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Suresh Menon's elegant XI

Poetry in motion

Eleven players who couldn't be graceless if they tried

Suresh Menon

October 18, 2010

Comments: 121 | Text size: A | A

Ray Lindwall in his delivery stride, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 2nd day, August 17, 1953
Ray Lindwall: one half of Jim Laker's dream bowling pair © Hulton Archive

The trick in choosing an Elegant XI is to list favourites and then find slots for them rather than go by positions, balance, or indeed, records. It helps, for example, that Frank Worrell opened in four of his 51 Tests; he moves to the top, therefore, opening up a slot in the middle order. Sir Frank, as Neville Cardus said, never made a crude or ungrammatical stroke in his life - and that is as good a description as any for the batsmen here.

The Elegant XI is also the Poetry-in-Motion XI, as evidenced by the bowlers. Jim Laker once wrote that his idea of heaven was to have Ray Lindwall bowling from one end and Bishan Bedi from the other, so this could just as easily be the Heaven XI, for it contains both Lindwall and Bedi.

To leave out Archie Jackson, Alan Kippax, Roy Dias, Zaheer Abbas, Tom Graveney, Greg Chappell, Martin Crowe, Mark Waugh, VVS Laxman and Saeed Anwar is a wrench, and I am not sure if Jim Laker was a more elegant bowler than S Venkataraghavan. Grainy film footage of him bowling in the 1950s is inconclusive, so even in an XI where records and averages do not matter, he makes it for his superior record.

1. Victor Trumper
"The art of Trumper is like an art in a bird's flight, an art that knows not how wonderful it is. Batting was for him a superb dissipation, a spontaneous spreading of fine feathers." - Neville Cardus

2. Frank Worrell (capt)
"Worrell told me that as soon as a ball was delivered he could tell the blade of grass on which it was going to drop and therefore could place his feet and body for any stroke he wanted to make… There was no memory of anyone scoring runs with such grace and power." - CLR James

3. David Gower
"Half England wants to mother him or marry him, and everyone else wants to bat as he does, as if in some enchanted dream. Wry in calamity, nonchalant in triumph, never straining too hard." - Peter Roebuck

4. Gundappa Viswanath
To many he was the real Little Master, for the mastery involved innovation and the ability to utilise the grammar of the game to compose its poetry.

5. Ranji
"He was a law unto himself. His extraordinary quickness of mind and eye allowed him to do things utterly impracticable for others. He broke the hearts of the best fast bowlers by the way he deflected their fastest deliveries to the boundary." - H S Altham

6. Frank Woolley
This great allrounder said of himself, "When I am batting, I am the attack." Robertson-Glasgow said Woolley was "easy to watch, difficult to bowl to and impossible to write about".

7. Alan Knott
"[He was] an original, his keeping so undemonstrative that its excellence was not always appreciated until a wide catch allowed him to display his agility." -Tony Pawson

8. Jim Laker
"Jim possessed a classical action, side-on looking over his left arm, coming down hard on a braced left leg and swivelling so sharply that he even dug a pit on soft turf. It was perfection." -Trevor Bailey

9. Michael Holding
"A former track athlete, Holding, tall and sparsely built, has a long, lithe, lissom run-up, elbows pumping like a dancer's, head reared as if to delight in the zephyr resulting from his own fleetness. His gyratory action climaxes in an apparently effortless release of the ball." -David Frith

10. Ray Lindwall
"The genius of Lindwall was expressed in a variety of ways, not least in his cleverly disguised and devastating pace changes and in a bouncer delivered without any giveaways… When I saw Lindwall approaching I sensed the expectancy. A hush would descend on the ground." -Len Hutton

11. Bishan Bedi
"When you have seen Bishan Bedi twirl down his spinners after 60 overs with the same gentle rhythm as he settled into at the start of the spell, you understand why his is a great bowling action. A clockmaker would have been proud to set Bedi in motion - a mechanism finely balanced, cogs rolling silently and hands sweeping in smooth arcs across the face." -Tony Lewis

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

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Posted by Sportsscientist on (October 21, 2010, 21:02 GMT)

i don't think people are reading this is the leegant XI????? why are people nominating Inzy??? and I agree that it's tough to have sachin ahead of lawrence rowe, zaheer abbas, or vvs, or even calr hooper (I must admit I forgot about him) you could argue that Imran Khan was graceful....but again he had a dynamic edge to him.....but marshal??? NO WAY.....and I am the biggest west indies fan there is !!!!!! marshall was the supreme master.......but he was not graceful..... how about Garth Mckenzie for a graceful quick bowler???

Posted by   on (October 21, 2010, 18:44 GMT)

I think, in bowling Marshal and Imran are two names this guy has either deliberatley missed or he never saw them, Imran's action was a hero's action, hearts would beat along his run-up, and on his final jump as a lion, the girls would faint, Someone tell this writer, the meaning of poetry!!

Posted by Navillus on (October 21, 2010, 17:55 GMT)

This is an interesting take on the AT XI fever, much better than Dileep Premachandran's version ... here is another interesting take on the difficulties of All Time XI selection by this blogger who is turning out to be my favourite writer ... .. he discusses whether he should take Sachin of 98 or 2010 ... and Sehwag with or without hair ...

Posted by   on (October 21, 2010, 10:00 GMT)

i saw David Gower's batting clips and found that he was good, but to liken him to Mark waugh is stretching too much. Mark had that grace, elegance, finesse which was best amongst his peers and he can find a place in any xi picked on the basis of elegance.

Posted by bongalkar on (October 21, 2010, 6:03 GMT)

Hello Mr Menon you are unanimously selected as the captain of the mediocre jury XI. Now pick your X yourself .... enjoy

Posted by PakPhenom on (October 21, 2010, 5:09 GMT)

Was there ever a more aesthetically pleasing batsman than Brian Lara? VVS should get a mention too. And Abdul Qadir was literally poetry in motion...

Posted by waspsting on (October 20, 2010, 17:08 GMT)

Lawrence Rowe, Sayeed Anwar and Zaheer Abbas should all make the cut. Zaheer was far easier on the eyes than Viswanath. Gower and Worrell i would retain, and Trumper just on reputation. Imran Khan would be in in place of Laker - his action was so beautiful. As for keepers, Dujon wold get my vote. he was a very elegant batsman, and his keeping was very stylish-acrobatic.

Posted by Biggus on (October 20, 2010, 12:23 GMT)

@JKSFB-I demand to have an Aussie in that ugly XI. I suggest one of my childhood heroes former NSW and AUS allrounder Gary (Gus) Gilmour, who I reckon could break a mirror at 20 paces. @cozico-sure do. One of the great could have beens of modern cricket. Was indeed a sweet player but he didn't look to good here in 75/76 but such is life when you are desperately out of form against an attack like that. Cheers all!

Posted by Biggus on (October 20, 2010, 7:02 GMT)

@Santhosh Kudva- A friend of mine once said that listening to jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli was like "watching honey drip off a table". Watching David Gower bat was a but like that-he was awfully pretty to watch, which is the point of this XI. You have mentioned some names that might have well been included and I acknowledge the beauty of their play but I guess the list has stop somewhere. It just shows what a thankless task being a selector is, even of a fantasy XI. My fellow countryman Mark Waugh could as you said have easily been included but, c'est la vie! Just too many beautiful stylists and not enough space. We should consider ourselves lucky that this is so. Cheers!

Posted by   on (October 20, 2010, 6:14 GMT)

mark waugh, damien martyn, vvs laxman, sangakkara, andy flower esp. against spin, aravinda de silva and carl hooper. gower is overrated.

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Suresh MenonClose
Suresh Menon Suresh Menon went from being a promising cricketer to a has-been, without the intervening period of a major career. He played league cricket in three cities with a group of overgrown enthusiasts who had the reverse of amnesia - they could remember things that never happened. For example, taking incredible catches at slip, or scoring centuries. Somehow Menon found the time to be the sports editor of the Pioneer and the Indian Express in New Delhi, Gulf News in Dubai, and the editor of the New Indian Express in Chennai. Currently he is a columnist with publications in India and abroad, and is beginning to think he might never play for India.

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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