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The best home v visiting XIs - part two

Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne make it to four overseas XIs - the only other one to do so is their longtime team-mate Adam Gilchrist Getty Images

Spurred on by a casual suggestion from a reader, I embarked on an exhilarating journey which culminated in a pair of articles on the best XIs to visit each country. These two articles elicited tremendous response from the readers and they wanted me to make some important tweaks. They also wanted me to select an all-time best Home XI. I did this composite work for Australia, England, India and West Indies in part one. These tweaks are also explained there.

The changes, in summary, are:

- Less weight for Runs scored/Wickets captured.
- Add "The Pitch Quality" as a weighting measure.
- Add "Support available" as a weighting measure.
- A totally revised method to adjust the RpAI/Bowling Average values.
- And finally, treat the UAE Tests as "Home" Tests for Pakistan.

In this concluding article, I will cover the remaining four countries: South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

South Africa home XI

The selection of the home team for South Africa is reasonably straightforward. The top four are giants and automatic selections. Who could argue against a quartet of Jacques Kallis, Herbie Taylor, Graeme Pollock and Dudley Nourse? Those who are not familiar with the South African teams during the war years, Nourse was the backbone of the team. There were no easy tours or teams since all Tests were against the strong English and Australian sides. Taylor was an excellent opening batsman who faced up to Sydney Barnes and Co very effectively. Kallis and Pollock select themselves.

Now I have to find a partner for Taylor and another middle-order batsman. Graeme Smith is well within the shortlist and will also make an excellent captain. Hashim Amla's record is marginally better than AB de Villiers and I select Amla to complete the batting group.

There is no need to go beyond Mark Boucher, who has a record gather of 309 dismissals and 3001 runs in 75 Tests. These are colossal figures and represent the best performance by a wicketkeeper at home.

The pace bowlers almost select themselves. Of the top four, it is an easy task to leave out Makhaya Ntini and select Dale Steyn, Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald. It is indeed nice that Hugh Tayfield makes the cut, making his selection a formality. Even if he had not made the shortlist, I would have taken Tayfield, one of the best offspinners of all time.

The 12th man is AB de Villiers, a very deserving choice indeed.

South Africa visiting XI

The top three batsmen to tour South Africa are obvious choices. Jack Hobbs is the undisputed opener. David Warner, with his terrific single tour, makes it very difficult to be left out. It is not just the runs and RpAI, but the quality of bowling he faced that matters. Wally Hammond, as the seam-bowling allrounder, is at No. 3.

Neil Harvey has performed very well in Tests in South Africa. He provides left-handed elegance of the highest quality. There are two more batting places and three players competing for the positions. I selected Stephen Fleming and Ricky Ponting, reluctantly leaving out Sachin Tendulkar. Ponting's marginally better numbers edged out Tendulkar.

There is real competition between Adam Gilchrist and Jack Russell for the wicketkeeper position. Gilchrist is far ahead as a batsman (52.3 vs 20.0). However Russell has better keeping credentials (27 in 5 vs 26 in 6). With Alan Davidson to come, do I need Gilchrist's batting skills? Maybe not. I have bitten the bullet and selected Gilchrist.

The bowling selection is quite tough. Sydney Barnes selects himself. Then there are two legendary legspinners: Clarrie Grimmett (five matches, 44 wickets at 14.59 and Shane Warne (12 matches, 61 wickets at 19.18). I thought for quite some time whether to take both legspinners. Finally I went with Grimmett. Now, another choice between Davidson and Mitchell Johnson. Davidson's better numbers prevailed so he is my second pace bowler. Now comes the final pace-bowling spot. In eight Tests, Glenn McGrath has captured 29 wickets at 19.29 and Javagal Srinath, 43 wickets at 22.83. McGrath's lower strike rate works against him, so I go with Srinath. This has been one tough selection. There would have been no lack of quality if I had gone with Barnes, Warne, Johnson and McGrath.

I have a real surprise in my 12th man selection. Look at the figures of Phillip Hughes: five matches, 532 runs at 67.44, against top-class bowling. As someone who cried when Hughes died and felt that his demise was a terrible loss to world cricket, I have no hesitation to honour his memory by naming him the 12th man of this side.

The TSIs are about 20% apart. Taking this and the home advantage into account the result of a five-Tests series is likely to be 3-2, with the edge to the visiting team.

Pakistan home XI

The Pakistan home team selection could have been done by a three-year old. Just look at the top six batsmen in the shortlist, confirm that there are two renowned opening batsmen there and select the six: Hanif Mohammad, Saeed Ahmed, Javed Miandad, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

Now the bowlers. Check out the top four, be overjoyed that this is among the most balanced and incisive attack any team has fielded, and select these four: Imran Khan (also captain), Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir.

Look at the top two keepers. Remember that this is almost like the South Africa visiting keeper selection. Kamran Akmal is the better batsman while Saleem Yousuf is the more capable keeper, so we select Yousuf.

The 12th man is the stylish Zaheer Abbas.

Pakistan visiting XI

The selection of the batsmen to visit Pakistan is almost equally easy. Virender Sehwag, Kumar Sangakkara, Sanjay Manjrekar and AB de Villiers are the to-four in the shortlist and are straightforward selections. I need an opener to walk in with Sehwag. Gary Kirsten and Sunil Gavaskar present themselves. Gavaskar's number of runs and good RpAI value gives him the edge. So Gavaskar walks in with Sehwag. The sixth batting place is a straight contest between Sanath Jayasuriya and Kallis. Jayasuriya's all-time classic of 253 ranks amongst the top ten innings ever played. If ever an innings selects a player, this is the one. So Jayasuriya gets the nod ahead of Kallis.

Prasanna Jayawardene and Ian Healy are very closely locked together in numbers. Virtually nothing separates them. But the fact that Healy has more experience makes me select Healy as the keeper to tour Pakistan

The bowling selection is easy. The top four bowlers present a formidable quartet and I see no reason to separate them. Malcolm Marshall, McGrath, Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan could very well be the four greatest Test bowlers ever.

Gary Kirsten, who missed the opening spot by a whisker, is the 12th man.

The TSIs are about 20% apart. Taking this and the home advantage into account the result of a five-Tests series is likely to be 3-2, with the edge to the visiting team.

New Zealand home XI

The selection of the home team for New Zealand is like the Pakistan selection. Among the top six players are two excellent opening batsmen. Fleming misses out, but cannot be helped. He was terrific away, but not that great at home. So Glenn Turner, John Wright, Martin Crowe, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Craig McMillan form the top six in the team.

I can already see a few "Oh no, are you out of your mind? McMillan in seventh place?" reactions. Yes, I am aware of it. Brendon McCullum is my chosen wicketkeeper. He spent a fair bit of his career behind the stumps and was a top-class keeper.

The bowling selection is not that straightforward. It is easy to pencil in Richard Hadlee and Trent Boult. It is also possible to identify Daniel Vettori as the lead spinner, with a Test batting average of 32-plus to boot. What about the fourth pacer? There are many candidates: Chris Martin, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Chris Cairns, Richard Collinge. Collinge has the best figures and he is the not-so-obvious last bowler selected.

The 12th man is Chris Cairns, the most consistent bowler in history of Test cricket and no mean batsman.

New Zealand visiting XI

The sequence in the shortlist is only a guidance for me. However I have treated the shortlist itself as sacred and not once gone out of it. So when I have two world-class openers placed comfortably in the shortlist, I have no hesitation in selecting them. Therefore, Herschelle Gibbs and Chris Gayle (the refreshing Test opener that he was, not the six-hitting robot he has become) will walk in as the unlikely, but effective, opening pair.

Hammond scored at the rate of 214 per innings against awful bowlers. This fact has been taken into account and his RpAI has been capped at 100. But he is still at No.1 and that fact cannot be ignored. Miandad was all class when he toured New Zealand. Greg Chappell was nearly as good and he gets in, and is also the captain. The last batting position is between Nurse and Rahul Dravid. I have plumped for Dravid because of the number of Tests and runs.

Adam Gilchrist towers above everyone for the keeper position, that too with an RpAI of nearly 70.

The top three bowlers are Warne, Akram and McGrath. The fourth bowler choice is between Shaun Pollock and Joel Garner. Garner's average is the best amongst all bowlers to tour New Zealand, so he gets the nod.

Shakib Al Hasan is the 12th man.

The TSIs are about 25% apart. Taking this and the home advantage into account, the result of a five-Tests series is likely to be 3-1, with a clear edge to the visiting team. Could even go 4-1.

Sri Lanka home XI

The Sri Lankan home selection process continues in the same vein. The top six batsmen, Jayasuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Aravinda de Silva, Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Mathews are in. I am not going to break up this group, just to get an opener in, so Mahela Jayawardene will open with Jayasuriya.

Prasanna Jayawardene is far ahead of the rest in the keeper stakes. So he is in.

The top three bowlers have served Sri Lanka for hundreds of Tests and are in by right. Do I go then with Ajantha Mendis, Dilruwan Perera or Dilhara Fernando. With two top-class spinners and Jayasuriya, why would I need another spinner? It is also true that there have been times when Sri Lankan pitches have been pace-friendly. So I have selected Dilhara Fernando, to complement Murali, Rangana Herath and Chaminda Vaas.

Dilruwan Perera is the 12th man.

Sri Lanka visiting XI

Brian Lara's selection to tour Sri Lanka must be one of the most certain picks among all XIs. His three-Test performance is, arguably, the greatest series performance by any player in the history of the game. The next four batsmen select themselves: Fleming, Sehwag, Tendulkar and Younis complete the top five. I will opt for Younis to open with Sehwag. That leaves me with one batting/allrounder spot. I will take in Vettori, who provides me with spin bowling support. Ponting just misses out.

It will be a pleasure to select Mushfiqur Rahim for the keeper position. He, along with Shakib, has transformed Bangladesh cricket and deserves this recognition. I will go left-field and also make him my captain.

I saw the top four bowlers in the list and took five seconds to decide that this will do. Warne, Hadlee, Akram and Waqar: what a great combination, arguably the best ever to tour a country.

Incidentally this selection, along with that of the Pakistan home team, is the only one in which the top six batsmen and top four bowlers have been selected.

Ponting, who just missed selection, is the 12th man.

The TSIs are about 25% apart. Taking this and the home advantage into account, the result of a five-Tests series is likely to be 3-1, with a clear edge to the visiting team. Could even go 4-1.

A final summary:

Gilchrist, McGrath and Warne have been selected in four visiting teams each. Hammond and Dravid in three. No fewer than 14 players have been selected in two teams each and 42 others in one team. This makes a total of 61 players.

Many thanks to all the readers who have participated in this quartet of wonderful articles. My sincere thanks and gratitude to all the readers who have been with me during what has been a memorable and unforgettable journey across the years.