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

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