right to be regarded as one of the all-time greats. His timing of strokes was exquisite but he could also hit with real power, and his placement was unparalleled. The only fly in the ointment is that he might not have wanted to play. He turned down lucrative offers from three English counties in the late 1960s and early 1970s because he felt the domestic grind was not "my type of game".
The fact that Cairns has hit more Test sixes than Viv Richards - in half the number of matches - speaks volumes of his ability to clobber the ball. Added to this he was a genuine pace bowler and the natural successor to fill the void left in New Zealand cricket by Hadlee's retirement. Unfortunately his career was blighted by injury and he managed only 62 Tests in a 15-year career - though that didn't stop him from taking 200 wickets and 3000 runs in both Tests and ODIs.
Big Bird was built for Twenty20. He had the pace to trouble the best, and could make the ball rear alarmingly off a length - unsurprising, given that he was 6' 8" - which meant that batsmen found it all but impossible to play forward or back with any certainty. The icing on the cake was his toe-crunching yorker - lethal and unerring - as he showed to devastating effect in the 1979 World Cup final.
While helmets protected batsmen from bouncers, there was nothing to protect them from Younis' WMD - the inswinging, screaming yorker. During the death overs in ODIs, when the ball was old, Waqar was at his most lethal. Case in point: Durban 1993, where, with South Africa needing 45 to win, and seven wickets in hand, he sliced through the batting with a 5-for-25 spell to deliver an improbable 10-run victory. His 373 Test wickets came at the second-best strike-rate among all bowlers since the First World War and his 17 Man-of-the-Match awards in ODIs is the most by a specialist bowler. He and his hunting partner Wasim Akram shared more than 1700 international wickets to help Pakistan remain a potent force in the post-Imran Khan era.
With the bulk of bowlers in Twenty20 verging between brisk medium and dead slow, Knott's skill at standing up to the stumps, honed by keeping to the fastish left-arm spin` of Derek Underwood at Kent for almost two decades, would have been invaluable. As a batsman he was an impish, scurrying irritant, and an improviser. Against the pace barrage of Australia and West Indies, the diminutive Knott realised he would be on the receiving end of much chin music. He adapted his grip and style, and emerged with his reputation further enhanced.
While this Hyderabadi artist's ODI strike-rate languishes in the mid-seventies, his Test resume is replete with blazing centuries, with the magical 121 at Lord's in 1990 and the 74-ball hundred against South Africa at Eden Gardens standing out. He retired as one-day cricket's highest run-scorer, and was an excellent runner between the wickets. In addition he was an exceptional fielder, taking more than 100 catches each in both the traditional forms of the game.
Genuinely fast and a master of reverse swing, his one-day record as a bowler alone suggests that Imran would have been a real handful in the short format. And his ability to take the attack to the best bowling would have bolstered any middle order. As a tactically astute and inspirational captain - he is the one man to have brought relative tranquility to the Pakistan side in modern times - he would be the perfect man to lead the side.
With Bevan at the crease, there was no situation which was unredeemable, no target too large. If your team was at 36 for 4 or 74 for 7, he was the man to call. Unlike most successful ODI batsmen, clubbing sixes or bludgeoning boundaries wasn't his specialty. Rather, he simply refused to get out - concentrating on survival, pinching the singles and resolutely chipping away at the target, remaining unbeaten on 67 occasions. His part-time chinaman bowling once fetched him a ten-wicket haul in Tests. Oddly enough, though he had two World Cup winner's medals, in neither final was he called on to bat or bowl.