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ESPNcricinfo picks the best Test teams of all time


Plenty to pick from

Allrounders have been part of the South African landscape since cricket's beginnings. A look at six of the best contenders

Telford Vice

November 30, 2009

Comments: 67 | Text size: A | A

Mike Procter bowling as umpire Tom Spencer looks on, Gloucestershire v Northamptonshire, County Ground, Northampton, 21 June 1971
Mike Procter: spectacular in two disciplines Ken Kelly / © The Cricketer International

Shake a tree in South Africa and the ground beneath it is likely to be littered with allrounders. So blessed is the country with players who are able to bat and bowl - fast, at least - well enough to hold down a place in a team on the strength of either skill, that it seems the gods of the game have done the place a disservice as much as they have blessed it.

It's as if South Africa has been granted all the allrounders it could possibly want, but hardly any of the spinners it so desperately needs. Still, two players for the price of one is a decent bargain. Consequently there aren't many South African captains complaining too bitterly about the paucity of quality spin bowlers.

South African pitches tend to be friendly to seam bowling and accommodating of uncomplicated batting. That goes some way to explaining why allrounders thrive there. Proof of that is the fact that allrounders have been part of the landscape in the country since cricket's beginnings. Pioneers like Jimmy Sinclair and Aubrey Faulkner have counterparts in modern heroes like Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis.

Nonetheless, while Kallis is certainly in the reckoning for our all-time South African XI for middle-order batting prowess, he has not made the shortlist of allrounders. Is this because there are simply too many South African allrounders to choose from, and therefore it has been thought useful to ship off quality players into other departments? Or has the well of South Africans who have been genetically advantaged enough to star with both bat and ball finally been proven to have a bottom?

Certainly, the domestic game in the country seems as well-endowed with multi-skilled players as ever. So much so that Daryn Smit of the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins routinely strips off his wicketkeeping pads to bowl distinctly non-occasional legspin. With 58 wickets in 43 first-class matches to his name - not to mention 123 dismissals, a century and seven half-centuries - Smit might just be a prototype for the cricketer of the future.

But for that to happen, cricket's more hidebound factions will have to relinquish their obsession with specialist players. That doesn't seem to be something we can look forward to anytime soon. For now, we'll have to content ourselves with marvelling at those magnificent men and the all-round talents they thrust into service, whether bowling or batting. Our jury has done exactly that, and here are the contenders:

Aubrey Faulkner
Afflicted first by malaria, then by depression, which led him to take his own life, he nonetheless crammed much into his 48 years. An early master of the googly and an un-pretty though highly effective batsman.

Mike Procter
Started his run next to the sightscreen and tore into the wicket with an untidy action and an unsettling fury. Similarly spectacular with the bat, once scoring centuries in six consecutive first-class innings for Rhodesia.

Brian McMillan
A giant of a man, but a caresser of the ball. Pierced the armour of almost as many batsmen with his wit as with awkward bounce. Virtually infallible in the slips.

Trevor Goddard
Grace on wheels. A batsman to whom elegance came as easily as his smile, and a bowler who looked as fresh in the last over of the day as he did in the first.

Jimmy Sinclair
A big-bang cricketer - could hit hard and bowl fast, and look good doing either. A template for the modern South African allrounder? Escaped from a Boer POW camp to take 107 wickets on the 1901 tour of England.

Shaun Pollock
Simply put, had too much talent not to outgrow the boots of a world-class fast bowler. Delighted the purists with his immaculately grooved action, but trusted his instincts to inform his batting.

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

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Posted by waspsting on (December 3, 2009, 20:32 GMT)

@ Xolile - I've toyed with the idea of having an entire 11 of all rounders too! hows this for a world 11 - 1)Wilfred Rhodes 2) Vinoo Mankad 3)Kallis 4)Sobers 5) Gilchrist 6)Imran Khan 7)Miller 8) Procter 9) Botham 10) Benaud 11) Hadlee. spinners - rhodes, mankad, benaud as well as sobers, miller and procter. fast lot leaders - hadlee, imran, procter, miller and then the rest star catchers - sobers, kallis, miller, procter, benaud, botham.

nothing like it has ever been seen (or ever will be), but i wonder how this lot would fare against anybody. the world 11 that Bradman supposedly selected, for example, only had Sobers from this list - if we could keep sobers and have a replacement for him in that team, I'm positive this team would come out on top!

Posted by Curlybrownitem on (December 2, 2009, 20:26 GMT)

Procter was easy to pick for the first slot. After thinking long and hard about the second, it has to be Faulkner, the reason being that a spinner adds an extra dimension to an attack that won't be short of pace/seam, but relatively weak in spin. That means no room for Shaun Pollock (I can have a rant later if he's not "available " as a bowler) which is harsh but, I think, necessary. In addition, Faulkner is much the better batsman and while this side won't be short of batting either, an extra batsman is always a better option than a 7th or 8th bowler. On Kallis, while I agree he's a top-class all-rounder, why all the fuss? He's most people's selection as a batsman, including mine - he can't play twice!

Posted by argylep on (December 1, 2009, 17:26 GMT)

Vsssarmas post today @ 8.15 illustrates pefectly that individual stats while not everything in the game are nevertheless a strong and compelliing indicator when assessing the category or theory of cricketing greatness. I think the term is used too often and for allround cricketers who are NOT great per se but Kallis certainly is. His stats are phenomenal compared to others of his era and of any other period for that matter. He is quite simply but statistically the finest all rounder since Sobers but don't favour my opinion over others in the game. Just read these... Pietersen recently described him "as the greatest cricketer ever"....not sure about that accolade? - but Boucher commented that he is a cricketing colussus not just on the South African but World stage and his IPL captain referred to him as being an "the outstanding cricketer" Praise indeed but richly deserved IMO. argylep

Posted by gitacarya on (December 1, 2009, 15:59 GMT)

My all time list is...

1. Graeme Smith 2. Gary Kirsten 3. Jacques Kallis 4. Graeme Pollock 5. Hansie Cronje (C) 6. Johnty Rhodes (too tempting to omit him)/Can pick if know more names. 7. Mark Boucher 8. Shaun Pollock 9. Peter Pollock 10. Mike Procter 11. Alan Donald (Who else? The king of Pace, and white Lightening)

(Reserve opener... Barry Richards Spinner, if need be, Nicky Boje for his all round skills Reserve Pacer... Makhaya Ntini (Why leaving him?) and the fifteenth man, you will be doomed if you can not pick Lance Zulu Klusener at least into the team :-)

Posted by sanzo5 on (December 1, 2009, 13:48 GMT)

Where is lance klusners name in the list?

Posted by argylep on (December 1, 2009, 11:49 GMT)

An all time South African All Rounders XI without Kallis selected as either a batsman or bowler would be a much weaker side. Sure he is a batting allrounder but his bowling stats are just as impressive. He may have lost some pace and penetration over the years but over 500 International wickets at just over 30 is superior to a lot of test match bowlers. I've always rated Kallis very highly in both disciplines - IMO he is the best white modern day era batsman I've ever seen and he is a very effective breakthrough bowler much as Botham was when wickets had to be "bought'. Pietersen recently described him "as the greatest cricketer ever" Boucher refers to him as an "irreplaceable South African Cricket Colussus" . Praise indeed from opponents and colleagues alike! Statistically except for a slightly inferior test match batting average he has been and still is the Worlds finest all rounder since Sir Garfield Sobers.

Posted by BringITXI on (December 1, 2009, 11:31 GMT)

Where is Lance Klusener?

Posted by BloodbathAndBeyond on (December 1, 2009, 11:25 GMT)

I am waiting for the All time West Indies XI. In the middle order, we'll probably have to select 3 from Lara, Sobers, Richards, Lloyd, Headley, Walcott, Weekes, Worrell, Chanderpaul. Phew !!! That would be a daunting task.

Posted by thirdmanboundary on (December 1, 2009, 10:51 GMT)

I love Xolile's idea of an entire team of all rounders. Only problem: who would control 10 world-class bowlers all clamouring to bowl? And let's not forget that Proctor, like Sobers, was 3 players in one, bowling tidy off-spinners too. As a spectator one of the great treats was watching Pollock at his early peak pace bowling together with Donald (all too briefly) before Donald began his fade. At that point Pollock had a world-class throat ball, a high gather, and broke some kind of currie cup record for the number of times he hit the helmet in a season. That said, as his pace dropped as a bowler, Pollock's aplomb as a batsman increased. With both SA and NZ there should be no restriction on the number of all rounders.

Posted by sean_kelly on (December 1, 2009, 10:09 GMT)

Faulkner and Procter - better for the balance

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Telford Vice Telford Vice, crash-boom-out left-hand bat, sort-of legspinner, was never sure whether he was a cricket person. He thought he might be when he sidestepped a broken laptop and an utter dearth of experience to cover South Africa's first Test match in 22 years in Barbados in 1992. When he managed to complete Peter Kirsten's biography as well as retain what he calls his sanity, he pondered the question again. Similarly, when he made it through the 2007 World Cup - all of it, including the warm-up matches - his case for belonging to cricket's family felt stronger. But it was only when the World Twenty20 exploded gloriously into his life in 2007 that he knew he actually wanted to be a cricket person. Sort of ...

South Africa Jury

Luke Alfred
Sports editor of the Sunday Times in Johannesburg; author of Lifting the Covers: the Inside Story of South African Cricket and Testing Times: The Story of the Men Who Made SA Cricket
XI: Smith, Richards, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, S Pollock, Goddard, Tayfield, Donald
Ali Bacher
Ali Bacher
Captained South Africa in 1970, when they defeated Australia 4-0; was managing director of the South African cricket board through the 1990s, and executive director of the 2003 World Cup.
XI: Richards, Mitchell, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, Procter, Tayfield, Donald, Adcock
Colin Bryden
Colin Bryden
Editor of the Mutual & Federal SA Cricket Annual; has reported on more than 130 Test matches.
XI: Richards, Barlow, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, Procter, Tayfield, Donald, Adcock
Archie Henderson
Archie Henderson
Sports editor of the Times in South Africa; formerly sports editor of the Cape Times and the Argus in Cape Town. Has been a journalist since 1967.
XI: Richards, Smith, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Procter, Lindsay, Tayfield, Donald, Adcock
Rob Houwing
Rob Houwing
Chief writer for and formerly editor of the Wisden Cricketer (South African edition).
XI: Richards, Smith, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Barlow, Procter, Boucher, S Pollock, Tayfield, Donald
Rudi Koertzen
Rudi Koertzen
Has umpired at Test level for 17 years - seven of those on the ICC's elite panel - standing in over 100 Tests (the second umpire to do so) and 200 ODIs.
XI: Richards, Mitchell, Barlow, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, Procter, S Pollock, Tayfield, Donald
Neil Manthorp
Neil Manthorp
Broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency; has covered more than 40 tours and 120 Test matches since South Africa's return to International cricket. Author of a biography of Gary Kirsten.
XI: Richards, Smith, Nourse, G Pollock, Kallis, Barlow, Boucher, Faulkner, Procter, S Pollock, Donald
Krish Reddy
One of South Africa's foremost cricket historians and statisticians, and a cricket book and autograph collector; co-author of a history of South African cricket with Andre Odendaal and Christopher Merritt.
XI: Richards, Taylor, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Procter, Cameron, S Pollock, Tayfield, Donald
Andrew Samson
Andrew Samson
Cricket South Africa's official statistician since 1994; has covered over 130 Test matches for radio and TV as scorer/statistician.
XI: Richards, Mitchell, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Faulkner, Waite, Procter, S Pollock, Tayfield, Donald
Telford Vice
Telford Vice
Cricket writer since 1992, when he covered South Africa's first Test on readmission, in Barbados; author of a biography of Peter Kirsten.
XI: Richards, Smith, Goddard, Kallis, G Pollock, Nourse, Boucher, S Pollock, Tayfield, Ntini, Donald

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