This game can be so cruel.
The silly season is upon us, and in keeping with the festive spirit, let us look at a team of eleven first-class cricketers with names having a Christmas connection. Here’s presenting the all-time Christmas XI.
1) Jacques Rudolph
He may not be red-nosed, but South African southpaw Jacques Rudolph is an apt choice to form one half of our opening pair. Having promised much after scoring an unbeaten 222 on Test debut at Chittagong in 2003, he eventually went on to have a middling international career that saw its last in 2012. He is currently captain of Glamorgan on the English county circuit.
2) Noel McGregor
Veteran Otago batsman Spencer Noel McGregor was part of the first New Zealand team to win a Test match, against the West Indies at Auckland in 1955-56. Six years later, he scored a crucial 68 in New Zealand’s first away win, in Cape Town. With a name that translates to quite a few Christmas-related connotations, he has earned his place in the side.
3) Ian Bell (captain)
It has been a year since Ian Bell went out of favour with the England think-tank, but nothing can take away his contributions in the past decade. Be it the match-winning ton at Durban in 2009-10 or his exemplary batting in the 2013 Ashes, this Bell has often taken a toll on the opposition. His experience as Warwickshire’s captain makes him the right candidate to lead the Christmas XI.
4) Mark Nicholas
The Santa of our team is Mark Nicholas, who is renowned today for being a popular television commentator. He was the captain of Hampshire from 1985 to 1995 and one of their middle-order mainstays during that period. Though he never played for England, he had the satisfaction of scoring more than 18,000 runs in first-class cricket.
5) Marcus North
Until his retirement in 2014, Marcus North provided a valuable all-round option to many a first-class side – he played for Western Australia as well as five English counties. He had a dream start to his short Test career, scoring a match-winning 117 at Johannesburg in 2008-09, and also ensured that his name was put up on the neutral honours board at Lord’s a year later.
6) Tony Frost (wicketkeeper)
The wicketkeeping duties for the Christmas XI lie with bespectacled Tony Frost, who played for Warwickshire from 1997 to 2009. He was a dependable batsman as well, his career-best of 242* coming against Essex at Chelmsford in 2008, a season in which he successfully returned from a retirement announced two year back.
7) Billy Midwinter
The winter solstice (midwinter) falls a few days before Christmas. Born in England, all-rounder Billy Midwinter migrated to Australia, for whom he played in the inaugural Test and had the distinction of bagging Test cricket’s first fifer. He went on to play for England as well. He was famously kidnapped by WG Grace, who wanted him to play for Gloucestershire rather than the Australians, in 1878.
8) John Snow
Leading the bowling attack is England’s John Snow, who was one of the finest fast bowlers in the world at his peak. He was at his best during the 1970-71 Ashes in Australia, where he finished with 31 wickets – 15 more than anyone else – at 22.83, including a searing, career-best 7/40 at Sydney. Caught-behind dismissals reading ‘c Frost, b Snow’ would surely make for fascinating viewing.
9) Ian Bishop
The clergy gets its due in the form of Ian Bishop, the tall Trinidadian who would have ended with a lot more than 161 Test wickets if not for constant back troubles. He impressed early, taking 6/87 against India in only his second Test. His best display came at Perth in the decider of the 1992-93 Frank Worrell Trophy, where he took 6/40 in the second innings to bowl the West Indies to an innings win.
10) Paul Wiseman
The Christmas XI can certainly afford a wise man, if not three. The lead spin bowler of our team is offie Paul Wiseman, who starred on Test debut by taking seven wickets to help New Zealand win at Colombo in 1998. He however played second fiddle to Daniel Vettori throughout his career, and was not picked after 2004-05.
11) Jo Angel
Rounding off the eleven is Jo Angel, the 6’6″ tall fast bowler who collected 419 wickets – currently the fourth-highest tally in the history of the Sheffield Shield – for Western Australia from 1991-92 to 2003-04. He could not translate his first-class consistency at the highest level though, and played only seven times in all for Australia.
It would be a disservice to conclude this post without a reference to David Christmas, a medium pacer who played 14 List A matches for Lincolnshire from 1991 to 2004. He is, rather unsurprisingly, nicknamed ‘Father’.
Season’s greetings to one and all.