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

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

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