Finally, after four teams of amazing Aussie cricketers, comes the final part of the series – the best team of cricketers Australia has ever produced.
The greatest Australian cricket XI
1. Matthew Hayden
2. Arthur Morris
3. Sir Donald Bradman (c)
4. Ricky Ponting
5. Greg Chappell
6. Keith Miller
7. Adam Gilchrist (wk)
8. Shane Warne (vc)
9. Dennis Lillee
10. Bill O’Reilly
11. Glenn McGrath
12th man: Ray Lindwall
When selecting the all-time greatest Australia XI, the opening batsmen is the part I find most difficult. Mark Taylor, who didn’t make my first or second all-time Australian XI, is a serious contender – especially for those who saw Taylor bat in 1989.
I also believe that Taylor played in a more difficult era than Matt Hayden. Taylor frequently had to face the likes of Wasim Akram, Curtley Ambrose and Allan Donald. Hayden didn’t fare too well playing for Australia in the mid 90s when he was selected.
That said, I also think Hayden became a better player later in his career, and it was not just that pitches and competition became easier. I chose Hayden in my side because of his sheer dominance and presence at the crease.
He was a bully. He would actually occasionally take a step toward some of the most intimidating bowling, before playing a shot, and swatting bowlers away.
Arthur Morris and Bill Ponsford were selected in the Australian Cricket Board Team of the 20th Century. Ponsford has a slightly higher average, but Morris played for longer.
I chose Morris over Ponsford, primarily because Bradman put Morris in his all-time side. I’ve selected Ponsford in the past at times. In all likelihood, they should be considered equals.
Trumper is credited for modernising the art of batting – but with an average of 39, he’s not making my first-string side.
I’m long debated in my head who is Australia’s second greatest batsman after Bradman.
I genuinely think Ricky Ponting played in an easier era than Steve Waugh or Allan Border. If I wanted someone to bat for my life, I’d take Waugh and Border over Ponting.
Border single-handedly saved a Test for Australia against the West Indies, in the most frightening of fast-bowling conditions, and against the best fast-bowling attack of all time, scoring a century and 99* not out in the second innings which he rates as his best ever.
Steve Waugh made his name for his toughness and coolness in the most difficult of situations. Take for instance, his performances against the West Indies in 1995.
But Ponting was a more aggressive talented batsman than Waugh and Border, who at his peak nearly averaged 60 (he ended up with an average over 50). He was more naturally talented than both Border and Waugh, and played more aggressively and on the front-foot, so he makes my side.
It was tempting to select Border or Waugh, because Ponting played his best cricket at number three. He was a natural number three, whereas I think middle-order batsmen have to be more measured, like Border and Waugh. My side might look more balanced if I didn’t select Ponting, but I think Ricky is talented enough to thrive at number four.
That leaves Ponting against Greg Chappell for my selection of Australia’s second-greatest batsman.
Greg Chappell scored centuries at the same rate that Ponting did. At first I told myself that Chappell scored his runs against harder opposition. But look at Chappell’s six innings against the West Indies from 1981/82: 0, 6, 12, 0, 61, 7. That was when Chappell was in poor form.
But then again, I recall Ricky Ponting scoring three ducks in a row against Pakistan in 1999, before salvaging his career with a score of 197.
Both men had drops in form.
Greg Chappell is my selection for Australia’s second best batsman after Don Bradman. Firstly, because he was technically perfect. Whereas Ponting would sort of lean forward and then backwards when playing shots, Chappell was perfectly balanced.
Neil Harvey also got some consideration from me. He was good enough to make the Australian Cricket Board team of the century.
Keith Miller stands out as Australia’s greatest ever all-rounder.
Gilchrist is an easy selection. The general consensus among cricket fans is that Ian Healey was a better wicket-keeper, but you couldn’t trade on Gilchrist’s batting.
The way Shane Warne talks about how Healey was easily the best keeper he ever saw at the international level, you’d think there was something deficient about Gilchrist’s keeping – like he was a liability.
While I agree Healey was a better fieldsman, I never thought Gilchrist’s keeping was anything but of the highest standard. Gilchrist’s keeping perhaps wasn’t at its peak during the last two years of his career, but I always thought he was an amazing wicket-keeper and a genuine all-rounder.
I can’t think of, say, 10 wicket-keepers who kept better than Gilchrist – that’s just as assessment of him as a fieldsman.
Shane Warne should be regarded as Australia’s second greatest cricketer after Don Bradman.
Dennis Lillee is generally regarded as Australia’s greatest ever fast bowler. He would have become the first player in cricket history to take 400 wickets, but for World Series Cricket.
How much did Australia rely on Lillee? Well Lillee bowled more overs per Test than Richard Hadlee – New Zealand’s only weapon – did.
Splitting McGrath and Lindwall was impossible. Experts like Richie Benaud and Ian Chappell have Lindwall as being the better bowler. McGrath is unsurpassed in terms of the numerics of the game. I just went with McGrath because at his best he could achieve parity with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. He went so far as to say he’d like to bring his 300th wicket by taking a hat-trick involving Lara – and then doing it.
I’m not a huge fan of statistics when it comes to assessing cricket players. Statistically McGrath is better than Lillee, yet nobody who saw Lillee play would ever say McGrath was better. But I do have McGrath ahead of Lindwall for his longevity and immaculate stats.
Bill O’Reilly or Ray Lindwall was going to be my 12th man for this side. Generally I dislike the idea of playing two spinners. I think that a side looks more balanced with three excellent fast-bowlers.
However, mindful that Keith Miller was a world-class fast-bowler who could open the bowling, and who had a bowling average in the low 20s his entire career, his all-round ability allows me to have the three fast bowlers I want, plus two of the three greatest spin-bowlers of all-time (Murali is 2nd for me).
Moreover, O’Reilly was more of a medium-paced bowler who rolled-over leg-breaks. It’s said he bowled at over 100km/h, which is odd for a spin bowler. It almost feels like I’ve select three excellent fast bowlers, a medium-pace bowler, and a spin-bowler.