The XI August 28, 2009

What does this team tell us?

The jury's choice seems a comment on the reduced role of skill in the modern game
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Cricinfo's all-time England XI: Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Wally Hammond, Ken Barrington, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Botham, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood, Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Sydney Barnes.

My congratulations to the adjudicators. Such a huge selection challenge was fraught with difficulty, but to my surprise there is no serious cause for dissatisfaction in this all-time England XI. The judges have considered some key factors, such as the challenging unprotected pitches upon which the earlier players played, particularly when the surfaces were almost unusable after rain. More than once Jack Hobbs and his celebrated England opening partner Herbert Sutcliffe batted for hours on bowlers' pitches, using their sensitive wrists and high skills to survive with "touch" batting, playing the dead bat or punishing the poor delivery or withdrawing their lightweight bats from danger. For about 40 years pitches have been protected. Worse still, they are prepared today with the blatant intention of promoting the batsman's welfare in order to maximise gate takings. How we smiled when two Test matches in England this summer finished in three days.

Batsmen like Walter Hammond and Len Hutton made some mighty scores, but they were also famous for some of their shorter innings, played in extremely difficult circumstances after rain. It may be frustrating for the moderns to be denied the chance to display that vital extra skill when the ball is leaping and shooting off imperfect surfaces. Perhaps some of them might have developed that special technique to survive. We shall never know. It's their bad luck - and ours.

The one modern with a place in the top five, Kevin Pietersen, thoroughly deserves his place, though I suspect there are doubters out there. It seems to me that the feeling of anticipation as well as confidence felt by England fans when he strides out to bat compares with that felt in the 1930s when the great Hammond went to the middle. KP has been dominant in the same way, even if he hasn't (yet) put so many double- and triple-centuries in the book. Watching him in that first phenomenal Ashes series of 2005 caused me to wonder just how he did it. I think the key is that long torso. He can lean some way further forward than other men of his height: the hips are comparatively low. He commands a bowler's length for him. Hammond was the perfectly shaped cricketer. KP perhaps owes his success to being unusually built.

Ken Barrington is often forgotten when England's best are being discussed - a criminal oversight. Originally a dasher, he reclaimed his Test spot and became the concrete foundation. Tough, vigilant and good-humoured, he is the batsman most of us long for whenever today's England team flounder.

Such desperate thought also often embraces one who failed to make the all-time XI, Geoffrey Boycott, who simply had too much competition for a place here as an opener. Barrington too had many rivals for the No. 4 or 5 position, including the wonderful Maurice Leyland and Patsy Hendren and, saddest of omissions, Denis Compton. This is the sort of dilemma that has judges pleading for extension: might it perhaps have been the all-time best fifteen?

It may be frustrating for the moderns to be denied the chance to display that vital extra skill when the ball is leaping and shooting off imperfect surfaces. Perhaps some of them might have developed that special technique to survive. We shall never know. It's their bad luck - and ours

I can imagine the outcry had Ian Botham not made it. He can't have been chosen on the basis of that one amazing 1981 Ashes summer alone, for nobody else was selected on such a narrow basis. You need to be quite young not to have vivid personal memories of how English spirits were lifted when this chap charged at the "enemy" with bat or ball in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His was a robust and highly patriotic brand of cricket, and while somebody who is still regarded as The Greatest Cricketer - WG Grace (downgrade him at your peril) - did not play in quite such a nakedly physical way, he would have nodded in approval at the defiant, aggressive overtones.

Alan Knott is an informed inclusion. He was not only seemingly the perfect wicketkeeper but he made runs, which is now regarded as an essential requirement. His Kent and England colleague Derek Underwood was lethal on a rain-affected pitch and tight on a batsman's paradise, so irrespective of where and when this ethereal cricket team takes the field, it hardly matters.

A frontline attack of Larwood, Barnes and Trueman is the stuff of nightmares. Sydney Barnes had the advantage of uncovered pitches, but was not allowed lbws to balls pitching outside the line of the off stump. It's reasonable to assume that he would have been just as phenomenally successful today as 100 years ago. Certainly his force of character was overwhelming, on a par with Dennis Lillee's, if you can visualise it.

Harold Larwood, another who bowled when lbws were so limited, has often been voted as the greatest fast bowler of all time, so it would have been a major shock had he missed selection. Indeed, it would have discredited the exercise.

From the other end: FS Trueman. Not much in it between him and Larwood, though Fred had the gift of the gab. Since cricket these days is played as much with the mouth as the bat and ball, FST would flourish. And like the other bowlers, he would also have relished the drinks and towels provided at third man between his overs. Modern cricketers are pampered, though that is not precisely the language Fred would have employed.

With only two of these elite cricketers having played for England in the past 27 years, the adjudicators seem to have concluded that skills have diminished. Or might it be that the modern players have been denied the chance to demonstrate their fullest potential, now that, with lifeless pitches and slow over-rates, the game has undergone a form of anaesthesia?

More on the XI here

David Frith is an author, historian, and founding editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shirazu on August 30, 2009, 1:22 GMT

    Those old school players would get crushed by today's teams. I would take today's Bangaldesh side against this team and lay odds and feel very confident. The modern cricketer is far better coached, is paid enough to focus full time on his game, and is in general in much better shape with better training and eating habits. There are more people playing cricket these days and more wealth in general giving more people access to cricket, so naturally the overall level is going to be higher - there could easily be 100 times more people playing cricket now than there was 50 years ago. This is not to say that none of these players would not be modern stars if they had access to today's training.

    The only reason why you see few modern players on this England XI is that England suck at cricket now when compared to the rest of the world. It is only natural as football is much bigger in that country than cricket nowadays whereas cricket is clearly still #1 in the subcontinent and Australia.

  • Engle on August 29, 2009, 19:11 GMT

    Too bad the Aus AT XI did not select Jeff Thomson. That would've made some battle between Larwood and Thommo going great guns; if only in our imagination

  • rbharath2 on August 29, 2009, 19:00 GMT

    Where is Denis Compton,where is Ted Dexter,where is David Gower,where is Geoffrey Boycott,where is Graham Gooch

    You should have probably gone for a 14/15 instead of 11

  • SridharSampath on August 29, 2009, 15:58 GMT

    I am surprised by those who feel that Underwood was lucky to get in. Really? Here's the facts: He got Sunny Gavaskar (arguably the greatest player of spin) and Greg Chappell out a dozen times each in Tests. And someone calls him a containment bowler, which is a joke. A 'containment' bowler doesn't take 297 wickets. He was effective not merely on wet wickets. I watched him run thru the famed Indian batting line up at Chepauk in the 70s and that wicket wasn't wet. Jim Laker took 130+ wickets out of 150+ in England. Never toured the sub-continent. Hedley Verity took Bradman's wicket 8 times. Fine! But Deadly took Sunny's & Greg Chappells's wicket a dozen times each. No mean achievement that. I am however disappointed at the jury's reasoning behind some of the selections. Larwood's is one such example. Waspsting put it quite accurately in this connection.

  • HOTCHA on August 29, 2009, 15:22 GMT

    I would go with the final team selected, but for one exception. I would have the left-handed elegance of David Gower, in place of Kevin Pietersen.

    My team would thus read - Len Hutton, Wally Hammond, Ken Barrington, David Gower, Ian Botham, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood, Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Sydney Barnes.

  • numptyville on August 29, 2009, 15:13 GMT

    I love the team! Particularly with the omissions of the usual suspects such as Boycott and Flintoff. Can't help but think that Gower should be in there with a shout, the guy managed good figures despite being baraged by the Windy pacemen for his entire test career, well only a series every couple of years. I would also add Voce to the mix. Both he and Larwood are part of the greatest bowling partnership surpassing Warne and McGrath in my opinion. The guys were so good together that Test Cricket rules had to be changed to give Bradman a chance!

  • clivenoble on August 29, 2009, 12:14 GMT

    Really enjoyed the team selection and subsequent comments and obviously we all have our own ideas and preferences but the major surprise to me are the negatives from people about Larwood-sure his test statistics do not stand on their own,but surely cricket fans must realise that his test career was effectively ended by the political fallout from Bodyline and some of his best bowling came after this.He is the only fast bowler in cricket history to top the First class bowling averages in 5 seasons,he was the only bowler during Bradmans career to make him look simply good and not a genius,bowling for Notts as well as England and he took nearly 1500 wickets at an average of less than 20.Combine all of this with watching the old footage of him and seeing the reaction times that the batsman seem to have against him-even with the old film slowing things down-and surely he must have been at the very least just about the fastest bowler of all time.He also made first class hundreds and a test 97

  • waspsting on August 29, 2009, 8:59 GMT

    MAIN PROBLEM with this team is the lack of balance. With 5 batsmen- the tail MUST carry its weight. Hence, I'd prefer Ames to Knott and Rhodes to Underwood, as that would strengthen the batting (which looks fragile - if 3 quick early wickets go down, as they occasionally do, this team would be in serious trouble) Team balance could be different if there were 6 batsmen. Knott over Ames, and Underwood or Laker over Rhodes is fine then, because the batting is more stable (if you believe as i do that Laker and Underwood were better bowlers than Rhodes).

    re: to several preceding comments. Barnes was a Bill O'Reily/Kumble type bowler, medium paced spin/cut. More a "spinner" than a "fast bowler" as we understand the terms. Agree that Pieterson hasn't proved himself over a long enough period to be included over Barrington or Compton. Agree that its an unnecessary restriction to limit selection by role - Sutcliffe, Hutton and Hobbs all belong in this team.

  • sunglassesron on August 29, 2009, 8:52 GMT

    For me the team is: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hutton, Compton, Hammond, WG Grace, Stewart, Botham, Laker, Trueman, S Barnes

    A bit heavy on battin compared to bowling, But Grace can bowl a bit. I suppose Hobbs, Hammond, Hutton,Botham and Barnes are shoo ins for me. I would always give Stewart he nod over Knott et all every time. I think he is second top English runscorer of all time, a very capable wicket keeper, Most test matches of any Englishman, and averaged about 40 - and he got those runs in an era awash with many of the greatest bowlers of all time (mcgrath, donald, warne, pollock, ambrose, walsh, wasim, waqar, murali etc etc). A most underrated player who arguably started much of what hussain, vaughan and finally strauss got the credit for - He captained us to a 2-1 win over south africa in 1998. I was 20 years old and it was the FIRST time I had ever known England win a proper 5 test series!!!! A real servant to his country imo

  • Quip on August 29, 2009, 7:49 GMT

    Mike index I note agrees that the restrictions of the popular selection are frustrating and somewhat compromise the exercise. I entirely agree with him about those who would seem compulsory selections - though I would add Knott to that group. He is also correct to query the astonishing absence of Evans from the top five wicket keepers and Grace among the batsmen - again, to be replaced by Brearley. It seems to me imperative to ensure these teams as far as possible include the best players - and Brearley could barely justify inclusion in his contemporary team let alone in its greatest.

  • shirazu on August 30, 2009, 1:22 GMT

    Those old school players would get crushed by today's teams. I would take today's Bangaldesh side against this team and lay odds and feel very confident. The modern cricketer is far better coached, is paid enough to focus full time on his game, and is in general in much better shape with better training and eating habits. There are more people playing cricket these days and more wealth in general giving more people access to cricket, so naturally the overall level is going to be higher - there could easily be 100 times more people playing cricket now than there was 50 years ago. This is not to say that none of these players would not be modern stars if they had access to today's training.

    The only reason why you see few modern players on this England XI is that England suck at cricket now when compared to the rest of the world. It is only natural as football is much bigger in that country than cricket nowadays whereas cricket is clearly still #1 in the subcontinent and Australia.

  • Engle on August 29, 2009, 19:11 GMT

    Too bad the Aus AT XI did not select Jeff Thomson. That would've made some battle between Larwood and Thommo going great guns; if only in our imagination

  • rbharath2 on August 29, 2009, 19:00 GMT

    Where is Denis Compton,where is Ted Dexter,where is David Gower,where is Geoffrey Boycott,where is Graham Gooch

    You should have probably gone for a 14/15 instead of 11

  • SridharSampath on August 29, 2009, 15:58 GMT

    I am surprised by those who feel that Underwood was lucky to get in. Really? Here's the facts: He got Sunny Gavaskar (arguably the greatest player of spin) and Greg Chappell out a dozen times each in Tests. And someone calls him a containment bowler, which is a joke. A 'containment' bowler doesn't take 297 wickets. He was effective not merely on wet wickets. I watched him run thru the famed Indian batting line up at Chepauk in the 70s and that wicket wasn't wet. Jim Laker took 130+ wickets out of 150+ in England. Never toured the sub-continent. Hedley Verity took Bradman's wicket 8 times. Fine! But Deadly took Sunny's & Greg Chappells's wicket a dozen times each. No mean achievement that. I am however disappointed at the jury's reasoning behind some of the selections. Larwood's is one such example. Waspsting put it quite accurately in this connection.

  • HOTCHA on August 29, 2009, 15:22 GMT

    I would go with the final team selected, but for one exception. I would have the left-handed elegance of David Gower, in place of Kevin Pietersen.

    My team would thus read - Len Hutton, Wally Hammond, Ken Barrington, David Gower, Ian Botham, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood, Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Sydney Barnes.

  • numptyville on August 29, 2009, 15:13 GMT

    I love the team! Particularly with the omissions of the usual suspects such as Boycott and Flintoff. Can't help but think that Gower should be in there with a shout, the guy managed good figures despite being baraged by the Windy pacemen for his entire test career, well only a series every couple of years. I would also add Voce to the mix. Both he and Larwood are part of the greatest bowling partnership surpassing Warne and McGrath in my opinion. The guys were so good together that Test Cricket rules had to be changed to give Bradman a chance!

  • clivenoble on August 29, 2009, 12:14 GMT

    Really enjoyed the team selection and subsequent comments and obviously we all have our own ideas and preferences but the major surprise to me are the negatives from people about Larwood-sure his test statistics do not stand on their own,but surely cricket fans must realise that his test career was effectively ended by the political fallout from Bodyline and some of his best bowling came after this.He is the only fast bowler in cricket history to top the First class bowling averages in 5 seasons,he was the only bowler during Bradmans career to make him look simply good and not a genius,bowling for Notts as well as England and he took nearly 1500 wickets at an average of less than 20.Combine all of this with watching the old footage of him and seeing the reaction times that the batsman seem to have against him-even with the old film slowing things down-and surely he must have been at the very least just about the fastest bowler of all time.He also made first class hundreds and a test 97

  • waspsting on August 29, 2009, 8:59 GMT

    MAIN PROBLEM with this team is the lack of balance. With 5 batsmen- the tail MUST carry its weight. Hence, I'd prefer Ames to Knott and Rhodes to Underwood, as that would strengthen the batting (which looks fragile - if 3 quick early wickets go down, as they occasionally do, this team would be in serious trouble) Team balance could be different if there were 6 batsmen. Knott over Ames, and Underwood or Laker over Rhodes is fine then, because the batting is more stable (if you believe as i do that Laker and Underwood were better bowlers than Rhodes).

    re: to several preceding comments. Barnes was a Bill O'Reily/Kumble type bowler, medium paced spin/cut. More a "spinner" than a "fast bowler" as we understand the terms. Agree that Pieterson hasn't proved himself over a long enough period to be included over Barrington or Compton. Agree that its an unnecessary restriction to limit selection by role - Sutcliffe, Hutton and Hobbs all belong in this team.

  • sunglassesron on August 29, 2009, 8:52 GMT

    For me the team is: Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hutton, Compton, Hammond, WG Grace, Stewart, Botham, Laker, Trueman, S Barnes

    A bit heavy on battin compared to bowling, But Grace can bowl a bit. I suppose Hobbs, Hammond, Hutton,Botham and Barnes are shoo ins for me. I would always give Stewart he nod over Knott et all every time. I think he is second top English runscorer of all time, a very capable wicket keeper, Most test matches of any Englishman, and averaged about 40 - and he got those runs in an era awash with many of the greatest bowlers of all time (mcgrath, donald, warne, pollock, ambrose, walsh, wasim, waqar, murali etc etc). A most underrated player who arguably started much of what hussain, vaughan and finally strauss got the credit for - He captained us to a 2-1 win over south africa in 1998. I was 20 years old and it was the FIRST time I had ever known England win a proper 5 test series!!!! A real servant to his country imo

  • Quip on August 29, 2009, 7:49 GMT

    Mike index I note agrees that the restrictions of the popular selection are frustrating and somewhat compromise the exercise. I entirely agree with him about those who would seem compulsory selections - though I would add Knott to that group. He is also correct to query the astonishing absence of Evans from the top five wicket keepers and Grace among the batsmen - again, to be replaced by Brearley. It seems to me imperative to ensure these teams as far as possible include the best players - and Brearley could barely justify inclusion in his contemporary team let alone in its greatest.

  • kpisthebest on August 29, 2009, 7:34 GMT

    Venkatb,

    I would say then as bowlers in the past had to bowl on uncovered wickets their averages may have been inflated. It doesn't look right to debate on points like whether a batsman would have scored less without the helmets or whether a bowler would have been less effective without those uncovered wickets. One can't assume things like that.

  • historyman40 on August 29, 2009, 7:20 GMT

    Ramkr. Please note that Pietersen is NOT an English player. He is a South African who happens to play for England.

  • narenvs on August 29, 2009, 7:09 GMT

    As my earlier comments indicate, I entirely agree with mikeindex. I'd say Hobbs, Hutton, Hammond, Botham, Barnes and Trueman are the ones who definitely belong in the team. The other five positions are open to reasonable debate - Grace/ Sutcliffe/ Compton/ Barrington in the middle order; Knott/ Evans keeping wickets; Laker and either Rhodes or another paceman (Larwood/ Bedser/ Statham/ Tate). English cricket was at its best from 1905 (Hobbs' debut) to 1965 (Trueman's retirement). Then, it went the way of the British empire - though it must be noted that England's relative decline was also because of the rise of the subcontinental teams, and to some extent that of S. Africa & W. Indies as well.

  • TMS8137 on August 29, 2009, 6:59 GMT

    This exercise seems Pretty entertaining. True that I would love to see the all time XI''s for the rest of the countries. Wilfred Rhodes omission seems to rankle a lot of readers. I would probably have sacrificed him for Underwood myself. Would love to see the line up for the windies, the only disadvantage being a spinner. Gibbs pretty much waltzes in. What about the batting line up for India and the bowling one for Pakistan? Since this is an imaginary pursuit what would be an Indo-Pakistan line up if there wasn't Partition? Wait a sec.. would Sri lanka be included as well?

  • Quip on August 29, 2009, 5:51 GMT

    The great misfortune of so many of these exercises, enjoyable though they are, is that parameters are set that needlessly restrict selection options. By insisting we choose two openers rather than the best five or six batsmen, for example, the Australian XI selection led to the absurd omission of Ponting because he was competing with Bradman for the 3 position and G Chappell for the 4 position. So he did not make the team, even though he is arguably the second best of Australia's batsmen.

    Similarly, the popular selection of the England team foisted upon us three fast bowlers (was Barnes really a fast bowler) and only one spinner, even though I notice the editorial selectors were not restricted in this way. Given that the popular selectors had a casting vote, these preconceived parameters may well have skewed the ultimate selection as they did with the Australian team.

    It is also difficult to consider as credible selectors who would include Brearley or who prefer Stewart to Hobbs.

  • Venkatb on August 29, 2009, 2:17 GMT

    Firth and other writers/readers need to recognize the helmet factor - modern batsmen have inflated batting averages behind the safety of helmets and other safety equipment and Pieterson is one of them - ranking him higher than Compton/May/Cowdrey is questionable. Also, Underwood, much as I admire him and have watched him play, was a more effective bowler on wet wickets - Laker or Rhodes would get my nod - also, Botham was on a purple patch against the Aussies in 1981 and faded very fast into mediocrity - likewise Flintoff in 2005 - if one were to rank a player based on performance in 1 series, I would go fro Tyson! For the all-rounder, I would go for Greig who brings variety to the bowling attack and could definitely bat better - whether against the best fast bowlers - Holding, Roberts, Daniel, Thompson, Lillee, or against India's best spinners.

  • drgonzo76 on August 29, 2009, 0:18 GMT

    I find it heartwarming that the greatest England XI is mainly made up of the greats of Englsih cricket. It is hard to belief that Sutcliffe and the great Compton can't make it into the final selection but my hero Botham is in there so I can't complain. I hope that the current team and future England players look at these great names and aspire to push themselves to get themselves into this greatest eleven. I thinks its a great pity that the next greatest XI will be a world team because I want to see what is the greatest Indian, Pakistani, Windies teams are!!!

  • Jonathan_E on August 28, 2009, 23:47 GMT

    Okay, I've no quibble with the team, but here's my five reserve players to make up a 16-man touring squad:

    Spare opening batsman? GOOCH. One of the few who could really graft on a bad wicket (Headingley 1991) AND set out to dominate even a top-class hostile attack (Jamaica 1981).

    Spare middle-order batsman? WOOLLEY. I wanted him in the team, ahead of Pietersen, simply because he is a left-hander to disrupt the bowlers' line.

    (Spare all-rounder? None: Hammond (and Woolley, if selected) can help the bowlers.)

    Spare keeper? AMES, of course. Had to flip a coin to pick Knott ahead of him anyway.

    Spare fast bowler? Sometimes you just need an accurate military fast-medium pacer to bore batsmen out when there's no pace in the pitch. BEDSER gets the nod.

    Spare spinner? Well... I could select Rhodes here (and he'd be a useful opening bat too). Barnes could bowl leg-spin, but we have nobody who turns the ball into the batsman or away from a leftie. So, LAKER.

  • nesvedmos on August 28, 2009, 22:34 GMT

    Haven't seen Compton or May, but would have picked Gooch over KP (yes, as a middle order bat) any day from my own judgement - at least dont remember Gooch being dismissed by pie-chuckers regularly. Haven't seen Sutcliffe obviously, but that average of 61 should have had an effect...why is it so that an opener who is slightly inferior than the legendary Hobbs and Hutton would not be considered at No 3? Finally, 4 pacers plus hammond looks like an overkill - guess we could have wilfred rhodes in the place of - dont kill me - Ian Botham. However, the voting options given for England was kind of rigid - for example, we could not select 2 pacers + 2 spinners like we could do for Australia.

    Waiting for the West Indies XI - that would be something!!!!

  • peterhrt on August 28, 2009, 21:42 GMT

    Australia's team had four bowlers who were consistently outstanding on good pitches. England's has one, Barnes, whose inclusion alongside the prolific but erratic Botham means the team cannot have two spinners as well as two genuinely fast bowlers. Ignoring 19th century cricketers and omitting them from the shortlists has deprived the selectors of some of their best players: Grace, Ranji, Lohmann and also Tom Richardson who by deed and reputation has strong claims to be England's leading fast bowler. Another puzzling omission from the shortlists is Tate: most wickets for England in a series in Australia; most wickets in a first-class season on the Indian sub-continent; selected for The Cricketer's All Time England XI in 1977. The lack of a left-handed batsman is unfortunate but understandable given the lack of strong candidates. Few historians would place the prosaic Barrington in the same class as Compton or May, let alone Grace whose slow bowling would also have been useful here.

  • amitava0112 on August 28, 2009, 18:49 GMT

    My team runs close except for bowling: Hobbs ,Hutton, Hammond, Barrington, Crompton,Botham,Knott,Bedser,Trueman, Willis,Laker. In 1950s england were a strong side. So most players belonged to that era. Things declined sharply post 1980s in english ckt.The first 5 in the team virtually select themselves. KP needs another 5 yrs in test ckt before he can be considered in this side and moreover bowling standards have sharply declined these days.Botham with his sheer record beats flintoff,who has however excelled in imp series vs the stongest team of his era.(Botham was less success vs Windies of 1980s but did exceedingly well otherwise to merit a place). Knott,Trueman are automatic choices while Bedser ,Willis (was dangerous when on song)& Laker gets thru. All in all it was a less tougher task than choosing all time AusXI. Ashes favourites between this Eng XI & alltime Aus xi ?: surely Aussies with a better allround side & great reserve bench. Will look forward to select alltime WIXI

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on August 28, 2009, 18:12 GMT

    One contradiction I find is that if wickets in the earlier days were tougher to bat on, doesn't that make the bowling of those days less admirable than today's? It does not seem possible that the wickets were difficult in those days but the bowlers were better :-)

  • SachinIsTheGreatest on August 28, 2009, 18:02 GMT

    It is quite unfair to dismiss current day batsmen as being bred on flat tracks and hence unworthy of consideration. If that's a yardstick then how can we fail to ignore the aspects of home umpires and no TV replays for past greats? How many great innings wouldhave been cut short had the stumping being given with TV? How many batsmen got "lives" just because the home umpire chose not to give an LBW? Finally, all said and done cricketers today play more cricket and in more conditions. Now matter how flat the wickets, every country has its own characteristics and overcoming them are indeed great achievements.

  • Charsiupao on August 28, 2009, 16:57 GMT

    To Dyan118

    I love Alec Stewart too, but he was more of a batsman who kept wicket, and he made many many sacrifices to his batting when he took the gloves for his country. I believe his batting record while keeping wicket paled in comparison to his batting record when he didn't.

    He also missed at least one stumping - I remember him missing a horrible one against Javed Miandad in 1992.

  • Ramkr on August 28, 2009, 16:39 GMT

    Kevin Pietersen has big shoes to fill .. He has played for just 4 years.. Lot of players loose steam or for that matter, even gain steam(Chanderpaul for example) after a great or an average start for his career.He has so far shown he is a great batsman.. but to select him to an All time XI is bit too early...probably shoved in a modern great to fill in absence of a modern player in this list..Anyway he is the nearest a modern day English player comes close to be an ALL time great...

  • Ramkr on August 28, 2009, 16:28 GMT

    Alec Stewart for sure does not qualify for a All time XI neither as a batsman nor as a wicketkeeper...He was just one of the finest English batsman of his times...England is not known for great All rounders... The best they had were Ian Botham, Tony Grieg and Andrew Flintoff... We can always speculate what Tony Grieg would have achieved or Flintoff plays at top of his game( 2004-2005) for few more years... But that does not work.. So we go by the proven.. An All time XI All rounder for England.. it is for sure Ian Botham.

  • Dan-argent on August 28, 2009, 16:13 GMT

    I am dissapointed with the selection of Kevin Pietersen in your all-time England XI. What has he done? Scored a few centuries here and there, pranced about egotistically and had an unsuccessful spell as captain. You should not include current players in an all-time team anyway.

  • Ramkr on August 28, 2009, 16:02 GMT

    Alec Stewart was a batsman first and then a wicketkeeper...He was tidy at the best... He was never considered a very good wicket Keeper. He was always a very good batsman. Jack Russell was far better wicketkeeper than Alec Stewart. In his initial career years, Stewart was preferred to give "balance". later part of his career when he became one of the main batsman, he kept wickets to play an "additional batsman" For an All time XI.. the choosen wicketkeeper need to be the best wicketkeeper.. "not a bit and pieces wicketkeeper" Ignore the batting skills...I am not sure whether Alan knott or some other wicketkeeper before the 80s is the best wicketkeeper..But I am sure all the wicketkeepers from 80s to present can be easily be ignored for an all time great XI..

  • faateh on August 28, 2009, 14:36 GMT

    How can any English team be complete without WG Grace? I fail to understand that.

  • denzil.correa on August 28, 2009, 14:29 GMT

    Derek Underwood ahead of Jim Laker is stupidity in my opinion. Rest seems okay.

  • Engle on August 28, 2009, 14:29 GMT

    The one man standing in the way of an Aussie AT XI victory over an England AT XI is …..Jardine Imagine what he could have accomplished with Trueman, Barnes, Larwood, Underwood and Botham at his disposal. If you could have Brearley shortlisted for his captaincy and man-management skills, why not Jardine for his innovative revolutionary skills. That would be the key to neutralizing Bradman and company. Besides, it would raise far more controversy than the KP selection.

  • VishyKnight on August 28, 2009, 13:51 GMT

    An selection. Jack Hobbs and Len Hutton would have been in XI too, though it is sad that Herbert Sutcliffe had to miss out. Wally Hammond, Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman and Sydney Barnes would have been in anyone's alltime England XI I think :-) Alan Knott over Les Ames is an interesting choice. Derek Underwood over Laker and Hedley Verity is also an interesting choice. Underwood is a modern-day great which no one talks about today, unfortunately. Verity dismissed the great Don the most number of times. It is difficult for me to drop one of them! In my opinion, Ken Barrington, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Botham are all questionable selections. Barrington's record is exceedingly good. But it is difficult to believe that Denis Compton is not there. Peter May would have provided competition to Barrington and Pietersen. Botham had a great few years at the beginning of his career but the second half of his career wasn't really great. But he is an iconic figure.

  • Dyan118 on August 28, 2009, 13:41 GMT

    I'm afraid I have to make a strenuous objection to the inclusion of Alan Knott ahead of Alec Stewart. Time and again journalists and pundits claim that knott was a master glove-man and a more than useful batsman in the lower middle order. Stewart's glovework, however was never in question. He was always tidy behind the stumps in the 80 odd matches in which he kept wicket, i never saw him drop a catch, in fact I remember several extraordinary catches. He was also accomplished standing up to the wicket and never missed a stumping, which is more than can be said for the likes of Prior and Geraint Jones. While this article considers Knott undoubtedly a better wicket keeper per se than Stewart it cant be by very much as Stewart was simply faultless with the gloves. Knotts claim to batting superiority over Stewart would be laughed out of any household living room and many a pub conversation. Knott would never be entitled to a place in the side on his batting alone, while Stewart would!

  • Ramkr on August 28, 2009, 12:57 GMT

    When a All time XI is selected .. there can be disputes.. Unsurprisingly, the disputes are limited to which pre-80s player deserved to be in the XI.. It is a hard pointer that the quality of English Players have declined over the years from 70s to the present..Not one batsman (other than Kevin) have averaged above 50.In fact, other than Kevin and Boycott no one averaged above 45!... The teams of 70s and 80s were still very good in spite of absence of legends.. The batting and bowling line up were still formidable and one the bests during those periods. From 80s, the quality dropped drastically... In the present team, only Kevin and Strauss could be considered very good players...As far as bowlers are concerned only Mike Hedrick and Bob willis averaged 25 or lower from 80s to the present(discounting Graham Onions for his short international career). Hope Kevin could maintain his game till he retire to validate his claims to the place in the XI..

  • jackthelad on August 28, 2009, 12:53 GMT

    Utterly absurd. Wilfred Rhodes was worth his place in any England side either as opening batsman, left-arm spinner or all-rounder. To ignore him in favour of some of these lightweights completely vitiates the exercise.

  • jackthelad on August 28, 2009, 12:47 GMT

    Wilfred Rhodes was worth his place in this eleven either as opening batsman, left-arm spinner or all-rounder.

  • historyman40 on August 28, 2009, 11:21 GMT

    Absurd choices devalue the whole excercise. Barrington ahead of May, Pietersen ahead of Compton, Underwood ahead of Laker or Verity ? Total rubbish !

  • waspsting on August 28, 2009, 11:20 GMT

    have to disagree with David Firth's conclusion about what this selection reflects on modern cricket. Reduced overrates yes, but lifeless pitches... NO. There were plenty of lifeless pitches in older days - its just that batsmen were less willing to score quickly. the 50's was a soporific era where a non-turning spinner like Tayfield could bowl 137 consecutive dot balls. Larwood and Barnes bowled on lifeless pitches when it wasn't raining, too look at the percentage of decisive test matches in this modern era - its probably the highest ever. ODI's - once thought to be the downfall of test cricket - has instead proved a shot in the arm. Look at the batsmen with triple hundreds in the last 15 years - Sehwag, Gayle, Jayasuriya, Lara, Hayden - all aggresive players. Green wicket batting technique has fallen - players today often look helpless on them - but all in all, the way batsman play and the type of pitches they play on are well balanced today to yield competitive, decisive cricket.

  • Beertjie on August 28, 2009, 11:00 GMT

    I agree entirely with David Frith concerning the "saddest of omissions, Denis Compton." Surely Compton's position in the pantheon is not based on his average but on the quality of his performances as compared to the quality of his opposition. Since he trumps Barrington in this respect AND scored at a much faster rate than Barrington did, his value in the all-time great England team exceeds Barrington's value as "the concrete foundation".

    Also, I agree with D.V.C. concerning Jim Laker over Underwood. The reason give for preferring Larwood (terrifyng pace in Australia) should have been used to prefer Tyson to Larwood since those who saw them both in Australia have given the nod in that respect to Tyson. I went for Bedser rather than either of them because of his overall record. Here I agree with mikeindex, also on the omission of WG Grace from the short-list.

  • aaditya98june on August 28, 2009, 10:59 GMT

    I think Flintof should gert a nod in ahead of Botham. Botham did very well against all fcountries except the top cricket nation at that time which was West Indies. In case of Flintof, he did well especially against Australians the top cricket natiom during his time

  • waspsting on August 28, 2009, 10:57 GMT

    couple of points. if your going in with 5 batsmen, then IMO Les Ames is a better choice for wicketkeeper, and Wilfred Rhodes for Underwood. they add depth to the batting, which is essential with just 5 specialist bats. don't agree with the choice of Pieterson, I'd plump for Compton - but thats just a personal choice. I would however, have liked to have seen the option of including 3 openers as batsman - Hutton and Hobbs certainly but Herbert Sutcliffe deserves a place too (more so than Pieterson). I'd prefer Laker to Underwood. post '56 - he was always a threat, and absolutely deadly when the wicket helped him. Underwood was often just a containment bowler, by contrast. Disagree with choice of Larwood - one of the most overrated bowlers ever. When he wasn't bowling bodyline, he wasn't particularly effective. I'd prefer Brian Statham. glad to see Barrington in team - it drives me crazy when 'experts' rave on and on about May, Cowdrey and Dexter without mentioning Barrington.

  • Chase_HQ on August 28, 2009, 10:23 GMT

    I might have had Bedser instead of Larwood. I think Bedser's record against Bradman is particularly impressive: obviously the greatest England XI would have to play the greatest XI's of other countries!! Barrington had a good record though I heard Boycott call it into question on this very website.

    Anyhow, it's a nicely balanced team. I'd love to have seen Barnes bowl! I imagine him a bit like a quicker Mendis though only guesswork really.

  • AsadsAshes on August 28, 2009, 9:54 GMT

    I agree with mukund111 - there is always a romanticism about the past which devalues modern cricket and means that in All Time Greats XIs, modern cricketers are often underrepresented. If you look at some of the grainy footage of old matches, the standard does not always seem as high as is suggested by those relying on boyhood memories (or historical accounts). That said, I think the make-up of this team seems about right given that although modern cricket as a whole is not the pale imitation of the past that is often implied, England's cricket of the last 25 years has not been a Golden Age, by any stretch of the imagination. I think KP is a controversial selection now, but I have no doubt that (provided he recovers his fitness) it will be vindicated by the rest of his career.

  • magic_torch_jamie on August 28, 2009, 9:45 GMT

    It's a fair enough team picked man-for-man but one can improve on it. Give me Laker and Lock (don't care, he was superb and they dovetailed wonderfully); bye-bye Harold and Deadly, Sutcliffe to partner Hobbs and England's top-ever-rated bat, Peter May, for either Barrington or Pietersen, to come in as captain. Current England admin understands the importance of a team getting on and having the core of the best team (1950s) will improve this team. I believe that lot would give anyone a serious run. I think I've inadvertently renamed the team "Surrey". Not a supporter!

  • Rocket66 on August 28, 2009, 9:04 GMT

    A great team has to be balanced. Only able to pick players that I've seen regularly in real time. This would cover the period 1972-present. Therefore it would be Boycott, Gooch, Edrich, Pietersen, Stewart, Botham, Flintoff, Illingworth, Underwood, Snow, Willis. Taylor, Russell and Knott were all superior behind the stumps but Stewart allows you to play six bowlers especially given that six, seven and eight can all make good runs.

  • AaronBell on August 28, 2009, 9:01 GMT

    Wonderful to read an article by the great David Frith here on cricinfo.

  • Boraan on August 28, 2009, 8:50 GMT

    I was not over with my comment as the space for comment was over. Cricinfo should increase space for comments as they themselves take pages to post their review, so readers should also get proportionally same or @least good space to defend or comment against their reviews. So I was on very important factor Bowling Stats again Laker has got better bowling aveg, strike rate than his counterparts. But in this case if one leaves stats apart even then Laker was afull time Spinner where as Derek Underwoods was also a faster one. Also if Barnes can manage 7 wickets per match in LBW"S limited era why couldn't Larwood. Alec Bedser was better option than him. And now coming to BOTHAM. He just didn't perform in 1981 Ashes. He 's the greatest cricketer of the this Era. 27, Five Wicket Hauls, 4 Ten for's. 14 hundreds, 22 fifties in 100 tests. that too when his last 20 tests gave him 1 fivefer and 1 fifty.

  • Boraan on August 28, 2009, 8:36 GMT

    well !! stats should come into play as why couldn't their counter parts achieve them. But of course as I said In Aussie XI batting in past was difficult and bowling in this era as conditions favoring batsmen. So batsmen should be chosen from past and bowlers from this era [ not mandatory though] . But any which England doesn't have any in this era. First of all in the choices of fast bowlers Gough was favored as Fraser and Caddick had similar record in the same era as Gough's, no doubt Gough is greatest oneday english bowler. Now coming to this team Denis Compton over KP undoubtedly, Kp is so over hyped. Even if you go by stasts or by any means he's no where near COMPTON. Now openers again , I know Hutton has 'sir ' title but look @ the stas Herbert Sutcliffe has better record than both Hutton & Hobbs. So one out of them should have been chosen with SUTClIFFE [ Again the same phenomena of hype has gone for decades in case of Hobbs , Hutton are more hyped than the silent batsman].

  • mikeindex on August 28, 2009, 8:22 GMT

    The selection of Pietersen does look very like an atempt to give the modern English game some credibility - maybe, specifically, a riposte to the number of moderns who forced their way into the Australian XI.

    Underwood, though one of my boyhood heroes, I can't help seeing as lucky to make the spinner's slot, though it's a tough call any which way - surely in the modern philosophy Rhodes has to be selected so he can bat at 8?

    Bedser for one of the out-and-out quicks might give a better balance, especially if the games are to be played in England.

    One or two reservations about the shortlisting - 1) I don't like the compartmentalised way the public picks are made, I'd like to make up my own mind about how to balance the side; 2) as this is an ALL time XI, how on earth can WG Grace not be shortlisted? 3) what kind of iidiot can not think Godfrey Evans one of England's best five WKs?

  • D.V.C. on August 28, 2009, 8:00 GMT

    I reiterate landl47's question. I'm also surprised that Underwood was selected ahead of Laker. Lastly, I'm disappointed that those who had the disadvantage of having played before Test cricket don't get the chance to represent England in an ALL TIME XI. Perhaps you could correct this anomaly be letting us choose a Historical XI.

  • rustin on August 28, 2009, 7:31 GMT

    The question has been asked whether there is reduced level of skill in the modern game. Well if one looks at the previous XI that of Australia, it had a more uniform distribution. English cricket hasn't produced a great for a long time. Anyway, this entire list is pointless. There is no such thing as an All Time Great. Its just one era to another.

  • kpisthebest on August 28, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    It looks like people when they think of Kp they only think of the 2005 Ashes. Just have a look at his scores and one can clearly see the fact that he has done well when England have been in all sorts of trouble like that century at Mohali with England at 1 for 2, his century at Napier with England at 4 for 3, he scored 142 out of 293 runs against Murali and co, scored a fantastic hundred at Oval against Australia, made a terrific hundred at Lords on a pitch that was moving around against India with England again in trouble, Played for most of the fifth day to take England to safety against India at Oval, he came in and scored a brilliant hundred on a pitch that helped medium pacers at Trent Bridge against the NZ team, scored a fine hundred again with England in trouble against the Saffers at Oval in 2008, scored quickly at Trinidad to help England declare and many more.

    People just don't appreciate his talents for sure!

  • GregP on August 28, 2009, 6:46 GMT

    I like the side but for one omission; in place of Pietersen I would have had Frank Woolley. History has it that he was the greatest pre-war left hander and indeed could be considered the greatest left hander of all time - up there with Graeme Pollock, David Gower and Brian Lara. Add to this his more than useful bowling and you have the incredible value of a man who scored 145 first class hundreds with over 58000 runs - a true all rounder. To my mind he is one of the all time greats and cannot be omitted.

  • buntyj on August 28, 2009, 6:32 GMT

    While ken barrington was a great batsman i believe that both wg grace and frank woolley deserved a place in the all time xi ahead of him and pietersen; indeed may, compton, leyland, hendren, ranji duleep and even gower (though some werent even in contention) would rate ahead of pietersen; i also believe that laker and rhodes and veritywould be more deserving candidates ahead of underwood for the spinners slot; maurice tate and tom richardson werent in contention or may have challenged syd barnes.

  • mukund111 on August 28, 2009, 6:24 GMT

    I would disagree with the thought that skills have reduced in the modern game. Uncovered pitches, lack of helmets and lighter bats might have made batting more difficult in history, but like all other sports, skills have been on the rise . Watching any of the old clips, one can see a blatant lack of correct footwork and imbalance while playing the ball. While lack of timing and more effort in stroke making can be attributed to poorer bats in the past,footwork and balance is something which is better visible in the modern era (from the mid 70s till now) than history.It is hogwash to suggest that bowlers are slower now than in the past. The fastest bowler competition in 1979 showed that most of the fast bowlers averaged around 135-138 Kms per hour which is considered very average in the modern game. Familiarity (with extensive TV and other media coverage) has bred contempt and while we should have high respect and regard for history,it's high time the modern greats get their due.

  • avssrs on August 28, 2009, 5:41 GMT

    "It is too early in KP's career to label him as an all-time great."

    Precisely. Maybe they included him to give the list some modern day credibility. Hard to relate to a list where you haven't seen even one player play, eh?

  • pnvram on August 28, 2009, 5:33 GMT

    What, no Jim Laker? And Denis Compton, anyday over Kevin Pietersen.

  • narenvs on August 28, 2009, 5:06 GMT

    Good team, given the choices offered. The omission of Grace and Evans from the long list was inexcusable, though I'd only have included Evans in my XI; and the requirement of 3 pacemen was unnecessary - I'd have preferred Rhodes as a 2nd spinner who adds batting depth. As others have said, the choice of Pietersen over Compton is premature. But, there are more oldies in the team simply because English cricket declined from the 1960s. A world XI until 1965 would have had 4 to 6 Englishmen (certainly Hobbs, Hutton, Hammond, Trueman; perhaps also Evans, Barnes); one since 1965 would have none (though some might include Knott). Botham would be the only 60s player in my all-time English XI - I'd pick Compton, Evans & Laker over Pietersen, Knott, and Underwood. An Aussie XI would certainly be better - far better in bowling and comparable in batting thanks to Bradman; and a West Indies XI just a whisker behind - as England's bowling superiority would be greater than West Indies' in batting.

  • landl47 on August 28, 2009, 4:35 GMT

    So David, if W.G. Grace is still, as you rightly say, regarded as the Greatest Cricketer, why is he not in the side?

  • Joll on August 28, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    In my team I would have W G Grace in place of Hutton (who could be too negative), May in place of Barrington (who could also be too defensive), Compton in place of Pietersen and, perhaps, Verity in place of Underwood.

  • gzawilliam on August 28, 2009, 3:56 GMT

    Still no match to the All time AUSSIE XI.

    Bradman , Warne , Mcgrath would leave that top order 5-20 very quickly.

  • Chanaka on August 28, 2009, 3:36 GMT

    It is too early in KP's career to label him as an all-time great. The team is quite good. I would have considered either Compton or Gower in place of KP. Gower would have made it into my XI because he will be the only LH batsmen in the team.

  • TMS8137 on August 28, 2009, 3:11 GMT

    It is pretty cruel to omit DCS Compton as he is no doubt a better cricketer than KP. I feel KP was selected as his deeds are fresher in the minds eye than DCS and the selectors want to talk about 2005 again. It is too early to ascertain KP's greatness.

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  • TMS8137 on August 28, 2009, 3:11 GMT

    It is pretty cruel to omit DCS Compton as he is no doubt a better cricketer than KP. I feel KP was selected as his deeds are fresher in the minds eye than DCS and the selectors want to talk about 2005 again. It is too early to ascertain KP's greatness.

  • Chanaka on August 28, 2009, 3:36 GMT

    It is too early in KP's career to label him as an all-time great. The team is quite good. I would have considered either Compton or Gower in place of KP. Gower would have made it into my XI because he will be the only LH batsmen in the team.

  • gzawilliam on August 28, 2009, 3:56 GMT

    Still no match to the All time AUSSIE XI.

    Bradman , Warne , Mcgrath would leave that top order 5-20 very quickly.

  • Joll on August 28, 2009, 4:26 GMT

    In my team I would have W G Grace in place of Hutton (who could be too negative), May in place of Barrington (who could also be too defensive), Compton in place of Pietersen and, perhaps, Verity in place of Underwood.

  • landl47 on August 28, 2009, 4:35 GMT

    So David, if W.G. Grace is still, as you rightly say, regarded as the Greatest Cricketer, why is he not in the side?

  • narenvs on August 28, 2009, 5:06 GMT

    Good team, given the choices offered. The omission of Grace and Evans from the long list was inexcusable, though I'd only have included Evans in my XI; and the requirement of 3 pacemen was unnecessary - I'd have preferred Rhodes as a 2nd spinner who adds batting depth. As others have said, the choice of Pietersen over Compton is premature. But, there are more oldies in the team simply because English cricket declined from the 1960s. A world XI until 1965 would have had 4 to 6 Englishmen (certainly Hobbs, Hutton, Hammond, Trueman; perhaps also Evans, Barnes); one since 1965 would have none (though some might include Knott). Botham would be the only 60s player in my all-time English XI - I'd pick Compton, Evans & Laker over Pietersen, Knott, and Underwood. An Aussie XI would certainly be better - far better in bowling and comparable in batting thanks to Bradman; and a West Indies XI just a whisker behind - as England's bowling superiority would be greater than West Indies' in batting.

  • pnvram on August 28, 2009, 5:33 GMT

    What, no Jim Laker? And Denis Compton, anyday over Kevin Pietersen.

  • avssrs on August 28, 2009, 5:41 GMT

    "It is too early in KP's career to label him as an all-time great."

    Precisely. Maybe they included him to give the list some modern day credibility. Hard to relate to a list where you haven't seen even one player play, eh?

  • mukund111 on August 28, 2009, 6:24 GMT

    I would disagree with the thought that skills have reduced in the modern game. Uncovered pitches, lack of helmets and lighter bats might have made batting more difficult in history, but like all other sports, skills have been on the rise . Watching any of the old clips, one can see a blatant lack of correct footwork and imbalance while playing the ball. While lack of timing and more effort in stroke making can be attributed to poorer bats in the past,footwork and balance is something which is better visible in the modern era (from the mid 70s till now) than history.It is hogwash to suggest that bowlers are slower now than in the past. The fastest bowler competition in 1979 showed that most of the fast bowlers averaged around 135-138 Kms per hour which is considered very average in the modern game. Familiarity (with extensive TV and other media coverage) has bred contempt and while we should have high respect and regard for history,it's high time the modern greats get their due.

  • buntyj on August 28, 2009, 6:32 GMT

    While ken barrington was a great batsman i believe that both wg grace and frank woolley deserved a place in the all time xi ahead of him and pietersen; indeed may, compton, leyland, hendren, ranji duleep and even gower (though some werent even in contention) would rate ahead of pietersen; i also believe that laker and rhodes and veritywould be more deserving candidates ahead of underwood for the spinners slot; maurice tate and tom richardson werent in contention or may have challenged syd barnes.