Rare concurrent fixturing has given Australia the best possible opportunity to fast-track its squad development in a time where it is desperately needed.
If it wasn’t for Cricket Australia trying to list the Best 100 Test Players since 2000, the team I am about to reveal would never have seen the light of day.
There were 803 players at the time of writing who have played a Test match since January 1, 2000.
Rather than create a bottom 100 list, I’ve got lazy and nailed it down to the Worst XI.
Some will say this is in bad taste. It would have been if I did it all myself. Unfortunately, the nomination thread went viral and that speaks highly of the interest in this topic.
My only stipulation when selecting the side was that there was a 10-Test minimum. I may have broken this rule when it suited me. Actually, I pretty much ignored it.
Desperately unlucky to gain selection as an opener was Sherwin Campbell, who averaged 24.88 over 28 innings. Rajendra Chandrika, who at time of writing has only a pair on debut to his name, was also a show. Glenn Maxwell put up his hand, but we think Micky Arthur was just punking us when he allowed that to happen.
Morne Morkel had claims. He opened the batting in one innings, making a second-ball duck.
Alastair Cook tried his best to make a late run, but stuffed it up when he recently made a ton in the West Indies.
Mehrab Hossain tried it 19 times for an return of only 13 runs per innings.
But CD Cumming and Grant Flower land our underwhelming opening slots.
The Kiwi opened 19 times, passing 50 on just one occasion. Flower opened 14 times and never got there, finishing with an average of 10.20 in the position.
There was intense competition for the pivotal number 3 spot.
Maxwell (no one ever looked worse averaging 4.00 in Tests) had a strong case.
Destructive nightwatchman James Anderson has batted at number three on nine occasions for an average of 9.33.
Michael Clarke has batted here only twice, for a total of 25 runs. Only twice? Yeah, I had to recheck that. It’s accurate. Clarke is a wuss. Nathan Lyon averages more than Clarke at number three.
Nasser Hussain somehow was allowed to bat here 39 times. It delivered him a James Anderson-like bowling average of 29.96. Essentially, numbers four and five had to be padded up and ready to go when Nassar walked to the crease. His average dig only lasted 69 balls.
However, no one ever looked better averaging 3.00 in Tests than Rob Quiney. His debut nine will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
Batting supremos Daniel Vettori (average 76.00) and Freddie Flintoff (average 75.00) own the number four slot. So does Hussein. His average of 38.28 eclipses that of Clarke (32.07).
Clarke has reason to feel aggrieved for not being selected in this team at number four, given his horrible returns for such a gifted player. However, he falls behind Phil Hughes’ five innings, 86 total balls faced and 10 runs made in total.
Yes, I know that breaks my 10-Test rule, but Hughes has always been undervalued by the cricketing world. It is time we did our piece to fix that.
But that is not bad enough to win the position. No, that honour goes to Mohammad Ashraful – 44 innings for an average of 15.70 is a ridiculously poor return.
The number five slot could have been reserved for an Indian by the name of Saurav Ganguly. He represented his country in this position 86 times for a mediocre average of 37.23. Paul Collingwood had a higher average, made more centuries and did it in fewer Tests than the ridiculously overrated Ganguly. Even Nathan Hauritz averaged 75.00 when batting third drop.
Hansie Cronje batted twice at five, lasting 10 balls and never scoring a run. South African spinner Paul Harris (5.00) averages more than Che Pujara (4.00) in the position.
Hussein was up for another nomination, averaging 31. But how many times can you acknowledge his contributions to terrible cricket?
But the winner is a Kiwi.
DR Flynn played 15 Test innings at number five for a highest score of 53. He averaged 19.54 and made four ducks. Also, he wasn’t a doctor.
The number six position was a difficult one to fill, as it is traditionally used as a transitional spot by new players entering the Test arena.
Dean Elgar’s three innings for seven runs is worthy of a look, while Khaled Mashud had 10 attempts to average a paltry 11.80.
Moeen Ali’s average of 21.00 gave it a strong tilt. After the upcoming Ashes, he may have a stronger case.
Dwayne Bravo lingered in the position long enough to bat there 50 times for an average of 26.61. Shane Watson also averages 26 at number six.
Some bloke called Steve Smith could only average 25 when so far down the order.
However Graeme Hicks’ six innings, two ducks and average of 8.00 probably locks it up. Although, if we were reserving this spot for an all rounder, Ravi Bopara has both mitts clamped firmly around it.
I’ve reserved the number seven slot for the wicket-keeper, looking at their records irrespective of what position they actually batted.
I desperately wanted an Akmal brother to win it. Adnan couldn’t bat, and Kamran couldn’t catch. Between them, they could have filled the role, but this isn’t some kind of crazy science-fiction-style worst XI. We have to look a little bit harder to find a single player who can fulfill the role.
Matt Prior made 35 runs in his final Test. His 36 byes gave him a net contribution of minus one. That’s pretty special, but not special enough.
In the end, it’s what you do on the biggest stage that counts. Jonny Bairstow’s Ashes performances in 2013-14 are hard to overlook. Although he played only two Tests as keeper, he only lasted 98 balls for his four innings and moved like he was wearing concrete slippers. Behind the stumps, he let through 10 byes. He also forgot to wear sunscreen, ensuring his ginger hair was matched by his cherry red face.
There were 754 eligible bowlers to choose from.
Of note is the fact that Alastair Cook has the best bowling average of any player since 2000 with one wicket at 7.00.
Darren Pattinson, Vikram Singh and Shaun Tait have protested their failure to be selected in this team. So did Henry Olonga and Lonwabo Tsotsobe. In the case of the Zimbabwean, he thought his Test strike rate of 96.6 was surely good enough. It wasn’t.
Unlucky Pankaj Singh probably could have qualified on stats alone, but he looked like he was trying so is ineligible. So too is Ishant Sharma on the basis he bowled India to a Test win at Lord’s.
In the end, the pace attack is headed by Anwar Hossain Monir. He makes the team on the basis that no one has bowled more overs without taking a wicket. 58 overs of nothingness.
Mohammad Sami takes the new ball into the wind. His 85 wickets should be commended. His average of 52.74 at a strike rate of almost 90 makes you query whether his uncle was a selector?
You can’t have Sami without Daren Powell. Their records are earily similar, the West Indian also has 85 wickets at 47.85 and a strike rate of 83.
Finally the spinner.
Imran Tahir comes up in conversation. Who else took 0/260 in a Test match? No one, that’s who.
Australia countered him with multiple experiments such as Ashton Agar, Xavier Doherty, Bryce McGain, Glenn Maxwell, Beau Casson, Michael Beer and Stephen O’Keefe.
Kevin Pietersen was saved by his batting. His off-spinners leaked over 88 runs per wicket at a strike rate over 130. That he was allowed to bowl over 1300 balls in Test match cricket is one of life’s great mysteries.
However, Mohammed Naeem Islam (Ban) is our spinner. His Test match bowling average of 303.00, combined with a strike rate of 574.00 makes him the standout tweaker of his generation.
My umpires choose themselves in Steve Bucknor and Billy Bowden.
So does the coach, congratulations must go out to Peter Moores – no one else got sacked twice.
For the hell of it. I’m also potting a commentary team. Well done Michael Slater, Nick Knight and James Brayshaw.
So, what do you think. Together, did we get the team right?
The worst Test XI since 2000
CD Cumming (New Zealand)
Grant Flower (Zimbabwe)
Rob Quiney (Australia)
Mohammad Ashraful (Bangladesh)
DR Flynn (New Zealand)
Graeme Hick (England)
Jonny Bairstow (England)
Anwar Hossain Monir (Bangladesh)
Mohammad Sami (Pakistan)
Daren Powell (West Indies)
Mohammed Naeem Islam (Bangladesh)
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WI) and Billy Bowden (NZ).
Coach: Peter Moores (Eng)
Commentators: Michael Slater (Aus), Nick Knight (Eng) and James Brayshaw (Aus)