The XI October 12, 2009

A team from all seasons

Two men from the current team, two from before the war, and many disagreements with readers, in New Zealand's all-time XI selection

It has been close to two months of decision-making for Cricinfo's selectors, who have pondered, judged charisma vis-à-vis stats, legends against moderns, and have finally arrived at the XI who, in their minds, would be best placed to represent New Zealand. That it was an open contest shows in how not even Bert Sutcliffe and John R Reid got a perfect vote from the selectors. That honour went only to Glenn Turner, Martin Crowe and Richard Hadlee. Sutcliffe, Reid and Daniel Vettori got nine votes each, and Ian Smith eight.

The readers, though, differed on various counts. While they agreed with Turner as one of the openers, they didn't with the experts' choice for his partner: Stewie Dempster, who played before the war. The popular choice for the second opener is John Wright, who was third in the judges' reckoning.

While the readers concurred with the judges' move of pushing Sutcliffe down into the middle order, they didn't pick a contemporary of Sutcliffe's who the judges picked. Martin Donnelly, who makes his way comfortably into the judges' XI, makes way for Stephen Fleming in the readers' team. The readers also have Brendon McCullum narrowly edging past Smith as the keeper. Both readers and judges picked the same bowling line-up: Vettori, Hadlee, Shane Bond and Jack Cowie.

The starkest disagreement, though, comes in the allrounders' category: Reid is almost unanimous in the judges' tally, Chris Cairns in the readers'.

Glenn Turner
"A clear-cut choice to open the innings. A very well organised batsman who developed his own highly efficient technique, and applied it with remarkable efficiency and success. Glenn was an extremely self-sufficient player, driven by a strong sense of self-pride, self-discipline and performance. A new breed of cricketer in New Zealand who trail-blazed a totally professional approach, but always with the highest regard for the values of the game." John Morrison

Stewie Dempster
"In his 15 Test innings, Dempster averaged 65.72, which places him among the very greatest batsmen of all time. He scored New Zealand's first Test century and was New Zealand's first great international batsman. He goes in this all-time XI as of right." Joseph Romanos

Bert Sutcliffe
"Bert Sutcliffe is the most cultured stroke-maker in the history of New Zealand cricket. Spectators were seduced by his artistry as he cut, hooked and drove with an air of gentle persuasion. His footwork was a thing of beauty. He was positive in his intent to take the fight to the bowler." Don Neely

Martin Crowe
"New Zealand's greatest batsman? Probably. Seventeen Test centuries, all the shots, and seemingly an extra moment of time to play them. A world-class run-scorer in an era of world-class fast-bowling, and at his peak one of the best ODI batsmen on the planet. His checked off-drive was Tendulkar-like." Richard Boock

Martin Donnelly
"There's always a sense of the what-ifs with the brilliant left-hander Donnelly. What if he'd been available for New Zealand more often? Would their fortunes have sunk so far and fast in the 1950s if he and Reid played more Tests together in the middle order? By that time, Donnelly had established himself in business in Sydney after a stellar first-class career, mainly in England, and all-too-brief seven-Test career for New Zealand. Still, his achievements, like the four centuries at Lord's for four different teams - Oxford, New Zealand, Gentlemen and the Dominions - were followed with pride in his home country, no more so than at his alma mater, New Plymouth Boys' High, where one of the school's four houses to this day takes his name." Dylan Cleaver

John R Reid
"Reid was a colossus of New Zealand cricket at a time when the country had few really outstanding players. He led New Zealand to their first three Test wins, and captained a World XI against England. He was a powerful, belligerent batsman, aggressive medium-pacer and a fine fielder. Had he been born in a different era he would have been a giant of the one-day game." David Leggat

Richard Hadlee
"By virtue of his statistics alone, Sir Richard Hadlee is one of the few players in the history of the game that deserves the tag of greatness. While figures and statistics were a great motivating factor for Hadlee, his impact on the game was far wider. On and off the field he displayed the highest professional standards, which set the benchmark for others to match as an allrounder. His skill with the ball was at times irresistible, and he ended his career averaging five wickets a Test. He would be the first pick in any all-time New Zealand XI." Bryan Waddle

Daniel Vettori
"All other New Zealand spinners have struggled to hold a regular place in the team of their time - partly due to their ability and partly due to the seamer-friendly pitches in New Zealand. That Daniel has been an automatic selection in every team over 10 years clearly demonstrates how far ahead he is of other contenders. His ability to adapt to all three forms of the modern game sets him apart as not just a slow bowler but an international star of the new millennium." Ross Dykes

Ian Smith
"As a gloveman, New Zealand's most natural ball-handler. More dynamic than Parore, more precise on his feet than McCullum, and possibly more to say than either of them. As a batsman, Smith preferred wide long-on to extra cover, but could cut like a Stanley knife - often irrespective of line or length. His 173 against India remains the highest Test score from a No. 9." Richard Boock

Shane Bond
"New Zealand's quickest and best new-ball bowler since Sir Richard Hadlee. His wicket-taking rate is outstanding, and he's shown a particular liking for Australian batsmen. Injuries have hampered his career, plus an 18-month stand-down for his involvement in the Indian Cricket League didn't help. Still his numbers tell a compelling story." David Leggat

Jack Cowie
"'Terrific pace off the pitch, a forked-lightning offbreak, and lift and swing away from the right-hand batsman'. Fitting tribute to the Jack Cowie after his first Test against England, at Lord's in 1937, from Len Hutton, dismissed by Cowie for nought and one in their debut test. Sadly the Second World War carved out the middle of what could have been a great and long career. Cowie later became a Test umpire, kept goal for the Auckland football team, and was awarded the OBE in 1972." Don Cameron

12th man Chris Cairns

Cricinfo readers' XI
We invited readers to vote on the nominees in each segment. Here's who they picked.
Glenn Turner, John Wright, Bert Sutcliffe, Martin Crowe, Stephen Fleming, Chris Cairns, Richard Hadlee, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Shane Bond, Jack Cowie

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Craig on October 15, 2009, 20:07 GMT

    I agree totally craigm_NZ. As I said in my previous post it is unfair to exclude the likes of Cowie due to low test numbers - he debuted in 1937 for goodness sake, so didn't get much of a chance with 6-8 years out due to WW2. By way of comparison Barry Richards played only 4 tests for South Africa, but I would be extremely surprised if he doesn't make the South African version of this.

  • Joe on October 15, 2009, 11:19 GMT

    Some have accused the selectors of looking at the past with yearning for yesteryear. "How did they leave out Chris Cairns?". Those who ask this probably have a selective memory - does anyone else recall his inconsistency and poor discipline when NZ needed him most? I would rather have a player in the team who gave 100% all the time, not when they chose to. Chris Cairns - magnificent when on fire, but not an all time great.

  • Craig on October 14, 2009, 21:51 GMT

    As an older NZer, I applaud the selected team. It's not Jack Cowie's fault he only played 9 tests - he played all that were played by NZ between his debut and his retirement. For NZ I'm afraid stats don't tell the story. One of these days I'd love to work out relative contributions - given how dismal we were in the 50s and 60s I suspect JR Reid's contribution was more significant than a lot of readers give him credit for. If 85 wickets doesn't seem to be very many, when JR Reid retired he had both scored most runs and taken most wickets for NZ. Put that way his selection over CL Cairns is obvious - sorry. Just think how much better some of these oldtimers might appear if we could have played our nearest neightbour more often.

  • VIVEK on October 14, 2009, 12:41 GMT

    this line up has some notable omissions. Where is Stephen Flemming-undoubtely their best player in last 15 years and the best captain.what about Chris Cairns, man how can he be omitted.its unbelievable.what happened to john wright, its crazy. you can deny their contributions and their performance.the citeria isnot defined for selecting such can select somebody u has played only 9 test matches.its really baffling.

  • Craig on October 14, 2009, 12:18 GMT

    I think many of the comment show a marked bias towards more recent players. Andrew Jones? Jacob Oram? Brendom McCullum?

    I have to say that this team is exactly what I picked going through. I don't agree with discounting players like Donnelly, Dempster and Cowie because they didn't play enough games. On a similar basis you would have to discount Barry Richards and Graeme Pollock from a South African selection - I don't think so!

    The Cairns/Reid one was really the only slightly contentious one for me, but for me it favoured Reid due to the format, which favoured a strong batting all-rounder. Reid fits more into that mould - as would the likes of a Keith Miller or an Ian Botham for their respective countries..

  • Evan on October 13, 2009, 0:37 GMT

    It's rather amusing that the so called "experts" should be so far of the mark in a few of their selections while the Cricinfo Readers XI seems to be much more realistic and accurate representation. I believe some of the selection panel are such historians of the game that subconsiously they tend to have selections based on sentiment,emotion and perhaps even romance of the past. To leave Chris Cairns out of the line up was absurd,with over 200 test wickets & 5 test Centuries along with his ability to impose himself on a match he would be a dead cert for the middle order. Dempster & Donnelly should be replaced by Wright & Fleming. Fleming offers stratigic brilliance and as slipper he was in the very top bracket.I'd even give the grossly underrated Andrew Jones or Nathan Astle far more consideration aswell. I suppose we should be thankful they got the easy selections correct with the great Sir Richard Hadlee, Bert Sutcliffe, Martin Crowe,Glen Turner,Ian Smith and Shane Bond.

  • mark on October 12, 2009, 21:26 GMT

    Good team but I'd have Andrew Jones at 3 instead of Sutcliff. Also I'm not sure how Cowie can be there after only playing 9 tests. I'd have bracewell if we needed another spinner for a turning track, or Oram (bond, hadlee and cairns at their best are already a strong trio, oram adds batting depth - not so much the oram of this year but the oram of a couple of years back ;) ).

  • xeeshan on October 12, 2009, 19:50 GMT

    I think Cairns is the better choice than Reid with more than 200 wickets plus more than 3000 runs, although Reid is good in batting with more than 3000 runs but unable to take even 100 wickets in test even in 58 test matches.

    I am against the selection of Cowie like Freeman may be the best bowler of the England but unable to prolong his test cricket that does not mean that he can qualify in best XI of them. Ability to play is something and prove themselves in test some different. Like Gabby Allen played 25 test matches and Larwood only 22 but in same period Hammond played 85 test matches, it means both bowlers are unable to prolong their careers. Allen is the leading wicket taker as a fast bowler that Bradman ever faced and Larwood is the fastest one which he ever faced. According to me Dempster and Donnelly also disqualified on same reason as they played very few test matches. I think Fleming should have taken as a batsman plus captain with 7172 runs in test at no. 5.

  • Samundra on October 12, 2009, 17:29 GMT

    It is ridiculous to choose JR Reid as an all rounder. I respect his all round abilities but 85 test wickets in 58 tests and 72 innings with one 5 for is an absurd. This is disgraceful. No doubt he has averaged 22.60 in first class cricket but if we are to consider the first class cricket as the basis then Graeme Hick is the best batsman ever to play the game after Bradman. The jury is biased and the all rounder spot must have gone to Christopher Cairns. Furthermore, Bert Sutcliffe should have have opened and Stephen Flemming coming at no. 3. But my vote for captain would go to the fighter Martin Crowe. And I would like to comment on Richard Boock's statement that Crowe's checked off drive was like Tendulkar's. Didn't Crowe played before than Tendulkar? Why don't you have the guts to write Tendulkar's checked drive looks similar to that of Crowe's? You all are so afraid of India's influence in world cricket that you can't call water water and milk milk.

  • Chirag on October 12, 2009, 16:25 GMT

    Unbelievable. No Chris Cairns? Selection has allways been a problem that has dogged down NZ cricket for decades, resulting in mediocore teams. Now the so call "judges" at cricinfo have similalryu made a buffonish choice by excluding Cairns from and all time NZ XI. By virtue of his stats alone, he is the finest allrounder NZ has produced. Some of the other guys on this list shoudln't even be up for consideration, there should be benchmark, such as a player has to have played at least, at the very minimum 20 test matches to be considered for anything or on any list that has the adjective "Great". In fact how in the world, along with Crowe and Hadlee, Cairns is not a UNANIMOUS selection baffles the learned cricket observer of past and present. These cricinfo judges, it seems when they are choosing any side, seem to be choosing romanticized teams. These are the same "experts", who left out Ponting in all time Aus XI. Ridiculous.

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