Raising in India in 70s and 80s when Indians did not have much of entertainment apart from Test Cricket (and Bollywood to some extent), the name of English Test Cricket Umpire Dicky Bird is familiar. He was the top notch umpire very often heard on radio commentary. So when he pulls off his all time great XI and media frenzy ensues in India on omission of Sachin Tendulkar in that list, I thought why not take a crack at declaring my own Cricket All Time XI? This is what then I have to show you on one Friday evening:
1. Opener on strike: Sunil Gavaskar (India) - You want your perfect technician on the job here. You very rarely get anything better than Gavaskar in that department. In 70s and 80s, he was 'the hope' of India and he delivered on that - tremendous concentration and mastery on technique. You never forget basics, that is the lesson here.
2. Opener on non-strike: Gordon Greenidge (West Indies) - You need hammer at the other end. Here he is. (If Sehwag was more reliable, he would be here too.)
3. One Down: Vivian Richards (West Indies) - Still no one can surpass the 'swagger and sex appeal' of this guy in Cricket. Mastery in batting and demolishing any best bowling attack on any wicket - that just comes with the territory named 'Viv' in Test Cricket.
4. Two Down: Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) - You need this Sri Lankan spirit to lit the fire in the middle order. Equally adept wicket keeper who will supplant the role of Vice Captain.
5. All Rounder: Jacques Kallis (South Africa) - Forget his bowling; his batting performance, temperament and numbers in last few years are more than enough to place him in the line of Donald Bradman (if Bradman were to play in modern era). Just the prodigious guy.
6. Wicket Keeper: Adam Gilchrist (Australia) - Again his batting powers and accomplishments would place him easily as the opener or one down batsman in most successful teams. He has been prolific in front of the stump as well as behind the stump.
7. Captain: Steve Waugh (Australia) - The captain who made sure that you make on an average 3.5 to 4 runs per over, you make 250 to 300 runs in a single day and who revived Test Cricket to take Australia to the pinnacle of Test Cricket. You need a 'thinking captain, an evolving captain' for a successful team. Look no better than Steve Waugh. He personified 'leadership' on field - equal measure tactical cunning and strategic long term planning. If he were to be in Corporate World, his are the leadership qualities most Board Rooms will be glad to have. (You can imagine how highly I regard him if my most admired Captain - Clive Lloyd - makes a room for him. Captain of a Test Cricket Team is 'the heart and the brain of the team'. Essentially he is the coach, manager and individual contributor - ultimate form of 'lead by example'; very classical manifestation of leadership.)
8. Spin Bowler: Shane Warne (Australia) - Do you need any introduction to this 'magic?
9. Fast Bowler: Dennis Lillee (Australia) - You must be out of your mind not to include the 'complete bowler' of Cricket. He defines what is 'fast bowling in Cricket'. That art of fast bowling and the eternal fight between 'red cherry and bat' is nowhere without Dennis. Caught Marsh bowled Lillee - over years Australian Captains saw this for 95 times!
10. Fast Bowler: Malcom Marshall (West Indies) - The bowler who was nemesis of the best defense in the world - Gavaskar and the bowler who shamed Indian Test Cricket Team to 90 All Down at Eden Gardens in December of 1983.
11. Fast Bowler: Glenn McGrath (Australia) - The bowler who re-taught the importance of 'line and length' to Cricketing world.
12. Batsman: Sachin Tendulkar (India): Still great. If Sports was about the 'integrity of a player'; he would always win that. No player received and deserved so much love from Indians and Cricket fans all over the world. He has done lot to the game of Cricket.
13. Batsman: Rahul Dravid (India): Cricinfo says "Rahul Dravid was probably one of the last classical Test match batsmen". Playing in foreign land in adverse conditions - no other heir than Rahul to the perfectionist Cricket of Gavaskar. Who can forget what he achieved on the first day of Test in Headingley in England - "It was a magnificent performance, built on a sublime first-day century by Dravid which Hussain graciously described as one of the finest he had seen". Now, that is Test Cricket. Of course what Rahul achieved with Very Very Special Laxman in Eden Gardens is very worthy too; those two innings alone are sufficient for someone to get catapulted to greats of Batting in Cricket.
14. All Rounder Bowler: Ian Botham (England) - Pure force of Cricketing Nature who can single handedly turn the entire Test Series! In 1981 Ashes Test Series England came from behind to beat Australia by 3-1 and of the 6 Test Match Series, Botham was Man of the Match for 3rd, 4th and 5th Test Matches. Rarely an individual has dominated Test Cricket in its totality for about 20 days or so.
15. Fast Bowler: Curtly Ambrose (West Indies) - I had hard time justifying Malcom Marshal's position to Curtly Ambrose. In fairness, both class bowlers are indistinguishable; anyone would deliver. If at all, Ambrose's achievements might be more profound compared to Marshall as Ambrose was carrying the weight of West Indies Team when there were not many stars and the team was in doldrums whereas Marshal had the luxury of bowling along with many other illumines. Bowling in company of many other greats is always easy.
16. Fast Bowler: Michael Holding (West Indies) - Another one who can equally replace Marshal or Ambrose. Probably no one can beat him for the rhythm and artistry he brought to pace bowling; equally backed by precision to deliver fantastic results.
17. Spin Bowler: Bishen Bedi (India) - That 'thinking spin bowler', India should be proud off.
18. Captain: Clive Lloyd (West Indies) - Napoleon said, he would prefer a 'lucky General over a brave General'. That lucky General in Cricketing History has been Clive Lloyd. When you have a team bursting with talents like Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards and tons of all time best pace bowlers (Andy Roberts, Malcom Marshal, Micheal Holding, Joel Garner, Holder and Clark); 'luck' is at your feet. His greatness has been harnessing 'greatest of individual players' simultaneously. So probably for the 'captainship of a star studded team'; he could be still a better choice.
Umpire - Sure Dickie Bird is welcome.
Opposing Team - From Sobers to Bradman to current invincible South African Test team; all those will have only one result - defeat at the hands of my all time Test Cricketing Greats!