All-time XI - World
ESPNcricinfo picks the best Test teams of all time

A match-up made in heaven

The notion of a face-off between Trueman and Tendulkar and Lillee and Lara is mouth-watering, to say the least. Who'll win in a contest between ESPNcricinfo's World XI and the Second XI?

Rob Steen

October 25, 2010

Comments: 134 | Text size: A | A

Shane Warne went past Dennis Lillee's record for most wickets in a calendar year, Australia v South Africa, 1st Test, Perth, 3rd day, December 18, 2005
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Four Australians, three West Indians, two Anglo-Saxons and one apiece from India and Pakistan (viva diplomacy!). It is exceedingly hard to imagine anyone whose loyalties lie beyond New Zealand, South Africa or Sri Lanka issuing writs over the names or distribution of nationalities in the Cricinfo all-time World XI - though Dream-On XI might be nearer the mark.

This not a team designed to cock snooks, contradict tradition or court controversy - but then neither is it altogether predictable. There were, after all, only two shoo-ins: Don Bradman and Garry Sobers.

Wisden's quintessential 20th-century quintet is all present and correct (Bradman, Jack Hobbs, Viv Richards, Sobers and Shane Warne). Ditto eight of Richie Benaud's all-timers (with Sunil Gavaskar, Imran Khan and SF Barnes for Len Hutton, Malcolm Marshall and Wasim Akram here) and Harold Pinter's favourite cricketer (Hutton). In a 2001 poll for The New Ball, a panel culled from half a dozen nations - including Ted Dexter, four Wisden editors and the game's pre-eminent historian, David Frith - showered most of their votes for our Heaven's XI on Sobers (29), followed by Warne (26), Richards (25), Bradman (22) and Dennis Lillee (18).

Then again, just three members of Our Richie's 2nd XI made either of the Cricinfo models, while only Lillee, Richards and Sobers graduated from the longlist in Gavaskar's 1984 book, Icons. Doughtily as he doubtless battled for his hero, Ian Chappell's failure to win even an also-ran's role for Keith Miller will have cut him to the quick.

In most cases it all boils down, or should do, to those we have seen and on whom we can thus legitimately pass judgement (and Ajit Wadekar, 70 next April, is the most venerable of our eight ex-captain-selectors). Proximity is key. Bypassing ancients such as George Lohmann, George Giffen, Ranji and The Demon Spofforth, the jury have named only three men on the basis of figures, reputation and trust - Bradman, Hobbs and Hutton. That said, Richards only just nosed past George Headley, Victor Trumper was the jury's sixth-most popular opener, and Barnes will be burrowing out of his grave as we speak to throttle each and every voter who had the gall and downright ignorance to tout any bowler as his superior.

First XI v Second XI

  • The Second XI Sunil Gavaskar, Barry Richards, George Headley, Brian Lara, Wally Hammond, Imran Khan, Alan Knott, Bill O'Reilly, Fred Trueman, Muttiah Muralitharan, Syd Barnes
  • Sometimes, just sometimes, being a selector must be the plummest job that doesn't involve a final-salary pension plan. Doing duty for West Indies between 1979 and 1995, and Australia from 1934-51 and 1999-2008, for instance, meant permutating a grotesquely unfair share of talent and knowing, with virtually complete certainty, that even if you did cock up, it wouldn't amount to even half a hill of beans.
  • So it is with our illustrious jury. When it comes to picking two teams for a winner-takes-all Test in Timeless Square, or a 22-strong World Defence League squad for that eagerly awaited maiden tour of Utopia, our earthly selectors were not so much spoiled for choice as OD'ing on the stuff. Just think of the nifty Third XI you could muster from those who also won a healthy share of votes - Trumper, Virender Sehwag, Graeme Pollock, Greg Chappell, Kumar Sangakkara (wkt), Keith Miller, Richard Hadlee, Harold Larwood, McGrath, Erapalli Prasanna and Abdul Qadir. That still leaves Messrs Barrington, Bedi, Border, Botham, Garner, Gooch, Gower, Greenidge and Grimmett out in the cold - and that's just the Bs and Gs. Likewise a couple of Sutcliffes, both Waugh twins and all the Mohammads and Graces.
  • But then this Second XI, of course, is nothing of the sort. The top six appear inferior to their First XI counterparts only in terms of The Bradman Factor; the attack, with one spinner who devoured 5.33 batters per Test, another who gobbled up six, and the only bloke to do seven per, looks broader and sharper, the keeping snappier. Cordon and outfield, on the other hand, are nowhere near as handsomely manned.
  • Bottom line? Give the Poms home advantage for being the best-represented nation overall (six out of 22), play the game at Lord's, and bring on the dancing unicorns. Throw in the ruthless mindset of the understudy and this extremely occasional punter's strictly imaginary money would be on the supporting cast. Dream on indeed.

Bar one, the remainder all began their international careers after 1969, and Sobers, the odd man out, was still playing in 1974. The implication, that global professionalism left the final quarter of the 20th century blessed with more brilliant hand-eye coordinators than any other generation, seems far from unreasonable.

He may have been the bowler Brian Lara feared most, but many will object with especial vehemence to the presence of Wasim (is he there strictly for variety?), not least since Sobers also offers southpaw swing. As is the way with the unproveable, the hairline calls are endless. Bradman, Sobers and Tendulkar all rated Muttiah Muralitharan above Warne; Glenn McGrath, Warne and Gavaskar back Tendulkar over Lara, Murali and Barry Richards go the other way - and Wasim reckons Martin Crowe better than both.

One decision, though, sticks out as strategically unsound. With a top six as superlative as this on tap, nominating Gilchrist seems excessively cautious. Those to whom glovemanship is first, last and everything - i.e. the bowlers - would surely have preferred Alan Knott or Ian Healy. Tellingly, only two of our selectors, Tony Greig and Intikhab Alam, belong to that particular species.

SO, PITTED AGAINST their understudies in the Second XI, how, with every player in his pomp and fittest circumstance, would this exalted collective perform? Granted, there isn't all that much head-to-head evidence to go on, and even what there is may be distorted by duellists crossing swords at different stages of their careers, but let's have a stab.

The absence of extreme pace is good news for the top three. Hutton hit 100 and 364 in his four innings against Bill "Tiger" O'Reilly, who defeated him twice, once for 5. No lover of quick singles, or of competing for roars and awe, Richards might even be a teensy bit intimidated by Bradman, but the competitive juices would surely flow, with terrifying consequences for any bowler.

Whet appetites? The notion of a face-off between those lordly scrappers Richards and Imran is enough to soak them: in 14 Tests in opposition, Richards on 11 occasions passed 40, with two centuries, while Imran snared him on five occasions, four times for 30 or fewer. But what most tickles this fanciful fancy, narrowly ahead of the Bradman-Barnes bout, is the clash of wits, egos and temperament between those prickly colleagues-in-name-only, The Don and The Tiger. And while we're letting our imaginations run riot, lips should also be licked avidly at the prospect of other confrontations hitherto denied by motherland (Lara v Marshall, Hobbs v Barnes) or Father Time (Hutton v Lillee, Bradman v Murali, Richards v Trueman, Sobers v Hammond).

The obvious problems come lower down. Gilchrist failed to pass 22 in three of his four Test dismissals by Murali, who also took care of Tendulkar for fewer than 30 on no fewer than six occasions - in all, he ejected him eight times, more than any other bowler. Twice, however, Tendulkar had already pocketed a century. Trueman, similarly, was Sobers' bete noir, felling him seven times, but three single-figure scores were balanced by four hundreds, including a 226, when opposed by the self-anointed Finest Ruddy Fast Bowler That Ever Drew Breath.

 
 
How do you tell Warne to field at short leg or teach Bradman the headlong boundary dive? How do you coax Hutton to let his hair down and set up a declaration? How do you exhort Hobbs to improve his sledging? How do you curb Sobers' enthusiasm?
 

As for the bowlers, Warne was often rumbled by Lara - seven dismissals, yes, four of them for 45 or fewer, countered by seven fifties and five hundreds, three of them doubles and four of them match-winners, led by those back-to-back 1999 masterpieces in Kingston and Bridgetown. Marshall frequently made merry at Gavaskar's expense, sending him back eight times, all for under 41, including four single-figure scores, and 12, 18 and 20, but their 14 five-day collisions also saw the opener rack up five hundreds and a 90, including a career-best 236 not out in Madras in 1983.

Two years before that Lillee bested Gavaskar twice in the one series in which they went toe-to-toe, for 0 and 70, the latter Sunny's only innings of substance in the three matches. Wasim, moreover, dismissed Lara for next to nothing twice in successive Tests in 1997, the Prince of Port-of-Spain passing fifty (51 and 96) just twice in their seven encounters. No shortage of scores for the settling, then.

LEADING THIS LITTLE LOT, on the face of it, ought to be about as straightforward as running a recruitment scheme for apprentice chocolate-tasters. Call correctly and contain the egos: that's about the size of it. Admittedly the second task might be a tad more problematic.

Whose wrath can you most safely risk incurring when deciding on your new-ballers? How do you tell Warne to field at short leg or teach Bradman the headlong boundary dive? How do you coax Hutton to let his hair down and set up a declaration? How do you exhort Hobbs to improve his sledging? How do you curb Sobers' enthusiasm? How do you convince him to resist bowling fast, swinging chinamen while fielding at slip and leg slip?

Given that profound inability to take a backward step, and that his ego is almost certainly the biggest in our time-honoured, time-proof dressing room, Warnie's my boy.

World XI: Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Don Bradman, Sachin Tendulkar, Viv Richards, Garry Sobers, Adam Gilchrist, Malcolm Marshall, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram, Dennis Lillee

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

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Posted by Vijay.Naik on (October 28, 2010, 18:30 GMT)

Guys how many of you've thought/have below facts? 1.Don Bradman's facts with each country? (England being only strong opposition then) 2.Ricky Pontings avg in India, (India without having worldclass bowler) 3.How many Strong teams were playing during 1970s (Viv's era)? 4.How many good partners Lara had throughout his career like Sachin/Ponting?

No WAY for Ponting in both world XI, but Lara should be there in 1st team instead of Viv.

Truth will be out if you get the above stats....

Posted by hmia1001 on (October 28, 2010, 17:05 GMT)

@all: Everyone has their opinions (so is mine) and I respect them all but I would prefer picking up Gavaskar and/or sehwag from india because the former used to successfully open the batting in the era of great fast bowlers and the later is a free flowing and aggressive player. No doubt sachin is good to watch but I would go for lara in his place because both lara and sehwag has the ability to successfully take the attack on to the opposition even in pressure situations, which is the whole mark of a great player. That is why Richards is in the team (with test avgerage around 50),same is the case with Gilchrist (although Boucher has got more test dismissals). Last but not the least, it is not a sensible idea to make a team out of cricketers playing in different eras. How many of us have watched breadman, hobbs, and hutton batting! is it logical to compare the skills out of primitive and limited game of cricket to the one today! I am afraid human mind has no justification to it! thnks.

Posted by anikbrad on (October 28, 2010, 16:39 GMT)

PLEASE COME UP WITH LEFTIES VS RIGHTIES R XI: HOBBS/ HUTTON/ BRADMAN/TENDULKAR/RICHARDS/IMRAN/ KNOTT/ LILLIE/ WARNE/MARSHAL

L XI: HAYDEN/ SANGA/ HARVEY/ LARA/ G.POLLOCK/ SOVERS/GILCHRIST/AKRAM/ DEVIDSON/PEEL/ BEDI

Posted by Truecricketbuff on (October 28, 2010, 16:21 GMT)

Great. So, all these judges most ex captains and all of whom have watched cricket for around 60 yrs are wrong...and a bunch of kids in here, with not a clue of even what the stats bases are actually showing, and who have probably watched cricket for max.20 yrs are right....Great!

Posted by Cricster1 on (October 28, 2010, 2:11 GMT)

Here is my 2 teams of 16 players Team 1 consisting of players that I have seen since late 70's

Gavaskar,Sehwag,Viv Richards,Tendulkar,Lara,Gilchrist,Knott,Imran Khan,Hadlee,Akram,Marshall,McGrath,Donald,Murali,Warne,Underwood

Team 2 chosen based on player's reputation/record

Hobbs,Hutton,Bradman,Headley,Graeme Pollock,Hammond,Walcott,Engineer,Sobers,Keith Miller,Barnes,Bedser,Trueman,Hall,Lance Gibbs,O'Reilley

Posted by nipo10847 on (October 27, 2010, 15:21 GMT)

Without Muralitharan any best XI would always be incomplete. Had he been an Indian or an Australian or an English, his name would be here now. He deserves to be here as much as Don Bradman. Bradman and Murali would be the first two name that should have been picked at first hand then let the juries pick other nine players. So they picked Shane Warne instead of Murali. What joke!

Posted by   on (October 27, 2010, 0:30 GMT)

Sachin Tendulkar should be the only unanimous choice in a World XI and the likes of Warne and Bradman should be proud to get an equal footing with him. The Lord is the cause, not the team.

Posted by red000 on (October 26, 2010, 17:47 GMT)

Hav no idea...y everyone criticizing sachin..and saying he is not a match winner etc etc...if u look his recent performances ..he has won a match aganist england on last day track by scoring a century..and chase down a 380plus score..has played major role in indias success to no1 test team...

But...im extremely dissapointed that sehwag has been not put in as opener...which were occupied by englishmen...its extreme joke...sehwag is a legend of an opener..and no 1 match winner in tests history of alltimes

Posted by   on (October 26, 2010, 14:31 GMT)

One generation wasted all their resources for the Sachin and they are compelling the next generations to do in their way..Next generation is wasting their money and time and following Sachin blindly..Its a sheer waste of time..Me living in a society..Their acting towards life affecting everyone including myself..

Posted by Rajitha88 on (October 26, 2010, 13:43 GMT)

WORLD XI =1st inngs 78/10 (bradman 18,sachin 13 Murali 7 for 23 and Mcgrath 3 for 14) SECONDXI=1st inngs 678/8 (gavaskar 118,lara 220 Wazim Akram 5 for 112, marsh 2 for 78) WORLD XI =1st inngs 112/10 (bradman 78,jack hobs 20 Murali 5 for 23 and Mcgrath 2 for 34)

SECONDXI won the match by INNINGS AND 488 RUNS man of the match muralideran..

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Rob SteenClose
Rob Steen Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton, whose books include biographies of Desmond Haynes and David Gower (Cricket Society Literary Award winner) and 500-1 - The Miracle of Headingley '81. His investigation for the Wisden Cricketer, "Whatever Happened to the Black Cricketer?", won the UK section of the 2005 EU Journalism Award "For diversity, against discrimination"

World Jury

Intikhab Alam
Intikhab Alam
Former Pakistan allrounder. Captained the side in 17 Tests and three ODIs between 1969 and 1975 and later served as team manager and coach.
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.
Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
Captained Australia in 30 Tests and 11 ODIs between 1971 and 1975. Now a cricket commentator and columnist.
David Frith
David Frith
Cricket historian, writer and archivist. Author of the definitive history of Bodyline
Tony Greig
Tony Greig
Former England allrounder who captained the side in 14 Tests and two ODIs in the mid-to-late 1970s. Currently a cricket commentator and presenter on television.
Ramachandra Guha
Ramachandra Guha
Historian and cricket writer. Author of A Corner of a Foreign Field, Wickets in the East, Spin and Other Turns, and editor of the Picador Book of Cricket
Gideon Haigh
Gideon Haigh
Cricket historian and writer. His books include acclaimed biographies of Warwick Armstrong and Jack Iverson, and the definitive history of the Kerry Packer era.
Clive Lloyd
Clive Lloyd
Captained the all-conquering West Indies team of the 70s and 80s in 74 Tests and 84 ODIs. Served as ICC match referee and chairman of the ICC's cricket committee.
Duleep Mendis
Duleep Mendis
Captained Sri Lanka in 19 Tests (including in their first Test and series victories) and 61 ODIs, between 1982 and 1987. Currently chief executive of Sri Lanka Cricket.
Peter Roebuck
Peter Roebuck
Former captain of Somerset; author of It Never Rains and Sometimes I Forgot to Laugh among other books.
Ajit Wadekar
Ajit Wadekar
Former India captain, between 1971 and 1974, during which period the team notched up their landmark first wins in the West Indies and England. Later a manager of the national side.
John Wright
John Wright
Former New Zealand opener and captain, and later India coach. Led in 14 Tests and 31 ODIs between 1983 and 1987.

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