June 24, 2013

How much would you bid for them?

A fantasy T20 team of players who would have been stars of the format if they had played it

Colin Milburn
But for the unfortunate car accident in 1969 that cost him an eye - and, effectively, his career - the beefy Milburn might have been the first global star of the one-day international game. Instead, it's a case of what might have been. He enlivened many a sleepy day in Northampton, and once clouted 181 in a session in a Sheffield Shield match.

George Bonnor
The 19th-century prototype for Kieron Pollard, the lanky Bonnor made five Ashes tours of England despite modest results (a career batting average of 21), because he was capable of match-turning batting when his eye was in. Bonnor's 128 in Sydney in 1884-85 - his only Test century - was made in less than two hours, and included three sixes, which in those days were only awarded if the ball went out of the ground. He was also once caught from a hit so steepling that the batsmen had turned for the third run before the ball was safely held by a nervous Fred Grace (WG's brother).

Don Bradman
The Don wasn't the first name on my fantasy T20 teamsheet - but when I looked at the contenders, I couldn't see any reason to leave him out. Bradman wasn't a prolific six-hitter, preferring to keep the ball on the ground - but he could slog when he needed to, which wasn't often as he maintained a healthy scoring rate without resorting to violence. And admit it, we'd all love to watch him bat, wouldn't we?

Viv Richards
Viv didn't so much hit the ball as dismiss it from his presence: and I reckon he'd have matched Chris Gayle in the T20 hitting stakes if he'd had the chance. Just ask the England bowlers he caned for a record 56-ball hundred in a Test in Antigua in 1985-86, or the England bowlers he caned for 189 in an ODI in 1984, or the England bowlers who... well, you get the picture.

Gilbert Jessop
"The Croucher" might just have been the most destructive hitter of all: his assiduous biographer Gerald Brodribb worked out that his 180 scores of 50-plus in first-class cricket came at an average rate of 79 per 100 balls. Jessop hit 53 centuries, five of them doubles - but only once ever batted for more than three hours (240 in 200 minutes for Gloucestershire v Sussex in Bristol in 1907). He was also one of the first to use a heavy bat; his favourite was 3lb 4oz, about a pound heavier than was usual at the time. Jessop smashed fast and slow bowling alike, from a distinctive low stance. His IPL auction price would have been astronomical.

Garry Sobers
Before there was Brian Lara and his extravagant backlift (which led to beautiful extra-extravagant extra-cover-drives) there was Sobers: his backlift was just as spectacular, and his follow-through just as devastating. And, unlike Lara, Sobers bowled too - speed, swing and spin (which might come in useful in this short format). Sir Garry was another born a decade or so too early: he could have been a one-day legend, but actually played only one ODI (and bagged a duck).

Keith Miller
Not many people would get into a Test side for their batting or their bowling, but Keith Miller would (and he's about the last Australian you could say that about). Miller's matinee-idol looks (and alleged fling with Princess Margaret) would have made him a celebrity of Warne-like luminescence today. There must be a chance, though, that this team will score so many runs that he'd get bored, as in Southend-on-Sea in 1948 when, with the Australians on course for their record haul of 721 runs in a day against Essex, Miller allowed himself to be bowled for a duck.

Ian Botham
Just possibly an allrounder too many - and still no room for Kapil Dev or Imran Khan or Mike Procter - but who would dare leave "Beefy" out? Just the memory of him smashing his first ball in the 1985 Edgbaston Ashes Test back over the pacy Craig McDermott's head for six will do for me: rarely has the wind been removed so suddenly from Australian sails. And that ignores the rest of Botham's Test runs (more than 5000), the England-record wicket haul (383), and prehensile catching (120 catches in Tests). He'd also be in charge of the after-match parties...

Alan Knott
I wondered about a six-hitter like Rod Marsh as my wicketkeeper, or an acclaimed batsman-stumper like Les Ames or Farokh Engineer. But in the end I plumped for Knott, the best wicketkeeper I ever saw, and a batsman whose impish inventiveness might just come in useful in the unlikely event of all the hitters failing to come off.

Arthur Wellard
David Foot described Wellard as a "village blacksmith cricketer", and his fast-medium bowling will come in useful - although it will be his batting that people will want to see. Wellard didn't worry too much about running between wickets: of his career total of over 12,000 runs, about a quarter came in the shape of 500-odd sixes. That included 72 in 1935, which remained a record until Botham, a fellow Somerset smiter, smashed 80 in 1985.

Bishan Bedi
For our main slow man I considered offspinners Jim Laker and Hugh Tayfield (a noted dot-ball merchant), and also the Indian allrounder Vinoo Mankad, among others. But I didn't think our No. 11 really needed to bat, and went for the fun of watching Bedi, patka wobbling, enticing the sloggers to their doom. He probably wouldn't enjoy being allowed only four overs to spin his web, though.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2013