As far back as I can remember, I’ve consumed an unhealthy diet of watching too much sport. I find myself sometimes not immersed with the action on the television screen but subconsciously drifting into the realm of fantasy and hypothetical.
What if LeBron James hadn’t picked up a basketball at an early age and instead embraced athletics? Could team sport’s most physically imposing specimen possibly surpass the deeds of Usain Bolt in the 100m?
If a time machine existed and was able create a one-off Test match, who would win – 1984 West Indies versus 2002 Australia?
These are a few of the ridiculous fantasies that continually warp my bleary brain.
While watching the recent IPL, I pondered how past cricket greats would have fared in the sport’s newest sensation – the T20 format.
So, I present ten cricketers from yesteryear that I wish could have showcased their talents in cricket’s most frenetic format.
10. Jeff Thomson
T20 cricket has been derided, perhaps unfairly, as mere entertainment fodder. Hit and giggle cricket, scoff some cricket connoisseurs.
But even the most ardent cricket elitist would have to admit the sight of lightning quick (insert Lee or Maligna) starting an innings with a thunderbolt to a blaster (insert Gayle or Warner) is an exhilarating experience.
If urban legend is indeed not mendacious, Thomson could hurl a cricket ball at about 170km/h – 10km/h faster than Brett Lee or Shoaib Akhtar’s most lethal.
Even middling bowlers such as Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes have been prized T20 commodities because of not only their team’s need for speed but because they provide pizzazz so irrefutably linked with the format.
So, imagine the firebrand Thomson charging to the crease and hurtling one of his archetypal slingers amid cricket’s craziest format?
Occasionally, he would have been smashed out of the stadium. At times, his fury would have broken the stumps into smithereens.
His typical figures would probably read 3-42 from four overs.
What’s beyond debate is that Thomson would have been one of T20’s most memorable entertainers.
9. Abdul Qadir
When it became clear the T20 format was more than a fad in the mid-2000s, doomsayers were predicting spinners would cop the brunt of T20’s wrath.
Spinners globally breathed a collective sigh of relief when it became evident that slow bowlers were a palpable part of the format.
Qadir’s wizardry helped resuscitate the art of spin bowling during the gloomy days of the 1980s and he was the prototype for Shane Warne’s eventual meteoric rise.
The Pakistani’s beguiling leg breaks no doubt would have earned him great success, not to mention healthy remuneration, in T20 cricket.
8. Romesh Kaluwitharana
Adam Gilchrist deservedly warrants the plaudits for being cricket’s greatest wicketkeeper/batsman and a once-in-a-generation marvel.
But Sri Lanka’s diminutive Kaluwitharana was the revolutionary wicketkeeper, who dazzled ODI cricket when he formed a trailblazing opening partnership with Sanath Jayasuriya in the mid-‘90s.
Kalu’s contribution to challenging wicketkeeper typecasting has been overshadowed by Gilchrist’s brilliance.
It is unlikely Kalu would have become blotted from mainstream relevance had he played cricket’s shortest game.
7. Dennis Lillee
“LILEEEEEEEEE. LILEEEEEEEE.” The crowd’s memorable chant for the moustached menace would have perfectly complemented the boisterous atmosphere typical at a T20 spectacle.
Lillee is generally regarded as the greatest fast bowler to ever play the sport. He is one of the most loveable and iconic cricketers of all-time.
6. Jonty Rhodes
T20 cricket has a knack of conjuring miraculous catches. Even traditionalists belittling the format would become rapturous watching the abundance of spectacular catches during the IPL thus far.
The best fielder I have seen is Jonty Rhodes. Technically, he did play T20 cricket for Gloucestershire during the format’s infancy in 2003.
But T20 missed out on the Jonty Rhodes – the always hyperactive fielder, whose relentless energy, pinpoint accuracy and sublime reflexes petrified batsmen worldwide.
I’m positive his dynamic T20 fielding would have become a YouTube sensation.
5. Sir Ian Botham
This list could have been littered with a bevy of brilliant all-rounders from its ‘80s heyday – Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Sir Richard Hadlee all deserve selection.
But I’m giving the nod to the dynamic Englishman, who in the truest sense really was a match-winning all-rounder with either bat or ball.
What distinguishes himself from his counterparts was his swagger. His sometimes questionable temperament only added to his intrigue.
Botham was always essential viewing when part of the action and would have been one of T20s greatest drawcards.
4. Wasim Akram
Like Rhodes, Akram did play T20 cricket at the tail of his distinguished career in 2003 for Hampshire.
When I watch Mitch Starc scythe batsmen with his scorching swingers, I’m left wondering the damage Akram would have inflicted.
Akram is arguably ODI cricket’s greatest bowler, and it’s reasonable to suggest that he would have relished the T20 format, with aggressive batsmen seeking quick runs.
The Pakistani’s underrated quality in his arsenal was his intelligence. He continually outwitted batsmen. It’s not hard to imagine he would have outfoxed many in T20.
Oh, and he was also a very useful hard-hitting lower order batsman.
3. Sir Viv Richards
It’s pretty hard to argue that Sachin Tendulkar is not the greatest ODI batsman ever. It’s also difficult to envisage another batsman eclipsing his records of 18,000+ runs and 49 hundreds. His career totality appears immortal.
But one could argue that the West Indian Master Blaster was the more devastating batsman, averaging 47 with a strike rate of 90 in ODIs during an era where a strike rate of 70 was deemed acceptable.
Richards was an implacable object, who relished dominating with disdain. His compatriot Chris Gayle is probably the modern T20 master – averaging 44 with a strike rate of an astonishing 154.
I don’t mean to be flippant of Gayle, but he’s a Viv Richards impostor. Given the chance, I’m adamant Richards would have been the most feared T20 batsman of all.
2. Sir Garfield Sobers
Sobers was the most talented all-round Test cricketer ever. Unfortunately, he only played one ODI match (out for a duck), so there is scant evidence of his abilities in cricket’s shortest formats.
Most likely, his swashbuckling batting would have feasted amid the aggressiveness of T20, after all he was the first cricketer to hit six consecutive sixes in an over in first class cricket.
His brilliant fielding would have created havoc but it’s his bowling that intrigues.
Sobers’ left arm medium/fast bowling is the indelible image with ball but his genius expanded his repertoire, with Sir Garry skilled at bowling two types of spin – left arm orthodox and wrist spin.
Which leads to the salivating question. Due to spin success at the T20 level, would Sobers have primarily bowled spin?
1. Sir Don Bradman
As he has in many cricket annals, The Don tops this hypothetical list.
The greatest batsman ever only hit six sixes during his illustrious 52-Test career. Bradman’s highly successful methodology was based on the premise that if he hit every ball along the ground then he wouldn’t be dismissed.
In the helter skelter game of T20, that methodology would largely have to be abandoned. Or would the great man be tenacious and back his amazing ability to dissect gaps along the ground?
At some stage, the Don would have to go over the top and I’m pretty certain he would have conformed comfortably.
He would have amassed more than six maximums during a T20 stint.
T20 would have created a more frenzied version of Bradman. Alas, this is mere fantasy.