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Our soon-to-be announced all-time world XI will be picked from a shortlist of 88. But there are plenty of stellar names outside those ranks, as this XI, chosen from those who weren't on the shortlists, proves
October 12, 2010
Players/Officials: Wilfred Rhodes | Herbert Sutcliffe | Ricky Ponting | Neil Harvey | Sir Everton Weekes | Rohan Kanhai | Ian Healy | Ray Lindwall | Joel Garner | Jim Laker | Ted McDonald | Bishan Bedi
Rodney Marsh, the footballer rather than the cricketer, once said of the sport he played something no less true of the sport he didn't: The club manager had only 11 men to keep happy - the 11 in the second team. Those in the first team were happy because they were in the first team.
ESPNcricinfo has taken precautions in picking its World XI by asking each voter on its jury to choose two teams from all time, whom it will be difficult to separate. But what of the more than 2500 other Test cricketers - and I'm afraid we are talking about Test players - who not only will not feature in either of these teams but didn't even make the shortlist of 88?
Out of a spirit of commendable internationalism, ESPNcricinfo asked representatives of each country to choose their teams from the players in the all-time XIs that the site picked for the leading Test nations over the last year and some. But can anyone say, hand on heart, that Ashantha de Mel or Rumesh Ratnayake, good players though they were, rank superior to Ray Lindwall or Wes Hall? That Daniel Vettori is a better left-arm spinner than Hedley Verity, or that Kevin Pietersen stands taller than that first flag-of-convenience cricketer Ranjitsinhji.
Haigh's best of the rest XI
To keep the disappointed 2500 from insurrection, ESPNcricinfo agreed to my choosing a team from the best of the rest, which actually proved at least as difficult as permutating and combining the names on the shortlist. Think of the Australian names to be filtered: Stan McCabe, Charlie Macartney, Clarrie Grimmett, Bill Ponsford, Bob Simpson, Rod Marsh, Steve Waugh. Weigh up the competing Indian claims: Vijay Merchant, Gundappa Viswanath, Bhagwath Chandrashekhar. Brood on the Pakistanis: Majid Khan, Mushtaq Mohammad, Khan Mohammad. Consider the Englishmen: Sir Alec Bedser, Maurice Tate, Denis Compton, Peter May, Ted Dexter, Brian Statham.
Above all, I think, the shortlist gives shortest shrift to West Indians, when you factor in exclusions like the three Ws, Clive Lloyd, Jeff Dujon, Andy Roberts, Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin, while you might have considered Learie Constantine and Roger Harper for fielding alone. Even some very tidy Sri Lankans escaped ESPNcricinfo's attention: Roy Dias, Anura Tennekoon, Frederick de Saram. And don't forget that a hundred years ago the best bowler in the world might have been American: John Barton King.
Anyway, here is my token of recognition to those who did not make our ESPNcricinfo squad. The XII includes three West Indians, two Queenslanders (one adopted), history's highest first-class wicket-taker with a fellow Yorkshireman as his opening partner, history's greatest orthodox offspinner and its loveliest left-arm spinner, Australia's biggest international run-getter and the only Tasmanian who might have matched him as a cricketer. All of them under a captain keenly motivated to demonstrate that the cricketers of the past are at least the equal of those of today.
Bring on those showponies. We'll give them a game.
Pick your all-time world XI here
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