Back in late February 2007, ESPN selected its greatest Australian ODI team on the eve of the ICC World Cup in the Caribbean, which Australia subsequently won.
To refresh your memory, here is the best-ever team that was selected:
Adam Gilchrist (wk), Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting (vc), Dean Jones, Steve Waugh (c), Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Dennis Lillee, Glenn McGrath, Greg Chappell (12th man).
In the intervening almost six years, has anyone else put their name forward for inclusion among this team? Indeed, I nominate three players who are most worthy of selection in this XI – Michael Hussey, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke.
In my humble opinion Hussey and Watson are shoo-ins, while Clarke might have to wait his turn a little longer. So who would Hussey and Watson replace?
Hussey would replace no bigger a scalp than the nominated skipper above – Steve Waugh. Hussey’s batting average of 48.16 from 185 matches dwarfs Waugh’s of 32.91 from 325 matches.
Hussey also has an excellent superior strike rate of 87.18 to 75.91.
Keeping in mind that Hussey, like Waugh, is a tough-minded street fighter and also, like Waugh, a brilliant all-round fielder, his selection above Waugh is perfectly acceptable.
The captaincy thus passes to Ponting with either Gilchrist or Warne (my choice) as the new deputy. The fact that Waugh was a useful bowler is compensated by the next selection.
The other change I would make is Watson for Symonds. This is a tight decision but in the end the plusses outweigh the minuses. Symonds was a brutally powerful batter. His strike rate of 92.46 is second only to Gilchrist’s 96.95.
However, Watson currently at 88.28 is not a shrinking violet either when it comes to belting the white ball. Symonds was a brilliant fielder, arguably the best of many great fielders, but again, Watson doesn’t lose much by comparison.
Pertinently, Watson’s batting average of 41.48 is just higher than Symonds 39.75 but more importantly still, he is a much better bowler. It’s instructive to point out that Watson’s selection is predicated on him still bowling, which of course would happen in the ideal world of all-time selections.
Right now at this point in time, Watson has captured 155 wickets in 154 matches (one wicket per match) at an average of 28.83 and S/R of 36.01.
Both these figures dwarf Symonds’ bowling of 133 wickets from 198 matches at 37.26 and S/R of 44.62.
Clarke is pressing Jones hard. His batting average of 45.07 from 223 matches just shades Jones’ 44.62 from 164 matches. Clarke also has the better S/R of 78.41 to 72.57.
However, this is too close to call at the moment. We don’t know if Clarke has reached his highwater mark, or that he will get better. Meanwhile, Jones’ fielding in the covers helps keep him in the top side.
For the moment.
So a revamped Australian greatest ODI team now looks like this:
Adam Gilchrist (wk), Mark Waugh, Ricky Ponting (c), Dean Jones, Michael Hussey, Michael Bevan, Shane Watson, Shane Warne (vc), Brett Lee, Dennis Lillee, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds (12th man).
This team bats down to Lee at no. 9 and has five frontline bowlers plus the extra options of M.Waugh and Bevan. It also possesses an outstanding array of all-round fielders.
Often, in order to appreciate the best XI, we need to see who made the second XI. So, pulling Symonds out as 12th man and injecting him into the second XI along with S.Waugh, Clarke, Chappell and others, how good is Australia’s second best-ever ODI team?
Geoff Marsh, Matt Hayden, Brad Haddin (wk), Greg Chappell, Michael Clarke (vc), Steve Waugh (c), Andrew Symonds, Simon O’Donnell, Brad Hogg, Jason Gillespie, Craig McDermott.
This team bats even deeper to Gillespie at no.10. It also possesses five frontline bowlers plus more than useful support from S.Waugh, Chappell and Clarke. Again, there is an array of outstanding fielders.
Two quick points here. Hayden has both a better average (43.81 to 39.35) and S/R (78.96 to 76.83) than Mark Waugh. However, it is not a straight swap of one batter for another. In Waugh’s defence is his much more brilliant fielding in almost any position and useful mix of pace and spin bowling.
Brad Hogg is clearly our next best ODI spinner after Warne. He has a very useful batting average of 20.06 from 123 matches and 156 wickets at 26.85 and a S/R of 35.67.
What do fellow Roarers think?
In my next instalment, I will look at who might have made an Australian all-time ODI team from 1877-1970.