January 7, 2009

In praise of empires

Eighties West Indies or modern-day Australia before they fell from grace - which was the greater side?
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Modern Australia's reign has been fit to compare with any the game has known © Getty Images
 

You know an empire has crumbled when its strongest fortress, the symbol of its authority, falls twice inside 12 months. To see Australia beaten at the WACA by India this time last year supplied evidence enough that slippage had become erosion. To see South Africa chase down 414 there, coasting, was to see the citadel go up in flames. The Melbourne stroll confirmed all: what was once an irresistible force is now a decidedly moveable object. Australia No Longer Rools. And yes, in the interests of democracy, that is assuredly OK.

"The problem with 80% maybe 90% of the guys on [the PGA golf] tour is Woods, Woods, Woods. With all respect to Mr Woods, God's name is not Mr Woods." So said Jos Vanstiphout, who styles himself as a "mind coach" (which as far as I can see differs from "psychotherapist" in no discernible way whatsoever, but no matter). In his view, Ernie Els, the South African, has suffered from "Woodsitis". Michael Campbell, a fine golfer who might have won a good deal more than a solitary major in any other era, reinforces the notion of a circuit cowed into submission: "The players feel negative about themselves, it's affected their psyche." Given the deep scars left by a century of failure down under, what South Africa's approach on their current tour has signified - as embodied by Jean-Paul Duminy and Dale Steyn's tide-turning ninth-wicket stand in Melbourne - is the end of negativity, of fear, of Australia-itis.

I come here, though, not to bury but to praise. Only now it is over can we finally look back on Australia's reign as undisputed world champions, a title held by precious few other sides since the game became something more substantial than a white man's plaything (Don Bradman and Lindsay Hassett's post-WWII Australia, Peter May's England of 1955-58, Garry Sobers' West Indies of 1965-66, West Indies 1980-95). Indeed, for sheer quality and longevity, it has been a reign fit to compare with anything the grand old game has ever known. And while there are undoubtedly still a few folk out there who will cry foul at any attempt to belittle Australia's so-called "Invincibles" of 1948, for anyone born since then the comparison must be, can only be, with the Caribbean combos led by Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards. For all one's natural objections to monopolies and dictatorships, to have thrilled to both in the same lifetime has been an incredibly rare privilege and an almost undiluted pleasure.

Fuelled by innovation - relentless pace quartets, run-rates cracking the four-an-over barrier, physical and mental "disintegration" - both empires were profoundly modern creations. The foundations, ultimately, lay in the remarkably durable talent of their players; players whose longevity owed much to significant advances in training, medical and even psychological expertise, not to say financial rewards.

If we include David Boon and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who featured only fleetingly, of the 48 men who have won 100 Test caps, nearly 40% - 18 - played for one or other of these dynasties: 10 from Australia, eight from West Indies. Throw in Curtly Ambrose (98) and Adam Gilchrist (96) and you have 20 of the top 51 cap-winners. The key, though, lies with the small minority. Of the aforementioned 51, nine are bowlers or bowling allrounders, What sustained Australia most was the fact that their reign coincided almost entirely with the careers of the fourth and 17th men in that list - Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne. How fortunate or flukey is that? That form should regress so hurriedly since both won their final caps was nothing if not inevitable, though Stuart MacGill's sudden retirement last year, allied to Stuart Clark's injuries, have made the return to earth that much bumpier.

 
 
The hardships Australia faced - a more onerous workload and ever-shortening tours - make their win ratio all the more admirable, reflecting an arguably greater willingness to risk defeat
 

What sustained West Indies, though, was not so much that Ambrose spent more than a decade in harness with Courtney Walsh, the most-capped quickie of all - by the time the former debuted in 1988 the peak years were gone - as the uncanny ability to keep replenishing the main source of that success, namely a four-pronged pace battery. From Andy Roberts (debut 1974) to Ian Bishop (1989), that conveyor belt worked overtime, producing six of the 38 regular new-ballers ever to have taken 200 Test wickets. Moreover, of the 23 pacemen since World War I who have claimed 100 at under 24.50, no fewer than seven hail from Caribbean cricket's golden age. That's more than 30%. I repeat - thirty per cent. A staggering stat in anyone's language. And had injury not shackled Bishop from the age of 26 (he'd harvested 110 wickets at 21 in his first five years), who can say with any certainty that Richie Richardson's West Indies would not be mentioned in at least neighbouring breath to those of Clive and Viv?

****

Many will contend that West Indies' domination began in 1976, but India and Pakistan both ran them close in the Caribbean: not until after World Series Cricket did Lloyd and his compadres take up their unchallenged residence on the throne. Beginning in Adelaide on January 30, 1980, when a 408-run victory brought them their first series triumph in Australia, West Indies strung together a sequence of 20 wins and just one defeat in 29 rubbers (discounting one-off Tests against South Africa and Sri Lanka). That that sole reversal occurred in the second of those series underscores the point in indelible ink. By the time Steve Waugh decided to don his Attila the Hun mask at Sabina Park in 1995, the Caribbean mean machine had played 124 Tests during that span, winning 62 and losing just 17.

Starting with that Worrell Trophy encounter, the baggy green 'uns went on an even mightier surge. In 154 Tests up to the start of South Africa's current tour - excluding, for the purposes of credibility, the 2005 ICC "Super Series" - they won 102 and lost 27. In 45 series (discounting one-off Tests against India, Zimbabwe and the Rest of the World) they were victorious in 37 and lost just five. In the most naked, least subjective terms, namely ratio of individual five-day wins to losses, the teams led by Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting hold a slight edge: 3.74 to West Indies' 3.64. Of those 45 series, furthermore, 82.22% were won, a marked improvement on West Indies' 68.97%. The latter, on the other hand, proved significantly harder to beat, almost 28% harder, losing 13.71% of their Tests to Australia's 17.53%. And while Australia obliterated the previous record by winning 16 Tests on the trot, then matched their own feat and set a new mark for successive wins in multiple-match series (eight), West Indies reeled off an unprecedented 27 such series without defeat, some way clear of Australia's peak of 16.

A dissection of defeat is revealing. On seven of the 13 occasions (53.85%) West Indies lost a Test in which the outcome of the series was still in the balance, they did so heavily (by 150-plus runs or more than five wickets); if we include the South Africa series, Australia did so heavily 11 times out of 17 - 64.71%. More instructively, even if we take into account that they played 25% more matches, Australia lost disproportionately more tight games overall (margins of 50 or fewer runs or up to five wickets) - 10 to three.

West Indies did more to raise the bar, improving colossally on what had gone before. In the eighties their ratio of series wins to losses was 14 to 1; since Test cricket expanded into a multi-racial form, the next best performance in a decade had been Australia's six-to-one ratio in the thirties. Similarly, in terms of individual matches, West Indies' exchange-rate of 5.3 wins for every defeat during the eighties was more than double the previous best - Australia's 2.33 to one during the thirties and fifties. Even during the current decade, and despite the gulf between themselves and South Africa (1.85), England (1.40) and India (1.37), the brand leaders' rate has only been 4.8.


One of the keys to West Indies' success was their ability to sustain the quality of their four-man pace attack for over a decade © Getty Images
 

That is not to say that context should not play a part in our assessment. There was far less urgency about cricket in the eighties than there is now, thanks to a host of factors ranging from the absence of central contracts and a formal rankings system to a more cautious mindset born of a less evolved one-day game, individual insecurity, and a host of less trustworthy pitches. All these can be cited as reasons for the greater preponderance of draws in that decade, and of Australia's enhanced win ratio. By the same token, the hardships they faced - a more onerous workload and ever-shortening tours - make that ratio all the more admirable, reflecting an arguably greater willingness to risk defeat.

It could also be argued that West Indies were aided by a more tolerant approach to bouncers, but it is hard to believe that even if they had been so confined, the array of skills at the beck and call of Ambrose, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and others would not have been equally effective. Besides, theirs was an intimidation born not of balls rising over shoulder height but of those targeting ribs and armpits. Similarly, some might factor in the often modest standard of pitches, favouring as they did pace bowling in particular, but again this holds little water. Underpinned by sheer physical menace, the quality shown on most surfaces, from the true to the treacherous, would surely have prospered in any era.

Nevertheless, Sydney (1985 and 1989), The Oval (1991), Chennai (1988) and Faisalabad (1986) all provided damning evidence of Caribbean vulnerability on turning tracks: who can say what havoc Warne, Anil Kumble or Muttiah Muralitharan might have inflicted had they been born a decade earlier? Then again, much the same could be said of Australia: virtually all their struggles came on the subcontinent. How they would have fared against their own bowlers, notably Warne and MacGill, is almost as intriguing a hypothetical as how well Richards and Co. would have coped with their own.

Nor is there much to choose between the depth of competition each dynasty faced. A non-West Indies Rest of the World XI to represent the period 1980-95 might read: Gavaskar, Gooch, Gower, Miandad, Border, Imran, Marsh (wkt), Hadlee, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Abdul Qadir, with the likes of Botham, Kapil Dev and Martin Crowe in reserve. A comparable non-Australia Rest of the World XI could read G Smith, Sangakkara (wkt), Kallis, Tendulkar, Lara, Chanderpaul, Flintoff, Wasim, Kumble, Donald and Muralitharan, jettisoning the likes of Inzamam, Vaughan, Sehwag and Dravid. Still, West Indies arguably had to contend with more demanding foes: all five of their regular opponents, Australia, England, Pakistan, India and New Zealand, had at least a clutch of world-beaters; of Australia's seven regulars, West Indies and New Zealand have largely been whipping boys, while India (until 2003) and Sri Lanka have been poor travellers. Australia, though, have spent far more time in the singularly taxing climes of southern Asia.

Greatness, however, can also be measured by fortitude, resilience, resolve, indomitability (any word will do so long as it's not that dread concoction beloved of soccer managers, bouncebackability). West Indies put their most resolute foot forward in Lahore in late 1986. Humbled for 53 in Faisalabad a week earlier, they entered the second Test one down in a rubber for the first time in five years, yet rebounded to dismiss Pakistan for 131 on the opening day, tallied only 217 themselves, yet still cantered home by an innings. Australia matched that in St John's in 1999. Until The Oval in 2005 it was the only time outside India that they had to win the final Test to save a series, and they'd lost the previous encounter as Brian Lara led West Indies, 105 for 5 chasing 308 at one point, to a miraculous one-wicket triumph in Bridgetown that would have flattened most dressing rooms. Yet, even without Warne, Australia romped home in the decider.

 
 
In the mid-nineties Australia were seeking to re-establish themselves as the game's pre-eminent force, to bolster the national self-image, to reaffirm theirs as the planet's most fertile sporting territory. West Indies, though, were fighting for so much more. Their quest was both territorial and racial
 

West Indies, nonetheless, were less vincible, more adept at rescuing lost causes. Especially in their Barbados fortress. For Exhibit 1 read Bridgetown 1999. For Exhibit 2 read Bridgetown 1992, when South Africa began the final day needing 79 with eight wickets intact only to lose all eight for the addition of 26. For Exhibit 3 read Bridgetown 1988, when, set 266 by Pakistan to square the series, they fell to 180 for 7 and 201 for 8 but still prevailed by two wickets. Only in Hobart in 1999, when they stumbled to 126 for 5 pursuing 369 against Pakistan before Gilchrist and Justin Langer saw them home without further alarm, did Australia reverse the tide so completely (and no, I'm not ignoring Adelaide 2007: after four days the match appeared destined for a draw, not an England win). Indeed, as witnessed by England's 12- and 19-run wins in Melbourne (1998) and at The Oval (1997), India's astonishing comeback in Kolkata (2001) and West Indies' record-shattering chase in St John's (2003), they were considerably more prone to fall foul of the improbable.

Both sides had their nemeses. For Australia, India were a constant thorn: 10 Test wins apiece, three series wins apiece. For West Indies it was Pakistan, who drew three rubbers out of five but lost twice as many Tests (six) as they won. Even when sitting their most searching examination, the champions endured. On six of the seven occasions they went 0-1 down in a rubber, they recovered to win or share the spoils. Even if we overlook that era-ending loss to South Africa, only three times in seven did Australia evince such powers of recuperation. When the going got rough, West Indies proved much the tougher.

And that essential difference, rather than being traced to skill, can be more readily attributed to motivation. In the mid-nineties Australia were seeking to re-establish themselves as the game's pre-eminent force, to bolster the national self-image, to reaffirm theirs as the planet's most fertile sporting territory. West Indies, though, were fighting for so much more. Their quest was both territorial and racial, a cause hampered by disunity almost as much as by economic deprivation. Officially there is no such person as a West Indian because West Indies is a region defined by disunity, by inter-island rivalry and devout separatism. Only in sport do we collectively describe Bajans, Guyanese, Trinidadians, Antiguans and Jamaicans as "the West Indies". And only in netball and cricket - and not, instructively, soccer or athletics - do the islands unite under one banner. Even now, only in cricket has a black international team ever dominated its field. The biggest, most fitting accolade came from that renowned American-centric, cricket-phobic magazine Sports Illustrated, which named West Indies, alongside Liverpool FC and the San Francisco 49ers, as its team of the eighties. Has a representative team ever lived up to such a title more effectively or profoundly? Not from where I'm sitting.

****

And so to the fun bit. Not that selecting a composite team is a facile matter. Take away the no-brainers (Marshall, Warne, Richards and McGrath) and you are left with a representative imbalance come what may. Such time-leaping debates can only ever be subjective. Runs have been easier to come by in the noughties than they were in the eighties and nineties, wickets much harder. Impossible as it is to quantify such things, batting and bowling averages, respectively, are probably about 10 and five runs higher now than they were two decades ago. All of which renders conventional comparisons redundant; so we must seek elsewhere for justification.

Perhaps the best measure of the depth of this particular pool of talent is the revamped (now ICC, nee FICA) Hall of Fame. Six members of those West Indies sides were among the 55 players initially inducted in 1999 (Gordon Greenidge, Holding, Lloyd, Marshall, Richards and Roberts), and there are at least eight more shoo-ins under consideration for this XI - Ambrose, Gilchrist, Lara, McGrath, Ponting, Walsh, Warne and Steve Waugh.


Honorary Caribbean: Steve Waugh's unflinching determination brought him closer to the West Indian spirit than any other Australian © Getty Images
 

Preserving the opening alliances doesn't seem terribly necessary (besides, Greenidge and Desmond Haynes v Matthew Hayden and Langer is whatever the opposite of a no-brainer is), but if the pitch was a turner McGill would partner Warne by dint of being streets ahead of Roger Harper, the only spinner West Indies selected on anything like a consistent basis. Nor would wicketkeeping duties incite much toing and froing: Ian Healy was an immeasurably finer technician than either Deryck Murray or Jeff Dujon, and Gilchrist a far more effective batsman than any of them, not to mention good enough to come in at six, and hence preclude the need for a bonafide and/or orthodox allrounder, a status only Carl Hooper of those under scrutiny came close to acquiring. Still, for all the stirring contributions of Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee, McGrath would surely be the only Australian seamer, even if the attack ran to four pacemen. Even with Marshall picking himself, no fewer than five other men in maroon - Ambrose, Garner, Holding, Roberts and Walsh - can be considered superior to the second-best Australian.

The most fervent arguments will doubtless be stoked by the choices for those top five berths. Even if we accept that Lloyd was past his best by the end of the seventies, and with Richards nominated as of right - no batsman, not even Hayden, has ever terrorised bowlers quite so remorselessly - West Indies can still offer four other compelling candidates: Greenidge, Haynes, Lara and Richie Richardson. Australia, though, can submit five: Hayden, Langer, Ponting and the Waughs, with Michaels Clarke and Hussey not all that far behind. Of these, the hardest to omit is Steve Waugh, whose unflinching determination brought him closer to the spirit of those Caribbean conquerors than any other Australian.

So, for what it's worth, here's my combined XI, one I'd back to beat any other side drawn from any era in Test history. Even the one listed directly beneath it, at least five of whose constituents would have to give way if this particular selection committee merged the teams.

Australia-West Indies XI: Gordon Greenidge, Matthew Hayden, Vivian Richards, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist (wkt), Shane Warne (capt), Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Joel Garner, Glenn McGrath.

Rest of Time XI: Sunil Gavaskar, Len Hutton, George Headley, Don Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, Garry Sobers, Keith Miller (capt), Alan Knott (wkt), Dennis Lillee, SF Barnes, Muttiah Muralitharan.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gary_111 on January 9, 2009, 15:11 GMT

    An enjoyable article.

    Although with bowlers as great and as durable as Warne, Marshall, Ambrose and McGrath surely the 5th bowler is a luxury. The team would be more beatable with this long tail and Gilchrist batting out of position at 6. So I would select Steve Waugh at 6 who would also (along with Richards) be in contention to be captain. Having Warne as captain is more speculation than anything else. The role of captain wouldn't be too hard - bowlers as great and intelligent as Warne and McGrath can virtually run the team themselves, as seen in recent times.

    In a straight contest between the two sides I would back the West Indians on a pacy pitch - their artillery is second to none and it is likely they would simply outgun the Australians. But on a slower, truer surface such as recent Australian wickets, I think the sometimes irresponsible West Indian top order would fire less frequently than its Australian counterpart. On spinning tracks the outcome would be a no-brainer.

  • wicketman on January 9, 2009, 1:40 GMT

    Interesting article - However, I disagree with your choice of bowlers: I would pick either Roberts or Holding over Ambrose. You already have very tall bowlers in Garner and McGrath, to complement Marshall, you need more raw speed and agression. My Rest of the World team though, I am confident would beat your Australia West Indies XI. They are: Gavaskar, Barry Richards, Martin Crowe, Tendulkar, Miandad, A. DeSilva, A. Knott, Imran Khan, Akram, Kumble,Waqar Younis

  • othbillies on January 8, 2009, 13:42 GMT

    Sorry Rob. I think even your Rest of Time XI would kick your (or any) combined XI off the park in any conditions - let alone the cricketers that missed out on selection. I'd gladly take your money! For starters, that team has an extra bowler. Also, even though there is only one leftie in the top six to negate Warne to some extent, I can't imagine Gavaskar, Bradman, Hutton and Miller being fazed about facing a leggie, which were far more common in their day; plus you have a bloke that ate Warne for breakfast more often than not. As for the WI-Aus quickies, all were outstanding bowlers, but none are scary-fast, which you'd need for that batting line-up. I don't think that having Gilly batting at six makes up for not having a bowling all-rounder against the team they have been picked to play against (which boasts two!) either - the tail is just too long. More intriguing would be WI 80-95 vs Aus 95-08 on two pitches - spin-friendly when WI bats, pace-friendly when Aus bats!

  • number-09 on January 8, 2009, 13:37 GMT

    And whoever thinks that Pointing was slightly better than Sobers? really

  • dar268 on January 8, 2009, 13:00 GMT

    The standard of world cricket has been very low in recent years with a normally weak England; a mediocre SA; WI, NZ and Pakistan in freefall; and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh an embarrassment. Australia's batsmen would have struggled against the WI bowlers more than the other way round - look what happened in 2005 when the Aussies were faced with decent bowlers.

  • Jeremy68 on January 8, 2009, 11:06 GMT

    Having watched both empires rise and fall I think the 80s Windies are still the best team from all cricket eras. They generally faced stronger opponents than Australia did, and went unbeaten in 27 straight series! If however, as in school yard pick-a-side cricket, two captains had to choose from among all the 1980-95 Windies and 1995-2008 Australians, Warne would be first pick every time. He's the only player among them who could not be substituted by any of the other greats. His presence alone gave the Australians' bowling attack a greater versatility than the Windies', in spite of the latter having at least five great bowlers, not two. It's almost academic to consider who had the better batting order. The real distinction between the sides is in the bowlers: the match winners. The Windies easily had more champion bowlers, but in a hypothetical world, with Warne and Magill (and McGrath) the Australians would fair better against all teams, in all eras, in all conditions.

  • ronsaik on January 8, 2009, 9:43 GMT

    Lilee / Barnes would be a deadly combo. Warne would probably edge out Murali. Sobers would be there for his batting, but Miller? No place for another all rounder in this team! How about supplementing Barnes-Lilee with Trueman / Thomson / Larwood?

    Yum yum!

  • muffles on January 8, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    Well done! Miller and Warne as rival captains? Brilliant! I salivate at the mere thought of the contest!

  • drsuso on January 8, 2009, 6:58 GMT

    A beautiful article. I only have two complaints : 1. In the non-Australian world XI, in place of Donald I would pick Curtly Ambrose(he was awesome even when WI lost the top spot) or Shaun Pollock. 2. In Ausralia-WestIndies XI the captaincy should be handed over to Viv.

  • Cool_Jeeves on January 8, 2009, 5:05 GMT

    A very insightful analysis, examining this from all angles. However the conclusion, while correct, seems diluted by the seemingly "politically correct" choice of the combined team. I would wager that most batsmen of this time would have preferred facing McGrath over Holding, whose omission is surprising. Having both McGrath and Garner in this team, and neither of Holding and Roberts would also please the World Time XI batsmen. Finally, Hayden would make way for Gilchrist as an opening batsman, with which is no more a departure from the facts of history than having Shane Warne as captain. healy would replace Gilchrist as wicket keeper. So it would be Greenidge, Gilchrist, Richards, Lara, Ponting, Healy, Marshall, Warne, Roberts, Holding, Ambrose. I think the world time XI would neither want to bat nor bowl against this line - up.

  • Gary_111 on January 9, 2009, 15:11 GMT

    An enjoyable article.

    Although with bowlers as great and as durable as Warne, Marshall, Ambrose and McGrath surely the 5th bowler is a luxury. The team would be more beatable with this long tail and Gilchrist batting out of position at 6. So I would select Steve Waugh at 6 who would also (along with Richards) be in contention to be captain. Having Warne as captain is more speculation than anything else. The role of captain wouldn't be too hard - bowlers as great and intelligent as Warne and McGrath can virtually run the team themselves, as seen in recent times.

    In a straight contest between the two sides I would back the West Indians on a pacy pitch - their artillery is second to none and it is likely they would simply outgun the Australians. But on a slower, truer surface such as recent Australian wickets, I think the sometimes irresponsible West Indian top order would fire less frequently than its Australian counterpart. On spinning tracks the outcome would be a no-brainer.

  • wicketman on January 9, 2009, 1:40 GMT

    Interesting article - However, I disagree with your choice of bowlers: I would pick either Roberts or Holding over Ambrose. You already have very tall bowlers in Garner and McGrath, to complement Marshall, you need more raw speed and agression. My Rest of the World team though, I am confident would beat your Australia West Indies XI. They are: Gavaskar, Barry Richards, Martin Crowe, Tendulkar, Miandad, A. DeSilva, A. Knott, Imran Khan, Akram, Kumble,Waqar Younis

  • othbillies on January 8, 2009, 13:42 GMT

    Sorry Rob. I think even your Rest of Time XI would kick your (or any) combined XI off the park in any conditions - let alone the cricketers that missed out on selection. I'd gladly take your money! For starters, that team has an extra bowler. Also, even though there is only one leftie in the top six to negate Warne to some extent, I can't imagine Gavaskar, Bradman, Hutton and Miller being fazed about facing a leggie, which were far more common in their day; plus you have a bloke that ate Warne for breakfast more often than not. As for the WI-Aus quickies, all were outstanding bowlers, but none are scary-fast, which you'd need for that batting line-up. I don't think that having Gilly batting at six makes up for not having a bowling all-rounder against the team they have been picked to play against (which boasts two!) either - the tail is just too long. More intriguing would be WI 80-95 vs Aus 95-08 on two pitches - spin-friendly when WI bats, pace-friendly when Aus bats!

  • number-09 on January 8, 2009, 13:37 GMT

    And whoever thinks that Pointing was slightly better than Sobers? really

  • dar268 on January 8, 2009, 13:00 GMT

    The standard of world cricket has been very low in recent years with a normally weak England; a mediocre SA; WI, NZ and Pakistan in freefall; and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh an embarrassment. Australia's batsmen would have struggled against the WI bowlers more than the other way round - look what happened in 2005 when the Aussies were faced with decent bowlers.

  • Jeremy68 on January 8, 2009, 11:06 GMT

    Having watched both empires rise and fall I think the 80s Windies are still the best team from all cricket eras. They generally faced stronger opponents than Australia did, and went unbeaten in 27 straight series! If however, as in school yard pick-a-side cricket, two captains had to choose from among all the 1980-95 Windies and 1995-2008 Australians, Warne would be first pick every time. He's the only player among them who could not be substituted by any of the other greats. His presence alone gave the Australians' bowling attack a greater versatility than the Windies', in spite of the latter having at least five great bowlers, not two. It's almost academic to consider who had the better batting order. The real distinction between the sides is in the bowlers: the match winners. The Windies easily had more champion bowlers, but in a hypothetical world, with Warne and Magill (and McGrath) the Australians would fair better against all teams, in all eras, in all conditions.

  • ronsaik on January 8, 2009, 9:43 GMT

    Lilee / Barnes would be a deadly combo. Warne would probably edge out Murali. Sobers would be there for his batting, but Miller? No place for another all rounder in this team! How about supplementing Barnes-Lilee with Trueman / Thomson / Larwood?

    Yum yum!

  • muffles on January 8, 2009, 8:44 GMT

    Well done! Miller and Warne as rival captains? Brilliant! I salivate at the mere thought of the contest!

  • drsuso on January 8, 2009, 6:58 GMT

    A beautiful article. I only have two complaints : 1. In the non-Australian world XI, in place of Donald I would pick Curtly Ambrose(he was awesome even when WI lost the top spot) or Shaun Pollock. 2. In Ausralia-WestIndies XI the captaincy should be handed over to Viv.

  • Cool_Jeeves on January 8, 2009, 5:05 GMT

    A very insightful analysis, examining this from all angles. However the conclusion, while correct, seems diluted by the seemingly "politically correct" choice of the combined team. I would wager that most batsmen of this time would have preferred facing McGrath over Holding, whose omission is surprising. Having both McGrath and Garner in this team, and neither of Holding and Roberts would also please the World Time XI batsmen. Finally, Hayden would make way for Gilchrist as an opening batsman, with which is no more a departure from the facts of history than having Shane Warne as captain. healy would replace Gilchrist as wicket keeper. So it would be Greenidge, Gilchrist, Richards, Lara, Ponting, Healy, Marshall, Warne, Roberts, Holding, Ambrose. I think the world time XI would neither want to bat nor bowl against this line - up.

  • davros2 on January 8, 2009, 4:32 GMT

    Great article. I would have Holding in for Garner but otherwise your team is spot on.

  • South_Indian on January 8, 2009, 3:21 GMT

    either imran khan r wasim akram in, plz

  • Grahame on January 8, 2009, 2:20 GMT

    Wow, that's some article. Trying to work out who the best players and teams are throughout history all comes down to so many things - conditions, current rules, so many various factors involved with the particular era's etc, it's all a bit much and probably unfair comparing players from different times. But then I suppose it's all part of the fun. To my mind players of yesteryear always have a certain nostalgic fascination which always include players who hold special to me. I guess it all comes down to opinion and most of us will put together some very good teams who on their day will knock over just about anyone.

    This is no different to when as a boy, just after the war, we all did the same thing and never got tired of it. Best Wishes, G.D.

  • ChuckingMuraliMakesMeSick on January 8, 2009, 1:52 GMT

    In the '80s the West Indies were fortunate in that pitches worldwide were pace-friendly. Administrators let them get away with bowling 10 overs an hour at times - which they would do if the batting side got on top of them. Modern bat technology would have hurt their bowlers as well. Still, they were a great side. In the end I think that it would come down to how balanced the respective teams were. WI would not beat Aust on a turning wicket. Aust would not beat WI on a greentop. On a flat pitch I would back the Aust batsmen to be more dominant than WI, as they didn't really have a spinner after Lance Gibbs. One thing though, there would be some unbelievable fielding from both sides! As for the foolish comment previously about the Australians not being an attractive side to watch, in innings of over 200 runs or more, WI 1980-1995 managed to score at over 4 runs an over 4 times - 4 times in 15 years! Aust 1995-2008 scored at 4 runs an over 38 times - 3 times a year!

  • JMarv on January 8, 2009, 1:00 GMT

    Lovely article. In your Aus-WI XI i would omit ricky ponting and repalce him with steve waugh. With that said Steve Waugh would be the captain instead of Shane Warne...beacasue of his patience and determination....

  • studmansingh on January 8, 2009, 0:40 GMT

    The West Indies side of 70s and 80s was definately superior to the Australian side. They played against much superior bowling attacks like Imran, Wasim,Qadir, Kapil, Botham, Willis, Hadlee, Lillee, Thomson. Aussies were very lucky that they had tp play very average attacks. They have been put down by good attacsk like the Ashes 05 England attack, Shane Bond and the attack the SA team had in the 90s. When they actually started domonating SA, SA had aldready lost the sting in their bowling with Donaald aging. The only great bowler they have dominated is Murali. A 5 match series between the Windies and Aussies would end 3-1 in the favor of Windies. And of course there is the small matter of biased umpiring esp down under

  • vosky on January 8, 2009, 0:29 GMT

    Great article - well done. I agree the Aussie/WI side would likely beat the Best Of The Rest which goes to show for me how great the 2 dynasties were. I think only Bradman and a slightly shorter tail would prevent the Rest of the World going down in a series whitewash.

  • nafzak on January 7, 2009, 23:54 GMT

    With due respect to all. I'll take my West Indies team under the cattaincy of Lloyd and beat any world eleven. Truth be told, we West Indians knew that it was a given that we would win, even if we were down to our last wicket and 100 runs behind. And I am not speaking about our team here - I am talking about the fans... like me. That's how dominant we were. Heck, we believed that it did not matter who played for the West Indies, we would still win. That's how dominant we were and we knew it. The players, thankfully, were always more humble than us fans.

    By the way, too many people sell Greg Chappell short. He, I believe was teh best Australian batsman since Bradman. And if there was one guy I would pay to see bowl, it's Jeff Thompson.

    Mohamed Z. Rahaman (Breado)

  • Mitcher on January 7, 2009, 22:12 GMT

    Cracking article Rob. As an Australian fan who has grown up watching the current era but missed out on the mighty Windies it's difficult for me to comment but a great discussion. For depth of talent over the eras its a fair comment that Windies had more options while Australia relied more heavily on Warne-McGrath. Yet, the quirk of history saw them both play out their careers during that peiord so doesn't seem so relevant in this discussion. Australia's struggles against top-quality pace (who doesn't) could be balanced by the Warne influence. In the end if I were a betting man, and I am, I'd probably put my money on the Windies in a very tight one thanks to the unrelenting attack. Well done to most for sensible comment on the topic. Though Cricfan28's unforgettable "if the windies side was all white there would not even be an argument" is embarrassing. Mate, the only prejudice showing here is yours.

  • tjsimonsen on January 7, 2009, 20:49 GMT

    A truly great article, thanks! I think I would give the Windies the edge over the Aussie simply because they as a team were way more intimidating. Not only the bowlers, but the batsmen as well. Yes, Gilchrist and to an extent Hayden were intimidating in their prime. But they cannot (IMO) match the fear Richards and Co. put into the opposition. As for the two XIs, it will always be subjective, but I would like to see Steve Waugh instead of Ponting in the AUS/WI, and Hobbs instead of Gavaskar in the AlltimeXI. Perhaps Wasim instead of Miller, but it's a close call - the same goes for Holding vs. McGrath. Barnes certainly has to be in there: had he played 60 years later, the 700 wkt frontier would have been crossed decades before Warne and Murali.

  • doesitmatter on January 7, 2009, 20:48 GMT

    Great Article.I agree with engelfield I would have loved to see Holding instead of McGarth and Wasim for Barnes Also i would have Lara in the Rest XI and see how he plays real fast bowlers as he cant play real fast bowling in my opinion.The pitches in WI became dud after his popularity .All my opinion.

  • neilithic on January 7, 2009, 20:23 GMT

    Why whould you have Shane Warne as captain when his on and off field antics meant he didn't even get to be captain of the Australian side when he was playing. He was a great bowler but captain? I don't think so. From your team I'd give it to Viv Richards. Also for your rest of time team I'd have Hadlee over Lillee, Hadlee took over 400 wickets in just 80 tests at an average of only 21, better strike rate than McGrath I might add.

  • Rajesh. on January 7, 2009, 19:16 GMT

    No Michael Holding..? Thats a bad mistake... He was the Rolls Royce of all fast bowlers.... Ambrose & Garner can't fit in the same eleven and Michael Holding should be there in either one of their place.....

    Anyway, it's too difficult to draw up a team like this when there are way too many great players........

  • Rajesh. on January 7, 2009, 19:11 GMT

    Both great sides but no team ever had or would perhaps ever have the aura of the great West Indies teams of the late 70's & early 80's............. After all these years I'm sure even now they send a chill down the spine of many

  • engelfield on January 7, 2009, 18:10 GMT

    eddy501 with all due respect i think you have slightly missed the point. the aus/windies team is made up of players only from the 2 great teams. sobers and lillee didnt play during those eras. and talent aside warne is already in the aus/windies team hence cant also be in the rest of the world team.

    think holding should be ahead of mcgrath as he poccessed something more than efficiency. also wasim instead of sf barnes.

  • eddy501 on January 7, 2009, 17:54 GMT

    Rob did you really pick an AUS/WI team that didnt include the greatest cricketer ever???????????????? SOBERS! Yet he finds himself in the all-time team??? Also Lillee was no better than Marshall yet he makes the all-time team but not the combined team?? What's going on here?? Sachin Tendulkar in the all-time team is debatable. In all aspects (except 100's scored) Lara was ahead of Tendulkar in terms of (runs/match, runs/inning, high score, less balls faced but more runs, less minutes at the crease but more runs, more classic innings, etc) When Tendulakr had played 232 innings (lara's retirement) and when he broke he most runs record he was way ahead matches/innings played. SF Barnes is a joke (great figures) but proper modern cricket started with the invincbles,but worst of all is Murli over Warne. Leg-spin the hardest art in the game yet you give Murli the spin position. I think you need to rethink your selection.

  • paulpaul on January 7, 2009, 17:06 GMT

    Strangely enough the 2005 Ashes provided me with the final conclusive proof, if indeed such further proof was necessary, that the WI team of the 70's & 80's was the greatest of all time. That Ashes series revealed that it is virtually impossible to stand up to the sustained barrage of a quality 4-man pace attack, and I'm sure no-one is arguing that Hoggard, Harmison, Flintoff & Jones were a patch on any of the Caribbean quartets. Any 4 of Marshall, Roberts, Ambrose, Walsh, Bishop, Holding, Garner would have overpowered any team over a long period of matches. The fact that Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Rowe, Kallicharran, Lloyd could also bat a bit should not be overlooked either. In a 5 match series I'd expect WI to emerge comfortable winners, perhaps 3-1 being a fair measure of their superiority.

  • BilalAhmed on January 7, 2009, 16:53 GMT

    Very nice article but i am sorry World XI would not be complete without Wasim Akram as he is the greatest left arm bowler cricket ever produced, also it is very hard to remove Steve Waugh as i put him ahead of Ricky Ponting as a cricketer and a fighter

  • NeilSidd on January 7, 2009, 16:46 GMT

    Congrats to Mr Steen for an excellent and thought provoking article. I agree that it is very difficult to separate the two sides, because they were both so dominant during their respective eras and played attractive cricket.

    I would put the Windies side that toured England in 1984 (with Harper providing some spin balance) and the Aussie side which toured England in 2001 as the best sides in those two eras. A five match Test series between those two squads (perhaps on neutral territory in England) would be a great hypothetical contest to savour.

  • cricfan28 on January 7, 2009, 16:43 GMT

    looking at the two sides there is no way the australian side compare to the west indian side, take away Warne and Mcgrath where is the australian bowling attack, name a australian xi and you would be hard press to find 2 more great bowlers, a west indies attack would be full of all time greats, the only real advantage the australian side would have is at wicketkeeper and to a extent shane warne, imagine richards and lara batting together, i dare anyone to name a aus xi and compare it man for man with a windies xi, can anyone honestly say mcgrath is better than ambrose, if the windies side was all white there would not even be an argument, the only reason why rob stien did not select xi's for both team is the west indies would be far superior

  • eddy501 on January 7, 2009, 15:31 GMT

    IN REPLY TO 'morgan_gibson87' i'd wager that this all-time eleven would slightly out do yours...Gavaskar, Hobbs, Bradmen, Lara, Viv, Tendulkar Sobers, Knott, Marshall, Akram, Warne. Plenty of runs plus the greatest spinner ever the greatest all-rounder and the two greatest seamers/quicks ever.

  • Paddles431 on January 7, 2009, 15:20 GMT

    Brilliant article, the power and talent these two empires produced sends shivers down my spine. Some breathtaking cricketers from both countries and I just hope the cricketing world can again be graced by such brilliance. The only quibble with the A-W XI in my opinion would be the inclusion of Hayden - I have to disagree with you Buccaneer, statistics do not tell all the facts of a player, he may have scored 30 centuries, scored 8800 runs and averaged 50, but the majority of his runs have come in a period where there has been a dearth of genuine quick bowlers. He struggled early in his career against the likes of Donald, Akram, Waqar, Ambrose and Walsh from 1994-2000, which is why he wasn't a regular in the team. From 2001 till now the only comparison (being genuinely quick that is) would be Akhtar at times and Shane Bond, both who have success against him. He struggled in the 2005 Ashes against the English four pronger, and more recently against Steyn. But it is a tough call!

  • zaboca on January 7, 2009, 15:15 GMT

    This was a really good article and it's a pity that alot of the comments were so poor and based on petty biases or just ignorance..."Haynes over Greenidge"? that poor guy that wrote that has played too much hopscotch in his day! I disagreed with one minor point in the article and that had to do with the West Indian 'keepers. Deryck Murray was a technically excellent wicketkeeper and easily ranked among the best of his time(see comments by Tony Greig,Godfrey Evans and others),he was far better than Dujon although Dujon was the better batsman. Gilchrist gets picked for sure but it is important to recognize that both Murray and Dujon were top class and that Murray was by far the better keeper and certainly not that far below Healey, if at all.

    One thing that your article did not address was flair. The West Indian side of the 80's were world beaters and oozed class and stlye. They were probably the most attractive team to ever play the game. The same could not be said of the Australians

  • Sportz_Freak on January 7, 2009, 15:15 GMT

    Both were amazing sides. I would give the edge to the aussies simply for their never say die attitude and the presence of a far superior spinner. I doubt if the WI's could win in some of the modern day dust bowls without a spinner (eg: the likes of Hirwani, Border etc have skittled them at times). P.S: They sure were more entertaining than the 8 over per hour of bouncers.

    Also, for those saying that the WI's didnt sledge have no idea what they were talking about. They sledged as much as anyone. The difference was that there were no stump mikes or 24/7 media heads to dissect every percieved slight.

    Read the biographies of every cricketer who has toured the WI's in the 80's...the likes of richards stood close in and would chant "kill him" or "you're dying this ball" every delivery. And for the batsman facing 90+ mph deliveries at the ribs and head every ball (without protective gear)..that is way more "mental disintegration" than some dude insulting your parentage.

  • D.V.C. on January 7, 2009, 15:09 GMT

    @CricketPissek: What if we play the game on uncovered pre WWI pitches? Who is your money on then?

  • D.V.C. on January 7, 2009, 15:07 GMT

    In an article like this you could easily argue for or against any point you like. My point to argue against is this: the non-selection of Steve Waugh. Or perhaps I am helping you to pick a player you dearly want to. Steve Waugh is the missing all-rounder! Before he injured his back he was a genuine all-rounder (take a look at his bowling figures, he had 89 wickets at 34.9, (his bowling average was 26.5 under Taylor's captaincy, when his batting average was also a high 59) up to 1998 and only picked up 3 after that). So if you are picking players based on their heights you'd have to advance Waugh on the basis of his bowling exploits. And he would add something to your attack too, he was one of the earliest practitioners of the slower ball, he bowled with lots of variation. A very different bowler to the others included.

  • Nibsy on January 7, 2009, 14:30 GMT

    There is no doubt in my mind that the 4 west indian quicks with Marshall, Holding, Garner and another would go through the australia batting order with ease time and time again. These are champion fast bowlers. The australia team did not have to face champion bowlers at their peaks during their careers that is why they dominated for so long. Australians cannot hack pace bowling especially short pitched variety. They can only dish it out. Steyn is in the West Indian category and look at what has happened to the Australians.

    Viv Richards record in India was amazing I think he would have got on top of Warne like Tendulkar and Lara did in their careers. The West Indian batters would have made 300 most times and the bowlers would bowl Punters/Waugh's lot for around 200.

  • wei-guin on January 7, 2009, 14:27 GMT

    Brilliant article

    My only note of dissent would be the statement that McGrath would be a no-brainer ahead of Ambrose. The respective averages are virtually the same, Ambrose possessing a fractionally better Test wicket average Mcgrath the better ODI. I may prefer Ambrose by a whisker (his 7-1 at the WACA and 6-24 Trinidad for me show he had a greater peak of greatness than the Aussie), but either way it is surely a little unfair to call either over the other a no-brainer.

  • Cricinfo Editorial on January 7, 2009, 13:03 GMT

    Thanks to Kilat for pointing out the oversight. It has been corrected.

  • ShahidMahoodRao on January 7, 2009, 12:50 GMT

    This is a brilliant effort. One thing that is missing, where will stand the effort of great IMRAN KHAN who draw three consuctive series against then super power WEST INDIES and twice with netural umpires and once with West Indian umpires.

  • morgan_gibson87 on January 7, 2009, 12:42 GMT

    It is extremely difficult to separate the two Empires, as this article shows. I personally cannot split them, however if I were pushed I would have to go for the greater win percentage. However, that is pretty superficial and is thus why I cannot split them.

    AU-WI XI: Greenidge, Hayden, Ponting, Richards, Lara, Gilchrist (wk), Warne (Cpt), Marshall, Ambrose, Garner, McGrath, 12th Man: Waugh. So I am pretty much in conclusion with the author's except I would change the order slightly to shield Richards from the new ball for a more devastating effect in the middle-order.

    All-Time XI: Sunil Gavaskar, Jack Hobbs, Don Bradman (c), George Headley, Garry Sobers, Keith Miller, Imran Khan, Don Tallon (wk), Dennis Lillee, Syd Barnes, Muttiah Muralitharan, 12th Man: CV Grimmett. Tallon for Knott, who is said, by his contemporaries, to be the greatest 'keeper of all-time. Hobbs for Hutton and Khan for Sachin to shore up the bowling and provide some batting. Grimmett if two spinners are needed.

  • mitra_tt on January 7, 2009, 11:54 GMT

    brilliant article here alot of thought and analysis was done here.......only change to the world XI would be to have Murali the side

  • Kilat on January 7, 2009, 11:52 GMT

    I don't agree on everything, but there are some really good points and overall it's a really interesting exercise - guaranteed to stir up readers' passions! And that means good journalism.

    Sorry to be petty, but I feel obliged to point out an editing oversight. After discussing the possible Others XIs for the respective empires, you conclude that "Still, West Indies arguably had to contend with more demanding foes". Not so! The Non-Australian XI actually has TWELVE starters, as opposed to the more traditional eleven for the Non-WI XI. They have a clear, but surely unintentional, numerical advantage.

  • punditofcricket on January 7, 2009, 11:46 GMT

    Great Article.But didnt get the team selections quite right.I would put Mikey Holding ahead of Glenn McGrath anyday.And in the rest of Time XI where is Wasim Akram? Also openers should have been Barry Richards and Sehwag instead of Sunny n Hutton

  • FunkieD101 on January 7, 2009, 11:21 GMT

    It's pretty easy to not lose the close ones where there is no penalty or enforcement of a minimum number of overs per day. When the Windies were in trouble they just bowled fewer overs. I remember a test where they bowled no more than 8 overs in an hour. I'm not saying they weren't an amazing side, but I doubt they would be as successful in this era because the rules would preclude their tactics.

  • Sammurai on January 7, 2009, 10:55 GMT

    Intresting but there is a BIG BUT... that at last every thing that matters is the performance "ON THE DAY". like if smith survived untill he draw the match he would have become the history but now he is just a gusty man..

    anyway nice effort tnx

  • CricketPissek on January 7, 2009, 10:53 GMT

    hehe.. predictable comments once again. nevertheless, good work mr.steen. interesting topic and article. i'd love to see a game between, "upto 1980 XI" , "Windies-Aussie XI" , "1980-2008 Others XI" This way Kallis wouldnt have to worry about Sobers and Akram about Miller etc! my money would be on the modern others' team :)

  • Buccaneer on January 7, 2009, 10:40 GMT

    And while the combined team drawn from these two dynasties IS awesome, it could still be handily defeated. You simply cannot pick the best of two 15 year dynasties and think it beats the best of 132 years of Test cricket. No way. Given that the other team could include Bradman, Ponsford, Hammond, the three Ws, Hobbs and Sutcliffe, Trumper, Lillee and Thomson, Spofforth and Turner, Lindwall Miller and Davidson, etc ad nauseum - they would spank that combined XI....as they should. A helluva match to watch though.

  • Buccaneer on January 7, 2009, 10:31 GMT

    I'm just astonished at some of the antagonism expressed on this trhread against Hayden and the mindless preference for Des Haynes in a 'best of' combined XI. I watched Des - watched him average 42 in Tests; get regularly outplayed by his partner Gordon Greenidge; and never hit a big score ie 200 or better. His record is nowhere near Matthew Hayden. Do you even remember the respect and awe expressed by Viv Richards for Matt in the World Cup? Hayden is an absolute legend and not one Australia will be able to replace. Do you see other players around the world with 30 tons to their name? Openers? And scored at the cracking pace he does? How do you imagine Australia has won Tests in three days? By scoring FAST. Katich is a snail by comparison. And don't forget Hayden has reached the peak - no 1 batsman in the world - struggled through a mediocre tour against England and fought his way back to number 1 batsman at Test, ODI and 20/20 level. Nobody else has. Don't write him off so quickly.

  • futurecaptainofindia on January 7, 2009, 10:27 GMT

    I would put Dravid ahead of Chanders just because he has played a pivotal role in the 2 biggest Aussie defeats (Kolkata & Adelaide) of the early 2000s, in the Rest of World 11. I also forward a case for VVS Laxman, OZs perpetual tormentor throughout this decade. Vaughan as non-playing captain / coach, in recognition of the Ashes '05 triumph.

  • futurecaptainofindia on January 7, 2009, 10:19 GMT

    Brilliant article. Up to the mark in every sense. However it is not fitting to have a non-Captain leading the combined team of the past 30 years. Mark Taylor as non-playing captain! Anyone?

  • peter239 on January 7, 2009, 9:58 GMT

    Bowlers win matches-Aus had two legends who played for a long time and WI had an excellent production line. Except for Lara all the batsmen's records are bloated by not having to face the world's best attack. Langer-most underrated player of his generation despite his numbers and strike rate being superior to others except Hayden who has purple patches followed by slumps. Langer got big runs early in series and he also played quite a few tests against Walsh, Ambrose, Wasim, Pollock and Donald (the best bowlers of the time). Richardson to open with him as I think he's a better batsmen than any of the openers, and the concept of people only being able to bat in a particular position is a outdated. My team - Langer, Richardson, Ponting, Lara, Richards, S Waugh(c), Gilchrist, Marshall, Warne, Ambrose, McGrath. All time XI - Hobbs, Gavaskar, Bradman(c), Tendulkar, Sobers, Imran, Knott, Wasim, Lillee, Barnes, Murali. Not much difference in bowling world team stronger in batting

  • captainjamieuk on January 7, 2009, 9:23 GMT

    Simply in terms of the fear generated the West Indies late 70s/early 80s side is miles ahead of Australia. They didn't need to sledge because when you're that quick and that good what's the point in making smart comments? A searing nose cutter shuts a batsman up far more effectively than any verbal put down.

    During that era West Indies losing a test match anywhere became headline news. People choked on their dinners when Pakistan won a test against them, powered by Abdul Qadir. West Indies hit back next match though.

    Warne bowled the ball of the century to Mike Gatting. Holding bowled what may have been the over of the century to Geoff Boycott in 1981. A different kind of wizardry. A frightening wizardry as opposed to an enchanting wizardry.

    Whatever the arguments I'd enjoy watching both of those sides play. Warney bowling at one end and Marshall at the other. Now I'm salivating into my breakfast!

  • pankajsdevils on January 7, 2009, 9:02 GMT

    Great Article. My changes to the sides

    Australia-West Indies XI: Gordon Greenidge, Haynes, Vivian Richards, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist (wkt), Shane Warne (capt), Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Joel Garner, Glenn McGrath.

    Only one change Haynes instead of Hayden.

    Rest of Time XI: Virender Sehwag, Jack Hobbs, Graeme Pollock, Don Bradman (Capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Garry Sobers, Wasim Akram , Alan Knott (wkt), Dennis Lillee, SF Barnes, Muttiah Muralitharan.

    may sound funny but Sehwag is the most enjoyable cricketer to watch and win matches in the modern era. Jack Hobbs for Hutton. Pollock for Headley. Akram for Miller.

  • Sorcerer on January 7, 2009, 8:53 GMT

    Imran Khan's name is one of the few ones which automatically roll on for inclusion for an All-Time World XI given that he is undeniably one of history's finest bowlers and skippers and a solid batsman. I'm not sure how exactly is Kieth Miller a better choice over Imran given Imran's stunning Test record and awesome leadership credentials which more relevantly ensured that Pak was only team to fight the mighty Windies tooth and nail and drew three consecutive Series 1-1.

  • knucksthecricketmaster on January 7, 2009, 8:52 GMT

    excellent read of an article. read all the comments too, unfortunately all relevant except for 99.96's post. this is an article on the two best dynasties to grace the cricketing world, not yours or the hypocritical Indian public's personal "emotional" opinion. this is a purely analytical article.

    Australian's love winners, do what u must within the rules. i dare say as mentioned in an article earlier by a credible writer, Ian Chappell?, no indian would have stood up and applauded duminy's innings in melbourne even though that handed them the series but the whole of the MCG stood up.

    back to topic, i agree with Rob Sheen and most of the readers that the West Indian team was more powerful then the Australian team, imagine the old West Indian team bowling on today's Sydney pitch? scary thought. Although Australia had a more balanced attack for both bowling and batting.

    i believe that the strengths of both sides depicted the state of the game in their era, and set the standard next era

  • Fireballz on January 7, 2009, 8:40 GMT

    A fantastic comparison and summary of the two empires of world cricket. My only query would be as to SK Warne as captain. Sure he has a great cricket brain, but as someone else has commented, he is untested on the international stage. Maybe Ponting could put a case forward but I would give it to Richards. Some other modern day greats could certainly put their name forward to the world XI such as Kallis, Sangakarra, Healy. But that is why they're called 'opinions' right?

  • Cricdish on January 7, 2009, 8:33 GMT

    Ian Botham? In the reserves for a team that's playing a 1980s WI team? Nice Pom bias. He averaged 21 with the bat and 36 with the ball in the 1980s against West Indies. Great numbers!

  • susantcbnu on January 7, 2009, 8:20 GMT

    Great column Mr Rob. Steen.It is fascinating to read ,such a classic writing..It is the toughest challenge to compare teams of different era.As most of above said i also agree to add Wasim Akram in the world XI.I think he is the most versatile bowler ever.I dont know the credentials of Keith Miller as a caption,But I think somebody as good as Gary Sobers should be the capt. Thats all.Just fancy about the outcome of result of the match between this two great teams!!!!!!!

  • Sorcerer on January 7, 2009, 8:07 GMT

    Windies of 80s was a far more potent team than what the Aussies have ever assembled. Where Australians relied so disproportionately on two bowlers to keep them at Number 1, the awesome Windies had an stunning array of genuine fast and hostile bowlers...as Viv remarked at one time just in the Antigua team there were four fast bowlers who could be a handful to any international team and yet could not get to play for WI.

    More relevantly, the strength of teams that Windies faced was quite higher then the general mediocrity which has been offered historically as competition to Waugh and Ponting's men when they were the undisputed champions.

  • lrao222 on January 7, 2009, 8:03 GMT

    Australia - WI 11: My changes: Roberts instead of Garner and in Rest 11 team: Ray Lindwall instead of SF Barnes.

  • Muflinkinut on January 7, 2009, 7:51 GMT

    No Barry Richards or Graeme Pollock in the Rest of Time XI? the Don himself described Richards as the best batsman he'd ever seen.

  • flashgordon214 on January 7, 2009, 7:36 GMT

    Its a great article but there are many holes in that. I would like to see 2 spots changed. One Haynes in place of Hayden and two Holding replaces Joel Garner. Holding is better tailender than Joel and he is quicker than Garner. Haynes to partner Greenidge purely on their understanding between each other and the their records together in tests shows that(89 tests matches together and 148 innings they have batted together). The Captain must be Richards not Warne.

    In Rest of World side i would include Wasim Akram in place of Miller. Wasim is much much better than Miller. Miller as Captain! must be joking. Bradman is the man to lead. Len Hutton to open also in not easy to digest. It has to be Jack Hobbs.

  • cook on January 7, 2009, 7:20 GMT

    Was there a mistake made ? In the article I am sure I read that Steve Waugh was a shoo in for any combined West Indies/Australia combined side, yet he was left out ? Good side anyway but I would take out Ponting and put in Steve Waugh. Waugh valued his wicket probably more than any other player and if ever there was a player you had to choose to play for your life, it would be him.

  • Longmemory on January 7, 2009, 6:07 GMT

    Well argued for the most part, but I do have two complaints. First, no way Hayden gets in. Greenidge-Haynes is an unbeatable combination and Haydos simply does not have the numbers when faced with genuine top-class fast bowling (the '05 Ashes series being proof again). Second, I don't care who (maybe Miller?) has to make way for him to get in, but a World XI without Imran is just not on. Warney as captt was a good one.

  • Supratik on January 7, 2009, 5:29 GMT

    Congrats for an incredible analysis. Its as close to perfection since comparison across eras can be treacherous. Even the 'wishlist' XIs are near perfect. My only changes would be in the A-W XI, where I will replace Hayden with Haynes. Amongst the bowlers I will switch Garner with Roberts. And my captain will be Viv Richards. My reasons; Hayden was an all time great against less than great bowling attacks (which the ROWXI isn't). Viv will be my captain since Warne wasn't tested in the intl. arena. And Garner/Ambrose/McGrath were similar time of bowlers so a bit of variety with that mean machine called Roberts. For the ROW XI, I will have the Don as my captain, as he was the one who led the 'invincibles' anyway. Miller was more like Warne i guess so I see where you are coming from. Congrats once again. Now lets have light, camera, action!!!

  • dutchy on January 7, 2009, 5:08 GMT

    Australia had a more well-rounded team, with Warne adding variety the Windies could not match - but the West Indies' array of fast bowlers physically terrified opposition far more. I don't know how many players were knocked out by the Aussies, but I don't think people feared for their life facing them, like they did the Windies.

    For what it's worth I'd like to nominate the greatest hypothetical XI in the world - South Africa's test team of the 70s: Richards, Barlow, Bacher, the Pollocks, Rice, le Roux, Wessells, Kirsten, Procter, Hobson (not to mention those who succeeded for other countries: Lamb, Greig, Smith, etc). That would have been an incredible side.

  • ahalim on January 7, 2009, 4:52 GMT

    No doubt that both teams are the greatest outfits ever to put foot on cricket ground. I reckon that the batting were similarly destructive. Ditto in bowling. West Indies was more intimidating with their four pacemen. However, I enjoy watching Aussie more than West Indies due to the presence of Warne. This is not because I'm an Aussie, but watching West Indies pacemen is boring due to their monotonous approach. Warne provided more varieties. His duet with McGrath really made Aussie attack more entertaining than West Indies.

    Another thing that makes me prefer Aussie is Adam Gilchrist. Not only he was a world class wicket keeper, but he was also a destructive batsman. Again, this added more variety to Aussie approach, which made them more enjoyable to watch. Also, watching him stumping off Warne in addition to watch him catching off McGrath is more enjoyable than wathing Murray/Dujon catching off Roberts/Holding/Garner/Marshall.

  • Vishal_madison on January 7, 2009, 4:49 GMT

    I would put Sangakara in World X1 due to superior batting skills and the fact that he has kept to Murali. I would also replace Headley with Wasim Akram. My side looks like: Sunil Gavaskar, Len Hutton, Don Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, Gary Sobers, Sangakarra(wkt), Keith Miller (capt), Wasim Akram, Dennis Lillee, SF Barnes, Muttiah Muralitharan.

    Heres comparison Top order: gavaskar,hutton,bradman better than greenidge,hayden,richards. Sachin,Sobers,Sangakarra probably same as Lara,Ponting,Gilchrist because Sachin=Lara, Ponting slightly better than Sobers in batting, Sangakara slightly ahead of Gilchrist is Batting.

    Allround options - World X1 has 2 in Sobers,Miller and more variety through Sobers.

    Spin bowling - equal warne=murali. pace bowling - record wise comparable pace attacks, except for fact that akram gives left arm variety, and master of conventional and reverse swing.

    Therefore my vote to my world X1.

  • boooonnie on January 7, 2009, 4:41 GMT

    Well if you listened to most of the Indian fans and a couple of South Africans (other Aussie hating nations insert your name here) the modern Australian cricket team were arrogrant, loud mouthed, bullying,cheating sledgers who teased little children and dragged cricket into sporting hell over the last 16 years, while the rest of the world angellically played clean gentlemen like cricket. Now that the barbarian Australians have slipped back to the poor standard of cricket that the rest of the world is playing, the world can dance on their graves and forget they ever existed. In conclusion the West Indies were much more civilised chappies.

  • wittgenstein on January 7, 2009, 4:39 GMT

    A wonderfully comprehensive and credible comparison of the seemingly impossible to compare. This article must be preserved as a classic to be taken out everytime 'the greatest team of all time' discussions take place.

    One minor quibble - no Wasim Akram in the AllTime rest of the world? Keith Miller, is the dubious choice.

  • parimal05 on January 7, 2009, 4:20 GMT

    i think the australian side is the made more efforts with winning three consicutive world cup. they deserve the leading team spot.

  • inxia on January 7, 2009, 4:15 GMT

    Firstly, great article. I love discussions like this about sides from different eras and anyone who writes "you can't compare teams across eras" is missing the point entirely - this is fun, that's all there is to it.

    Personally, I'm disappointed that apartheid robbed us of adding the South African team of 1969 to probably 1976 or so. Be that as it may.

    From your Australia-West Indies XI, I would have Haynes over Greenidge, I would have picked the best gloveman as keeper, which is Healy, included Steve Waugh at number six (because that top five going to score quickly enough) and reluctantly left Joel Garner out.

    I hope there are lots of replies on this because the topic is fascinating. Well done, Rob.

  • redneck on January 7, 2009, 3:31 GMT

    gee now those 2 teams would be worth paying money to watch!!!! i dont think i could suggest any players that arent there that should be in either team??? im sure someone from england will say w g grace but he may be too far back in history. just imagine richards batting with lara, tendulker with bradman! stuff dreams are made of that is. nice touch putting warne captain too!

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  • redneck on January 7, 2009, 3:31 GMT

    gee now those 2 teams would be worth paying money to watch!!!! i dont think i could suggest any players that arent there that should be in either team??? im sure someone from england will say w g grace but he may be too far back in history. just imagine richards batting with lara, tendulker with bradman! stuff dreams are made of that is. nice touch putting warne captain too!

  • inxia on January 7, 2009, 4:15 GMT

    Firstly, great article. I love discussions like this about sides from different eras and anyone who writes "you can't compare teams across eras" is missing the point entirely - this is fun, that's all there is to it.

    Personally, I'm disappointed that apartheid robbed us of adding the South African team of 1969 to probably 1976 or so. Be that as it may.

    From your Australia-West Indies XI, I would have Haynes over Greenidge, I would have picked the best gloveman as keeper, which is Healy, included Steve Waugh at number six (because that top five going to score quickly enough) and reluctantly left Joel Garner out.

    I hope there are lots of replies on this because the topic is fascinating. Well done, Rob.

  • parimal05 on January 7, 2009, 4:20 GMT

    i think the australian side is the made more efforts with winning three consicutive world cup. they deserve the leading team spot.

  • wittgenstein on January 7, 2009, 4:39 GMT

    A wonderfully comprehensive and credible comparison of the seemingly impossible to compare. This article must be preserved as a classic to be taken out everytime 'the greatest team of all time' discussions take place.

    One minor quibble - no Wasim Akram in the AllTime rest of the world? Keith Miller, is the dubious choice.

  • boooonnie on January 7, 2009, 4:41 GMT

    Well if you listened to most of the Indian fans and a couple of South Africans (other Aussie hating nations insert your name here) the modern Australian cricket team were arrogrant, loud mouthed, bullying,cheating sledgers who teased little children and dragged cricket into sporting hell over the last 16 years, while the rest of the world angellically played clean gentlemen like cricket. Now that the barbarian Australians have slipped back to the poor standard of cricket that the rest of the world is playing, the world can dance on their graves and forget they ever existed. In conclusion the West Indies were much more civilised chappies.

  • Vishal_madison on January 7, 2009, 4:49 GMT

    I would put Sangakara in World X1 due to superior batting skills and the fact that he has kept to Murali. I would also replace Headley with Wasim Akram. My side looks like: Sunil Gavaskar, Len Hutton, Don Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, Gary Sobers, Sangakarra(wkt), Keith Miller (capt), Wasim Akram, Dennis Lillee, SF Barnes, Muttiah Muralitharan.

    Heres comparison Top order: gavaskar,hutton,bradman better than greenidge,hayden,richards. Sachin,Sobers,Sangakarra probably same as Lara,Ponting,Gilchrist because Sachin=Lara, Ponting slightly better than Sobers in batting, Sangakara slightly ahead of Gilchrist is Batting.

    Allround options - World X1 has 2 in Sobers,Miller and more variety through Sobers.

    Spin bowling - equal warne=murali. pace bowling - record wise comparable pace attacks, except for fact that akram gives left arm variety, and master of conventional and reverse swing.

    Therefore my vote to my world X1.

  • ahalim on January 7, 2009, 4:52 GMT

    No doubt that both teams are the greatest outfits ever to put foot on cricket ground. I reckon that the batting were similarly destructive. Ditto in bowling. West Indies was more intimidating with their four pacemen. However, I enjoy watching Aussie more than West Indies due to the presence of Warne. This is not because I'm an Aussie, but watching West Indies pacemen is boring due to their monotonous approach. Warne provided more varieties. His duet with McGrath really made Aussie attack more entertaining than West Indies.

    Another thing that makes me prefer Aussie is Adam Gilchrist. Not only he was a world class wicket keeper, but he was also a destructive batsman. Again, this added more variety to Aussie approach, which made them more enjoyable to watch. Also, watching him stumping off Warne in addition to watch him catching off McGrath is more enjoyable than wathing Murray/Dujon catching off Roberts/Holding/Garner/Marshall.

  • dutchy on January 7, 2009, 5:08 GMT

    Australia had a more well-rounded team, with Warne adding variety the Windies could not match - but the West Indies' array of fast bowlers physically terrified opposition far more. I don't know how many players were knocked out by the Aussies, but I don't think people feared for their life facing them, like they did the Windies.

    For what it's worth I'd like to nominate the greatest hypothetical XI in the world - South Africa's test team of the 70s: Richards, Barlow, Bacher, the Pollocks, Rice, le Roux, Wessells, Kirsten, Procter, Hobson (not to mention those who succeeded for other countries: Lamb, Greig, Smith, etc). That would have been an incredible side.

  • Supratik on January 7, 2009, 5:29 GMT

    Congrats for an incredible analysis. Its as close to perfection since comparison across eras can be treacherous. Even the 'wishlist' XIs are near perfect. My only changes would be in the A-W XI, where I will replace Hayden with Haynes. Amongst the bowlers I will switch Garner with Roberts. And my captain will be Viv Richards. My reasons; Hayden was an all time great against less than great bowling attacks (which the ROWXI isn't). Viv will be my captain since Warne wasn't tested in the intl. arena. And Garner/Ambrose/McGrath were similar time of bowlers so a bit of variety with that mean machine called Roberts. For the ROW XI, I will have the Don as my captain, as he was the one who led the 'invincibles' anyway. Miller was more like Warne i guess so I see where you are coming from. Congrats once again. Now lets have light, camera, action!!!

  • Longmemory on January 7, 2009, 6:07 GMT

    Well argued for the most part, but I do have two complaints. First, no way Hayden gets in. Greenidge-Haynes is an unbeatable combination and Haydos simply does not have the numbers when faced with genuine top-class fast bowling (the '05 Ashes series being proof again). Second, I don't care who (maybe Miller?) has to make way for him to get in, but a World XI without Imran is just not on. Warney as captt was a good one.