David Frith's play-for-your-life XI October 20, 2010

For your money (and your life)

A play-for-your-life XI who'll do you proud when it's a choice between not losing and heading to the gas chamber
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Suspend your sense of disbelief for the time being and imagine that the team you select will be playing some other team, and should your side lose (a draw would be fine) you will be sent to the gallows or the gas chamber or somewhere equally unpleasant. Who would you select to "play for your life"?

The rules do not permit the choice of 11 blockers. It needs to be a balanced team, otherwise you'd never get those sinister opponents out (it's important to do so, or come close, or else the ground would be completely empty). This rules out employing the likes of Scotton, Louis Hall, Alick Bannerman, Hanif Mohammad, Mudassar Nazar, Chris Tavare, and five other defensive batsmen in a stultifying batting order. The essence is reliability and "stickability" for batsmen, allrounders, wicketkeepers and bowlers. This is a serious business.

There have been many to choose from, but here is my personal selection:

1. Geoffrey Boycott
He left the crease almost 30 years ago, but his reputation for doggedness remains incomparable.

2. Bill Ponsford
Double-centuries, triples, and a quadruple-century dripped from his broad bat, and he didn't care how long they took.

3. Don Bradman
Remember, this team is batting for your life: how could this near-perfect run machine be left out?

4. Ken Barrington
Wide bat, broad chest, unmatched determination: one of the few dropped because he batted too slowly (i.e. uncompromisingly) in a Test.

5. Sachin Tendulkar
Refer DG Bradman above.

6. Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Capable of batting through a thousand minutes of Test-match bowling without getting out: what more could be asked?

7. Trevor Bailey
Drove opponents and spectators of the 1950s half mad with his obstinacy and rare patience.

8. Ken Mackay
Early version of Chanderpaul, just as difficult to watch, but with no concern for time, just crease occupation.

9. Jack Russell
I need a wicketkeeper who can bat in a kind of timeless trance, and this fellow did so regularly.

10. Graham Onions
Apparently undismissable when nine wickets are down.

11. Danny Morrison
A four-hour 25 as night-watchman in a Faisalabad Test gives this genial fast bowler the nod.

With this combination for the Big Match, somehow I feel secure.

David Frith is an author, historian, and founding editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Bukhari on October 22, 2010, 3:47 GMT

    Ridiculous to say the least. Evry one is jumping for their version of world eleven. Is this selection worthy to its title? Even an average cricket fan can give a better team. Cricinfo is losing a plot by allowing such articles on its website.

  • Biggus on October 22, 2010, 1:29 GMT

    Well, with all the complaining about these style and doggedness XIs I'm not looking forward to the release of the All-Time XI. I can imagine the avalanche of nasty comments that will erupt then. One has to put one's emotions to one side and accept that there are differing points of view. I haven't watched any cricket prior to 1972 and so I have to rely on others for an appreciation of the players I was not fortunate enough to see. Some of you have plainly seen a lot less cricket than that. It is pure ego to imagine that nothing of any note occurred until one started watching the game.

  • dummy4fb on October 21, 2010, 23:06 GMT

    Really? This list falls short of mark.

    Surely Jason Gillespie over Danny Morrison. He did score a double ton, albeit against Bangladesh. But how many number 9s have scored centuries even at Shield/County level?

    Chanderpaul? I mean he's good, but if you want grit try Allan Border, even over Steve Waugh. I'd replace Boycott with Jack Hobbs or Sutcliffe.

  • dummy4fb on October 21, 2010, 21:08 GMT

    If you want a team to bat for your life I'd look at Bert Sutcliffe especially with his 80* inlcuding 7 6's vs South Africa 2nd test 1953-54. Very few test innings have shown the guts that he displayed in that test. He was batting with bandages wrapped aroud his head. No helmets in those days. You literally were batting for your life at times. He had a test average of 47 then when New Zealand was getting thrashed by one and all - not a lot has changed. His career average was over 40 in tests. I think in todays conditons you could add quite a lot to that. Also 44 tons and a top 1st class score of 385. I'd have to put in my team to save my life. While not wanting to just pick kiwis I'd pick the first John Reid batting at 11 instead of Danny Morrison.

  • srikanth.kvnap on October 21, 2010, 21:01 GMT

    i think this team was all about batting... no mention abt their bowling strength...how do u win a test match without taking 20 wickets???

  • AsherCA on October 21, 2010, 20:29 GMT

    Some batsmen whom I would put ahead of Shivnaraine Chandrapaul & Trevor Bailey on this list - Alan Border, Sunil Gavaskar & Javed Miandad. Ask Steve Waugh / Ricky Ponting, they will ask you to add VVS Laxman into the list, maybe ahead of Don as well !

    For those who talk about having bowlers in the 11 to win - Boycot & Chandrapaul will bat for a draw from day 1 itself, they will never have enough runs to win with.

  • NeonSpaceman on October 21, 2010, 19:26 GMT

    surely space for Kallis here? the man is made for this sort of thing.

  • dummy4fb on October 21, 2010, 19:05 GMT

    how can u have chanderpaul n not have dravid :S no logic to the selection

  • dummy4fb on October 21, 2010, 18:49 GMT

    For Cricketchopper: My team not only has batsmen with above 50 average but over 300 as HS and more than 6000 Test runs,more than 20 hundreds. You cannot slog and get 2 scores of over 300. ( Sehwag) Imran khan can qualify as a bowler alone, his average in last half of career was over 50 as a batman. one will definitely score over 300 for life.

  • dummy4fb on October 21, 2010, 18:46 GMT

    Huh!, no mention of Miandad, the one guy who would fight it till the cows go home!! Fighting for your life means winning, not just scoring meaningless runs!!

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