Openers November 19, 2009

Barry, Biff, Bruce and Bunter

The quest for South Africa's all-time Test XI kicks off with a look at the contenders for the openers' slots
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How might we compare pomegranates and hand grenades? Battleships and baobabs? The perfect cappuccino and the purr of a Cadillac? Welcome to the fascinating but vexing challenge of choosing a South African all-time XI.

Other countries fret about gifted individuals falling through the cracks in their systems, but South Africa has wilfully consigned entire races and generations to obscurity. Such is life when sport has politics for a brutish big brother. What do we make of a clearly gifted player who had the door to a Test career kept firmly shut in his face by apartheid? What of those who played during the rebel era?

Complications, we've had a few. The ghosts swirled even after we decided to focus exclusively on those who had played official Test cricket for South Africa. For instance, can we hail Barry Richards as great on the evidence of just four Test matches?

Of course, our jury also had to contend with more conventional selectorial headaches. South Africa produces quality fast bowlers by the bushel, and there must be something in the water that makes every second or third cricketer at least a semi-genuine allrounder. But decent spinners are thin on the ground, what with pitches that often refuse to deteriorate and captains who regard the art of tweaking and twirling as something best confined to those mysterious places where women get their hair done. South African batsmen have tended towards bloody-mindedness. Not for most of them the unfurling of grand strokes that catch the breath of all who feel privileged to see them. South Africans regard the crease as a trench from which to wage war, and they couldn't be bothered with how unpretty it gets. The truly brilliant batsman who is able to not get out and score runs attractively is a rare and underappreciated thing in these parts.

Brave souls are needed to come with 11 names out of all that. Fortunately South Africans tend to be born brave: our jury has done its duty with due consideration and thoughtfulness. We now present their findings, starting with the contenders for the opening berths.

The contenders

Barry Richards
The merest suggestion that he does not belong among the definitive all-time greats will spark violence in most bars in South Africa. A batsman who had it all, except a meaningful Test career.

Bruce Mitchell
For 20 years an immovable presence in the South African team, of which he was heart, mind and soul. Regarded the cricket ground as his personal zen garden and zoned everything out, to the chagrin of the opposition.

Graeme Smith
In a word, "Biff". In other words, crushing, dominant, aggressive, huge, courageous, influential, confident (arrogant?), gregarious, liked, loved, and despised. As a player, a man to go to war with. As a captain, a man to lead others into battle.

Eddie Barlow
Perfectly nicknamed "Bunter" after the chubby, bespectacled, exuberant, ever-scheming schoolboy of British fiction fame. Innovative, ambitious and possessed of a fierce competitive spirit. A fine player who endeared himself to all, including opponents.

Herschelle Gibbs
To see him practising cutting fast bowlers for six was to see supreme confidence on the hoof. Capable of producing the most emphatic strokes, but also of the most damaging errors of judgment.

Gary Kirsten
Devoid of almost all traces of the sportsman's ego. In short, exceedingly human in the most decent way. Scavenged and accumulated his runs, unlike his more purely talented half-brother, Peter.

Jackie McGlew
Not for nothing does his surname rhyme with glue. Accordingly, held the record for the slowest first-class century - 105 in 545 minutes - for 20 years. A man more committed to his cause will never be found.

We'll be publishing an all-time South Africa XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your openers click here

Telford Vice made his Test debut as a cricket writer in Barbados in 1992 - the match that marked the end of South Africa's isolation

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Atlantic252 on | November 22, 2009, 17:27 GMT

    Cannot early cricketers from the golden age be included? Again we see evidence of under-rating older players. The great Herby Taylor was South Africa's finest opener until the greatest of all openers, Barry Richards. It was one of cricinfo's best England XI, Sidney Barnes, who rated Taylor higher than any other. And Taylor's test record compares very favourably with others of his era. He should have been in the shortlist.

  • POSTED BY Souvik_Mukherjee on | November 22, 2009, 2:04 GMT

    i must say i am surprised beyond measure ... yes this article is about the openers and comments ideally shd be confined to those two spots. but given 56 comments and over 75% of them naming a full xi .... i am surprised that no one considers a career of 99 tests, 388 wickets at less than 30 in this day and age of covered wickets, flat tracks, and maces for cricket bats, even worthy of mention in the squad let alone the first xi. speaks volumes of the mindset of sa cricket fans who wd rather keep kallis, barlow, and lord knows who as a genuine bowling option without bothering to mention Makhaya Ntini. totally baffling.

  • POSTED BY JupeBeggs on | November 21, 2009, 20:32 GMT

    No Alan Melville? And yet there's Gibbs and McGlew? Are they serious? These so-called "all time" teams are a joke. Do any of you know anything about the history of South African cricket? How about you find someone at cricinfo who has a clue about cricket history?

  • POSTED BY rson on | November 21, 2009, 13:26 GMT

    All the players nominated have merit but one I think has been overlooked is Neil Adcock.There is actually not that much to choose between him and Donald.Adcoc averaged 21.10 runs per wicket against Donald's22.25 in Tests:Adcock's economy rate was 2.06 versus Donald's2.83.Donald however has a much better strike rate(47.0 to Adcock's 61.4).Not much to choose,really and I have no problem with Donald's selection but find it strange that Acdcock merits no mention.

  • POSTED BY Godof86 on | November 21, 2009, 9:18 GMT

    Tayfield... was he all that good? His record is good but not really outstanding. Would you rather have Aubrey Faulkner as an allrounder, rather than Tayfield? He was a quality spinner too.

  • POSTED BY avlaib on | November 21, 2009, 4:24 GMT

    one great opener that comes to mind is the tenatious Eric Rowan, together with his off spin brother Athol.

  • POSTED BY Engle on | November 20, 2009, 22:45 GMT

    Amazing, how folks are straining at the leash to name their AT Xi.

    The cricketers that unquestionably walk into the side are B.Richards, J.Kallis, G.Pollock, A.Faulkner, A.Donald and H.Tayfield. Faulkner is probably the most under rated of cricketers, but as a LB bowler and All-rounder, he adds variety to the attack. While the Saf cricketers are chock full of all-rounders, it makes no sense loading the team with them. They cant all bowl. You need two different spinners (Tayfield and Faulkner), 1 medium pacer (Kallis) and 2 speedsters (Donald and ?). I'd lean towards Procter to partner Donald, his unorthodox action complements Donald.

  • POSTED BY Curlybrownitem on | November 20, 2009, 22:14 GMT

    In answer to bis_d - Sobers. I agree with you about Cook, but as "they" didn't make him available, I couldn't pick him, which made it easier to pick Barlow to open. An incidental advantage of this is that I won't have to fit him in as a middle order player or all-rounder where (apart from one in each of those categories whose selections in this side are as easy as Richards') its going to be very difficult to choose. Given carte-blanche, I'd pick Cook with Barlow at five or six (or possibly three?). But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

  • POSTED BY craigdutoit75 on | November 20, 2009, 21:04 GMT

    1. Barry Richards 2. Graeme Smith/Jimmy Cook 3. Jacques Kallis 4. Graeme Pollock 5. Eddie Barlow 6. Clive Rice 7. Aubrey Faulkner 8. Mike Proctor 9. Mark Boucher/Denis Lindsey 10. Hugh Tayfield 11. Allan Donald

    12th Man: Trevor Goddard

  • POSTED BY rson on | November 20, 2009, 19:22 GMT

    I was surprised at ther omission of Trevor Goddard as a candidate for one of the opening slots.Purely as a batsman he trails the four"B's" but add to his resume the facy that he was a left arm quickish medium bowler with one of the best economy rates ever and he should be considered for some role. As was the case with New Zealand a large number of South Africa's leading cricketers are/were all-rounders and pigeon-holing them into roles might not produce the country's strongest team. Could any country's all-rounders beat5 this one:Trevor Goddard,Eddie Barlow,Jacques Kallis,Aubrey Faulkner,Clive Rice,A.B.deVilliers(wkpr),Mike Proctor,Lance Klusener,Shaun Pollock,Brian Mc Millan,Rodney Ontong?

  • POSTED BY Atlantic252 on | November 22, 2009, 17:27 GMT

    Cannot early cricketers from the golden age be included? Again we see evidence of under-rating older players. The great Herby Taylor was South Africa's finest opener until the greatest of all openers, Barry Richards. It was one of cricinfo's best England XI, Sidney Barnes, who rated Taylor higher than any other. And Taylor's test record compares very favourably with others of his era. He should have been in the shortlist.

  • POSTED BY Souvik_Mukherjee on | November 22, 2009, 2:04 GMT

    i must say i am surprised beyond measure ... yes this article is about the openers and comments ideally shd be confined to those two spots. but given 56 comments and over 75% of them naming a full xi .... i am surprised that no one considers a career of 99 tests, 388 wickets at less than 30 in this day and age of covered wickets, flat tracks, and maces for cricket bats, even worthy of mention in the squad let alone the first xi. speaks volumes of the mindset of sa cricket fans who wd rather keep kallis, barlow, and lord knows who as a genuine bowling option without bothering to mention Makhaya Ntini. totally baffling.

  • POSTED BY JupeBeggs on | November 21, 2009, 20:32 GMT

    No Alan Melville? And yet there's Gibbs and McGlew? Are they serious? These so-called "all time" teams are a joke. Do any of you know anything about the history of South African cricket? How about you find someone at cricinfo who has a clue about cricket history?

  • POSTED BY rson on | November 21, 2009, 13:26 GMT

    All the players nominated have merit but one I think has been overlooked is Neil Adcock.There is actually not that much to choose between him and Donald.Adcoc averaged 21.10 runs per wicket against Donald's22.25 in Tests:Adcock's economy rate was 2.06 versus Donald's2.83.Donald however has a much better strike rate(47.0 to Adcock's 61.4).Not much to choose,really and I have no problem with Donald's selection but find it strange that Acdcock merits no mention.

  • POSTED BY Godof86 on | November 21, 2009, 9:18 GMT

    Tayfield... was he all that good? His record is good but not really outstanding. Would you rather have Aubrey Faulkner as an allrounder, rather than Tayfield? He was a quality spinner too.

  • POSTED BY avlaib on | November 21, 2009, 4:24 GMT

    one great opener that comes to mind is the tenatious Eric Rowan, together with his off spin brother Athol.

  • POSTED BY Engle on | November 20, 2009, 22:45 GMT

    Amazing, how folks are straining at the leash to name their AT Xi.

    The cricketers that unquestionably walk into the side are B.Richards, J.Kallis, G.Pollock, A.Faulkner, A.Donald and H.Tayfield. Faulkner is probably the most under rated of cricketers, but as a LB bowler and All-rounder, he adds variety to the attack. While the Saf cricketers are chock full of all-rounders, it makes no sense loading the team with them. They cant all bowl. You need two different spinners (Tayfield and Faulkner), 1 medium pacer (Kallis) and 2 speedsters (Donald and ?). I'd lean towards Procter to partner Donald, his unorthodox action complements Donald.

  • POSTED BY Curlybrownitem on | November 20, 2009, 22:14 GMT

    In answer to bis_d - Sobers. I agree with you about Cook, but as "they" didn't make him available, I couldn't pick him, which made it easier to pick Barlow to open. An incidental advantage of this is that I won't have to fit him in as a middle order player or all-rounder where (apart from one in each of those categories whose selections in this side are as easy as Richards') its going to be very difficult to choose. Given carte-blanche, I'd pick Cook with Barlow at five or six (or possibly three?). But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

  • POSTED BY craigdutoit75 on | November 20, 2009, 21:04 GMT

    1. Barry Richards 2. Graeme Smith/Jimmy Cook 3. Jacques Kallis 4. Graeme Pollock 5. Eddie Barlow 6. Clive Rice 7. Aubrey Faulkner 8. Mike Proctor 9. Mark Boucher/Denis Lindsey 10. Hugh Tayfield 11. Allan Donald

    12th Man: Trevor Goddard

  • POSTED BY rson on | November 20, 2009, 19:22 GMT

    I was surprised at ther omission of Trevor Goddard as a candidate for one of the opening slots.Purely as a batsman he trails the four"B's" but add to his resume the facy that he was a left arm quickish medium bowler with one of the best economy rates ever and he should be considered for some role. As was the case with New Zealand a large number of South Africa's leading cricketers are/were all-rounders and pigeon-holing them into roles might not produce the country's strongest team. Could any country's all-rounders beat5 this one:Trevor Goddard,Eddie Barlow,Jacques Kallis,Aubrey Faulkner,Clive Rice,A.B.deVilliers(wkpr),Mike Proctor,Lance Klusener,Shaun Pollock,Brian Mc Millan,Rodney Ontong?

  • POSTED BY Clean_hitter on | November 20, 2009, 18:17 GMT

    I'd also go for Richards/Smith. When Smith was just a teenager, Jimmy Cook reffered to him as "something special" already.

  • POSTED BY lardster on | November 20, 2009, 15:21 GMT

    Herby Taylor, his record against SF Barnes says everything required.

  • POSTED BY Hermmike on | November 20, 2009, 14:05 GMT

    There have been two periods over the last 45 years where SA have had some outstanding world class cricketers. The late 60's: Barlow, Goddard, Richards, Graeme Pollock, Lindsay, Proctor and Peter Pollock and then the over the last few years wth Kallis, Smith, Pollock, Gibbs and Donald.Add Dudley Nourse, Hugh Tayfiled, Clive Rice, Brian McMillan, Wessels and Vince vd Bijl who played just before or after, to those names, and each one could played for any World X1. Final X1: Smith, Richards, Kallis, Pollock, Nourse (c) Barlow, Proctor, Lindsay, S. Pollock, Donald and Tayfield. Two openers who would be the scourge of any attack. By the time Pollock got to the wicket, we'd have +200 on the board. Imagine a team having +350 when Barlow or Lindsay walk to the wicket!! Then an hour after lunch on day two - 600 on the board and you let Proc, Donald, Barlow, Kallis and S.Pollock rip into the opposition. Miserly Tayfield would then pick up the final pieces with his leggies. Some Team!!

  • POSTED BY Luwaym on | November 20, 2009, 13:55 GMT

    Spot on Rumour. I've only really seen the last 17 years of cricket but I think my team would be Smith, Richards, Kallis, Pollock, Nourse, Barlow, Lindsay, S Pollock, Proctor, Tayfield, Donald. That leaves one with batting up to 9 and 6 bowling options. Bland v Rhodes... I never saw Bland play, I must be honest, but I've heard he hit the stumps more and had a better arm from the deep.

  • POSTED BY DavidD on | November 20, 2009, 13:46 GMT

    Richards selects himself for any side. I'd probably favour Cook over Biff as his partner but it's a close call. I'm surprised that so many favour Boucher ahead of Lindsay or Richardson, but my call would be Johny Waite, an opener, batting down the order to face the new ball.

  • POSTED BY Bobby_Talyarkhan on | November 20, 2009, 13:42 GMT

    "He was one of the best players of the short ball, opener or otherwise, ever." Bradman on Barry Richards

  • POSTED BY lardster on | November 20, 2009, 13:40 GMT

    Why no Herby Taylor? The only batsman to get the better of the finest bowler in the history of the game, SF Barnes. Richards, Taylor, Kallis, Pollock, Faulkner, Barlow, Proctor, Sherwell, Tayfield, Heine, Donald

  • POSTED BY Bobby_Talyarkhan on | November 20, 2009, 13:37 GMT

    "The world's best-ever right-handed opener" Sir Donald Bradman on Barry Richards.

  • POSTED BY Bobby_Talyarkhan on | November 20, 2009, 13:34 GMT

    ""In all the times since, only a handful of players have built careers to be mentioned in the same breath as Bradman. I narrow the field to one. By the test of technique and attitude and precision and performance, the only man I would measure against the Don is the South African Barry Richards. And, all things considered, I would suggest it would be a pretty close thing.

    "There was so much about Barry Richards and Don Bradman that was similar. The anticipation and the speed with which they got themselves into position to play a shot. The timing and the power of their strokes. The thoughtful, analytical way they went about working out the bowling. "

    Alan McGilvray - "The Game Goes On"

  • POSTED BY Ouballie on | November 20, 2009, 13:33 GMT

    Hi Guys, I suggest we look at the conversion rates (i.e. number of times batsman reached 50 and 100 as a percentage of total number of innings). The following stats emerged: Richards (57.14), Barlow (36.84), Mitchell (36.25), Smith (32.33), Kirsten (31.25), McGlew (26.56), Gibbs (25.97). This is obviously not the only way of looking at this, but I thought it might be interesting info.

  • POSTED BY Bobby_Talyarkhan on | November 20, 2009, 13:31 GMT

    hold on a minute - the article was about the openers but some people seem to be piling in with their all time XI oh well! Anyone who doesn't put Mike Proctor in their all time XI clearly has no idea of how good an allrounder he was - just ask any Gloucestershire supporter, or his Hampshire sparring partner Barry Richards. Proctor was a contemporary of Gary Sobers and didn't suffer by the comparison - that's how good he was!

    hantshog you are presumably from hampshire and saw a lot of barry richards - lucky old you! I only saw him live once and he was out first ball! ;-)

    Agreed Curlybrownitem about Richards - hardly ever seen Pollock play on tv but prepared to take your word for it - but who is your third greatest batsman of the past 40 years? Sobers or Viv Richards or Lara or Tendulkar?

    I have to go with Cook - he was easy on the eye with lots of time and grace - my kind of player!

    Colin Cowdrey called Richards the greatest since Bradman - still is!

  • POSTED BY theinformant on | November 20, 2009, 12:32 GMT

    Smith, because in the past the bowling and esspecially the fielding was never as good as now, for a test Wessels, Kallis, for insperation Rhodes, for attacking spin Hansie, Clive rice for Captain, Donald, Ntini, and the future Dumini

  • POSTED BY BoundryWarrior on | November 20, 2009, 10:14 GMT

    My side would be: 1 Richards 2 Barlow (captain) 3 Kallis 4 G Pollock 5 P Kirsten 6 Bland 7 Lindsay (Wkt) 8 Proctor 9 S Pollock 10 Donald 11 Tayfield. Batting down to number 9, 2 deadly quicks, 3 seamers and a spinner. In this case Lindsay would keep, and his exploits versus Australia in 1967 and 1970 were only eclipsed by Gilchrist. Would be hard for any side in any era to beat this lot!

  • POSTED BY DesPlatt on | November 20, 2009, 10:10 GMT

    godof86 , thanks for reminding us of Clive Rice but you say he was accepted as ahead of Hadlee, Kapil,Impran and Botham . By whom and for how long? Barry Richards did not perform well in the England v Rest of World Series in 1970 which I thought produced competitive near Test level cricket. Nevertheless, the fact that Garry Sobers and Don Bradman accept him as a great leaves no room for argument. He certainly gave me more pleasure than any other cricketer on TV and I was lucky to see him score a beautiful century at Liverpool in 1975 when Geenidge admittedly in his relatively early years looked a bludgeoner by comparison

  • POSTED BY BoundryWarrior on | November 20, 2009, 9:57 GMT

    Richards is a given. If he was good enough for Bradman, he should be good enough for us mortals. Eddie Barlow would be my choice to partner him. No cricketer was more positive than Barlow. He would go out to bat on the last day of a Test against the best attack in the world, chasing 700 and believe it was "on." His wonderful 7 for 20 odd for the World XI versus England is proof of his belief in the impossible and that attitude has immense value in a team. If he pulled a hamstring, Gibbs would be my man. Richards and Gibbs in full cry! Then you could die and go to heaven...

  • POSTED BY KAMP24 on | November 20, 2009, 9:55 GMT

    Well even though Kirsten is a good choice at the top of the order, for me, he was still too slow (maybe that is why we didn't beat Australia in a test series when he was playing). Barry Richards must be there opening the batting. For his amazing timing and big scores in his only 4 tests versus Austrailia as well as his exploits in the world series. The other partner must be GRAEME SMITH. He certainly has improved as a player. He can now play all around the wicket and is the first captain to lead South Africa to a test series win down under. His captaincy has also been amazing. You can't have more courage than batting with a broken hand in Sydney when you already won the test series. Eddie Barlow would still be in the side although he would bat lower down the order and be captain instead of Smith.

  • POSTED BY Rumour on | November 20, 2009, 6:52 GMT

    Hi zaqueface

    I agree that Cook was fairly good, but I think Richards-Cook will fail dismally as a left-right opening combination. I don't think either of them will perform well as a left-hander at all. Personally I was surprised that Wessels was not on the list, but I'd go for Richards and Smith. Very few positions available in the SA team as Richards, Kallis, G. Pollock, Lindsay, Proctor, Tayfield and Donald pick themselves. That leaves 4 spots with Smith already taking one. If you could pick a twelve man and have him active in the game (fielding) would you go for Rhodes or Bland?

  • POSTED BY Alan James Sanders on | November 20, 2009, 3:50 GMT

    Godof86, South Africa did have an absolutely great spinner named Hugh Tayfield, who played in the forties and fifties. His figures are up there with most other off spinner in Test history, and personally I think he'd be a slam dunk for a South African XI. I think the biggest challenge for South Africa is the allrounders- would Kallis be classed an allrounder for this exercise, or Eddie Barlow? How about Mike Proctor or Shaun Pollock? Or Aubrey Faulkener? You could potentially have five allrounders in the greatest XI, so will this XI be able to accomodate those five or will some of them have to be sacrificed for specialists? I've gone for Richards and, on the strength of his average, Mitchell- but I could just as easily have gone for Barlow or Smith.

  • POSTED BY zaqueface on | November 20, 2009, 1:40 GMT

    I believe the best openers who have played test cricket for South Africa are Jimmy Cook and Barry Richards. Cook was an exceptionally gifted, tall and dominant batsman who showed his immense quality in his mid-thirties when scoring more than 7500 runs in England in three summers, including 28 hundreds. For those 3 seasons, Cook showed he was the best batsman in world cricket. Sadly he wasn't given the opportunity to prove this at test level.

    As a left-handed and right-handed combination, what could be better than cook and richards?

  • POSTED BY redneck on | November 20, 2009, 0:48 GMT

    this is prehaps the only team where you might need to look at domestic form as a guide given the 20 year gap. for me 11 players came to mind fairly quickly. the spinner was the only one i felt required to look at stats for. myXI 1. smith 2. richards 3. wessels 4. g pollock 5. mcmillan 6. kailis 7. boutcher 8. s pollock 9. tip snooke (cool name and a great avg) 10. tayfield 11. donald. 12th man ntini or rhodes (only play in the cricket world that could be selected on fielding ability alone!)

  • POSTED BY NeilSidd on | November 20, 2009, 0:08 GMT

    Barry Richards and Graeme Smith are definitely the best openers that SA have ever had. They would complement each other perfectly, and also score runs quickly enough to benefit the side. The likes of Gary Kirsten, Bruce Mitchell and Trevor Goddard were good but scored runs too slowly to benefit the side. Eddie Barlow was a great all-rounder and did bat down the order - so I would have him at number 6. Full side - Richards, Smith, Kallis, G Pollock, Dudley Nourse, Barlow, Procter, Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Donald and Tayfield. - This side would be as good as any other from around the world.

  • POSTED BY bradluen on | November 19, 2009, 22:44 GMT

    You guys are dismissing Gibbs way too casually. True, his form went off a cliff in 2006-07 (so did Smith's, though Biff, being younger, was given a chance to recover). But Gibbs at his peak was at least as good as the other candidates, save Richards. From 1999 to 2004, he played 52 Tests and scored 4435 runs, averging 54. Thats better than Langer, Vaughan, Kirsten and Richardson during the same period, though not as good as Hayden's freakish run. Smith's peak is approximately as good, and he has captaincy positives, though Gibbs has some pretty big fielding positives as well; Kirsten doesn't really have either. I think Smith and Gibbs are almost tied as SA's best post-comeback openers; one might give Smith the benefit of the doubt because he's likely to score many more Test runs, whereas Gibbs is not. I'll have to think harder about how Biff compares to McGlew before deciding who gets to partner Richards.

  • POSTED BY justking on | November 19, 2009, 22:20 GMT

    in my life time. and ive watched every game possible. ...its got to be smith and kirsten. LEGENDS and hard as nails ...if not harder

  • POSTED BY hantshog on | November 19, 2009, 21:20 GMT

    Barry Richards is head and shoulders above any of the other batsmen mentioned.He is the finest batter i have ever seen in sixty years following the game.

  • POSTED BY Curlybrownitem on | November 19, 2009, 20:57 GMT

    Despite the tragedy of his playing a mere four tests, Barry Richards must be one of the easiest picks for any fantasy team. In my view he was one of the three best batsmen in the 40-odd years I've been watching cricket (one of the others will also get my choice in this team - no prizes for guessing who) and I wouldn't hesitate in picking him to open an all-time world XI (with Hobbs). Richards' partner is trickier (and one wonders why Jimmy Cook isn't in the short list) but my vote would go to Bunter - a very fine batsman in his own right, a good enough medium pacer to be regarded as a genuine test-class all-rounder and a truly outstanding captain/leader/motivator: remember what he did at Derbyshire in the twighlight of his career?

  • POSTED BY waspsting on | November 19, 2009, 20:19 GMT

    Richards and Mitchell. I'd have Barlow down the order - hope crickinfo allows that. Quite a few 'fixtures' in the side - Richards, Graeme Pollock, Dudley Nourse, Procter, Tayfield and Donald. I'd add Lindsay to that list, but some may disagree. we'll see.

  • POSTED BY Alan13 on | November 19, 2009, 20:05 GMT

    I'd go with Richards and Mitchell (just edging out Smith). Rest of the team could look something like Kallis, G. Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Lindsay, Proctor, Shaun Pollock, Tayfield and Donald.

    This should be a pretty competitive team against any opposition in any conditions - with two world-class spinners, despite the perceived dearth of South African spin.

  • POSTED BY gegs on | November 19, 2009, 18:20 GMT

    I have to go with Graeme Smith And Barry Richards. Gary Kirsten was always a favourite.

  • POSTED BY Godof86 on | November 19, 2009, 17:46 GMT

    I really like South African cricket, but not being a South African (I am Indian), I might have failed to mention a few. But this, I think, might be the definitive XI Barry Richards; Gary Kirsten; Peter Kirsten; Graeme Pollock; Jacques Kallis; Trevor Goddard; Clive Rice; Mike Proctor; Shaun Pollock; Mark Boucher; Allan Donald.

    If you don't have absolute great spinners, don't pick them. If you have five top allrounders, play them all. How can you leave Clive Rice out of any team? In the heydays of Kapil, Imran, Hadlee and Botham, he was accepted as better than them all.... Mark Boucher is one of the best ever, he will have to be in every team. Will Vander Bijl have been better than Trevor Goddard? One season in the county cricket does not say much. And we need to rethink a little, if performance for the county teams was that important, you can pretty much put the greatest of recent county player, Graeme Hick, as he would surely have picked ZA over England if the choice was available.

  • POSTED BY CarolL on | November 19, 2009, 17:40 GMT

    Just for clarity, the Bruce Mitchell figures I gave were in the No1 batting position. Batting at No 2 he averaged 47.68 in 12 Tests with 2 hundreds and 6 fifties. In both positions he averaged 56.9 in 26 Tess scoring 7 hundreds and 12 fifties.

  • POSTED BY Flamingo on | November 19, 2009, 17:26 GMT

    As far as prolific domestic run scoring during the eighties and early nineties is concerned, what about Jimmy Cook? He proved during his stints in England that he could mix it with the best around. Maybe not good enough to be in the final XI but warrants being on the shortlist.

  • POSTED BY CarolL on | November 19, 2009, 17:15 GMT

    Bruce Mitchell must be a serious consideration. An average of 64.5 in 14 Tests, and that includes 5 hundreds and 6 fifties. Barry Richards picks himself. The accolades that he has received from world greats plus a brilliant 1st class record will make him a first choice in many teams.

  • POSTED BY sacricketlegend on | November 19, 2009, 16:28 GMT

    Also, I think a certain Jimmy Cook deserves a mention here - far better than Gibbs or McGlew.

  • POSTED BY sacricketlegend on | November 19, 2009, 16:23 GMT

    Ah... Finally. The All-Time XI that surely will be the most debated come the end. Who of those between 1970 and reintroduction into cricket will be included? Who of the modern day greats will make it? How many of the pre-WW2 candidates will be accepted? Starting with the openers, Barry Richards is an automatic selection. He would have my vote ahead of Gavaskar in an All-Time World Test XI with Hobbs. The second slot is a tricky one. It comes down to Barlow, Kirsten and Smith. I'd take Kirsten over Smith - Kirsten faced much better bowling than Smith, played in tougher times and I don't rate Smith's captaincy (the mechanics and tactics is what bother me)... at all. Great team leader, though. Ultimately, though, Eddie Barlow gets my vote. Scored many runs, decent medium pacer (once broke a 200 run Aussie partnership), fierce competitor, and a champ of a leader.

  • POSTED BY Engle on | November 19, 2009, 15:43 GMT

    Barry Richards walks into the AT Saf XI, just look at his poise in the picture...just perfect. He would do well in any era against all comers. The big question, then, is who best to partner him ? I would go for Graeme Smith who edges it being a LH bat and for leadership abilities.

  • POSTED BY Idol on | November 19, 2009, 15:43 GMT

    My choices are Eddie Barlow and Barry Richards. By the policy of selection by omission, I choose to leave out the following in this order for the corresponding reasons McGlew - I would not have Geoffrey Boycott in an all-time XI - English or otherwise. Enough said Kirsten - for more or less similar reasons. A team-man & a man for crises. But there are at least three openers better than him & equally capable of attack and defense Gibbs - should have been omitted prior to Kirsten but since he adds the dimension of his fielding of generally free spirit on the field, means that he is 3rd in the omissions Mitchell - Dunno much about Mitchell. But I do know about the other three who I put above him and they score Smith - toughest to leave. But Smitty, sorry mate Barlow - Barlow was an all rounder and also a great captain. WoW!! Richards - too many respected figures varying from Bradman to Sobers called him a great

  • POSTED BY Lennon_Marx on | November 19, 2009, 15:31 GMT

    Whilst I sympathise with the complications of selecting a test team for South Africa, I think you still need to include Richards in the team in spite of his tragically short career what he achieved throughout his career indicated that the results from his 4 tests were far from a fluke

  • POSTED BY Nipun on | November 19, 2009, 14:23 GMT

    I can already predict overwhelming support for Barry.lol.In spite of him playing only 4 tests against a depleted Australian side.There are numerous other players who have performed better than Barry in county cricket.I just can't believe how on earth is he called as one of the GREATEST players in cricket!He may have had the potential,but unfortunately for him,INTERNATIONAL cricket was not a witness to it,so he can't be called even a good test batsman,at most he may be called an unfulfilled talent.

  • POSTED BY arslan.moon on | November 19, 2009, 12:55 GMT

    I THINK PERHAPS GIBBS DOES NOT DESERVE TO BE IN THIS LIST

  • POSTED BY TravelBandit on | November 19, 2009, 12:50 GMT

    My choice of the all-time SA XI would be :

    Barry Richards Eddie Barlow (captain) Bruce Mitchell Graeme Pollock Dudley Nourse Jacques Kallis John Waite (wicketkeeper) Mike Procter Hugh Tayfield Vince van der Bijl Allan Donald

    Colin Bland (12'th man)

    Five players simply pick themselves : Richards, Pollock, Nourse, Procter and Tayfield, with Bland the automatic choice as twelfth man. Van der Bijl never played test cricket but in my opinion if he had he would have gone down in history as one of the all time great bowlers. Barlow is there because of his inspiring captaincy, never-say-die attitude and useful bowling. Only 4 specialist bowlers are needed (Procter, Donald, Van der Bijl, Tayfield) because Barlow and Kallis can fill in when needed. Procter and Donald would open the bowling. Tayfield is an automatic choice because of the dearth of quality spinners in SA history.

  • POSTED BY jp1988 on | November 19, 2009, 11:25 GMT

    Herbie Taylor is a glaring omission, averaging 50 against the greatest bowler of all time who was beating the bat four times a over is without doubt one of the greatest batting performances ever. Graeme Smith hasn't even scored a Test or ODI century against Murali, McGrath or Warne on far flatter pitches.

  • POSTED BY Bobby_Talyarkhan on | November 19, 2009, 11:15 GMT

    No one else on this list comes anywhere near Barry Richards. Put it this way - Gordon Greenidge his opening partner at Hampshire is one of the all time great opening batsmen - and Richards was several degrees better than him. Only Sir Jack Hobbs would come near him as an opening batsman.

  • POSTED BY hungaro on | November 19, 2009, 10:58 GMT

    One other element that exercises me - of course I know this is only a fantasy about a game - is that there is no agreement about the form of cricket this team is selected for. As it happens in this case it would not change my opinion - I don't believe Barry ever played 20/20, but remembering him dancing 2 metres outside leg to cut Deadly for 4 - three times in an over if my memory isn't totally failing - in a 40 over Sunday game for Hants against Kent, I think he might have adapted. It is however relevant - I might have picked a specialist gloveman rather than Gilchrist if there had been a definite statement that these are test teams, where he remains to my mind the greatest player of the short formats ever actually to have taken part in them.

  • POSTED BY hungaro on | November 19, 2009, 10:34 GMT

    Please do not cripple this one with format: my own England XI would have made room for Botham and Flintoff as all-rounders (with Rhodes as 12th man), and the prospect now of having to choose between Kallis (better numbers even than Sobers) and Procter (numbers totally misleading because of the short official test career, but I remember his feats at Gloucester), when the team could achieve better balance with both, would be too painful. At least with ZA I only want to pick two of the openers - for England I wanted 3 (Hobbs, Sutcliffe and Hutton). Maybe that is because, as with Oz, I am anticipating more riches in the middle order than England could have provided (and please don't quote Barrington's numbers - he was good as a cure for insomnia only, at least in his later years when I saw him).

  • POSTED BY KingKallis on | November 19, 2009, 9:36 GMT

    I think Beefy and Barry would be the best opener in world cricket when it comes to partnership!

    A strong lefty and aggressive one and the other classy and aggressive rightie! Superb...

    Greame Smith Barry Richards

  • POSTED BY Rydham on | November 19, 2009, 8:53 GMT

    I Think you can not leave GC Smith as in the short career, he has proved him self beyond the limit !! As a captain, he is way ahead of his predecessors. As a batsman he is more compact and one can definitely rely on him in both forms of the game. And ... in the role of the opener he do not need any introduction. He is as classy as Gavaskar, he is as handy as Viv rechards, he is as reliable as dravid. G Kirsten is another strong contender. Even though he is not as aggressive as Smith, he is even slight more classy than him.

  • POSTED BY TrevorM on | November 19, 2009, 8:50 GMT

    And where is T.L.Goddard? Surely he is worthy of being on the shortlist, even though I probably couldn't pick him as opener ahead of Richards & Smith. Might hopefully squeeze him in down the order as an all-rounder though - a stalwart player in the era RSA were still finding their feet on the international stage.

  • POSTED BY Godof86 on | November 19, 2009, 8:33 GMT

    Have to find a place for Gary Kirsten. It's easy to go for Barry and Biff. It isn't the best option. Kirsten held the South African batting effort together for a good part of the best decade in South African cricket. Look at the others with him then. Gibbs, Cullinan as the inconsistent ones, Rhodes and Cronje as the honest triers.... Kirsten held it together. The most underappreciated legend of the modern times. And one of my favourite cricketers.

  • POSTED BY Percy_Fender on | November 19, 2009, 4:32 GMT

    Though South Africa were out International cricket from 1971 to 1992, it is not difficult to name an all time great XI based on what the world knew about them before they were banished for their policy of apartheid.It is quite possible that some of their undoubtedly wonderful cricketers over those 20 years of exclusion may miss out. But I believe that their best during their period of isolation played in English county cricket. Based on all these facts my XI will be, Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow, Graeme Pollock, Jean Paul Duminy,Mike Procter,Bruce Mitchell ,Shaun Pollock,Hugh Tayfield,PeterPollock, Alan Donald,and Brett Schultz.I have included Barry Richards even though he played only in four Tests. But he was very very good against Lawry's Australians in 1970 and is often considered technically very sound. Similarly Brett Schultz is included because he was a left arm fast bowler of the highest quality but for injuries.I doubt if any in the panel might have a greviance on my team !!

  • POSTED BY raskalamindit on | November 19, 2009, 4:12 GMT

    Easy, Barry & Kirsten.......although Smith & Mitchell were hard to leave out.

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  • POSTED BY raskalamindit on | November 19, 2009, 4:12 GMT

    Easy, Barry & Kirsten.......although Smith & Mitchell were hard to leave out.

  • POSTED BY Percy_Fender on | November 19, 2009, 4:32 GMT

    Though South Africa were out International cricket from 1971 to 1992, it is not difficult to name an all time great XI based on what the world knew about them before they were banished for their policy of apartheid.It is quite possible that some of their undoubtedly wonderful cricketers over those 20 years of exclusion may miss out. But I believe that their best during their period of isolation played in English county cricket. Based on all these facts my XI will be, Barry Richards, Eddie Barlow, Graeme Pollock, Jean Paul Duminy,Mike Procter,Bruce Mitchell ,Shaun Pollock,Hugh Tayfield,PeterPollock, Alan Donald,and Brett Schultz.I have included Barry Richards even though he played only in four Tests. But he was very very good against Lawry's Australians in 1970 and is often considered technically very sound. Similarly Brett Schultz is included because he was a left arm fast bowler of the highest quality but for injuries.I doubt if any in the panel might have a greviance on my team !!

  • POSTED BY Godof86 on | November 19, 2009, 8:33 GMT

    Have to find a place for Gary Kirsten. It's easy to go for Barry and Biff. It isn't the best option. Kirsten held the South African batting effort together for a good part of the best decade in South African cricket. Look at the others with him then. Gibbs, Cullinan as the inconsistent ones, Rhodes and Cronje as the honest triers.... Kirsten held it together. The most underappreciated legend of the modern times. And one of my favourite cricketers.

  • POSTED BY TrevorM on | November 19, 2009, 8:50 GMT

    And where is T.L.Goddard? Surely he is worthy of being on the shortlist, even though I probably couldn't pick him as opener ahead of Richards & Smith. Might hopefully squeeze him in down the order as an all-rounder though - a stalwart player in the era RSA were still finding their feet on the international stage.

  • POSTED BY Rydham on | November 19, 2009, 8:53 GMT

    I Think you can not leave GC Smith as in the short career, he has proved him self beyond the limit !! As a captain, he is way ahead of his predecessors. As a batsman he is more compact and one can definitely rely on him in both forms of the game. And ... in the role of the opener he do not need any introduction. He is as classy as Gavaskar, he is as handy as Viv rechards, he is as reliable as dravid. G Kirsten is another strong contender. Even though he is not as aggressive as Smith, he is even slight more classy than him.

  • POSTED BY KingKallis on | November 19, 2009, 9:36 GMT

    I think Beefy and Barry would be the best opener in world cricket when it comes to partnership!

    A strong lefty and aggressive one and the other classy and aggressive rightie! Superb...

    Greame Smith Barry Richards

  • POSTED BY hungaro on | November 19, 2009, 10:34 GMT

    Please do not cripple this one with format: my own England XI would have made room for Botham and Flintoff as all-rounders (with Rhodes as 12th man), and the prospect now of having to choose between Kallis (better numbers even than Sobers) and Procter (numbers totally misleading because of the short official test career, but I remember his feats at Gloucester), when the team could achieve better balance with both, would be too painful. At least with ZA I only want to pick two of the openers - for England I wanted 3 (Hobbs, Sutcliffe and Hutton). Maybe that is because, as with Oz, I am anticipating more riches in the middle order than England could have provided (and please don't quote Barrington's numbers - he was good as a cure for insomnia only, at least in his later years when I saw him).

  • POSTED BY hungaro on | November 19, 2009, 10:58 GMT

    One other element that exercises me - of course I know this is only a fantasy about a game - is that there is no agreement about the form of cricket this team is selected for. As it happens in this case it would not change my opinion - I don't believe Barry ever played 20/20, but remembering him dancing 2 metres outside leg to cut Deadly for 4 - three times in an over if my memory isn't totally failing - in a 40 over Sunday game for Hants against Kent, I think he might have adapted. It is however relevant - I might have picked a specialist gloveman rather than Gilchrist if there had been a definite statement that these are test teams, where he remains to my mind the greatest player of the short formats ever actually to have taken part in them.

  • POSTED BY Bobby_Talyarkhan on | November 19, 2009, 11:15 GMT

    No one else on this list comes anywhere near Barry Richards. Put it this way - Gordon Greenidge his opening partner at Hampshire is one of the all time great opening batsmen - and Richards was several degrees better than him. Only Sir Jack Hobbs would come near him as an opening batsman.

  • POSTED BY jp1988 on | November 19, 2009, 11:25 GMT

    Herbie Taylor is a glaring omission, averaging 50 against the greatest bowler of all time who was beating the bat four times a over is without doubt one of the greatest batting performances ever. Graeme Smith hasn't even scored a Test or ODI century against Murali, McGrath or Warne on far flatter pitches.