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Celebrating the Sheffield Shield: The greats of Australian domestic cricket

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Roar Guru
21st October, 2019
49

The Sheffield Shield, arguably the world’s greatest domestic cricket competition, has entered its 127th year in 2019-20.

The Shield has (along with a very strong club culture) been the cornerstone of Australia’s cricketing strength for more than a century.

As those few who waded through my last series of articles knows, I love a bit of history, a nice list and a good argument, so to celebrate the wonderful Sheffield Shield I will be presenting the greatest Shield players in a series of articles.

Each article will present the combined Greatest XI for a particular state, together with some basic statistics and information, as well as a second and third 11 and some other notable players.

So who will make these great sides? Well with 127 seasons to choose from the competition will be intense. And it may throw up a few surprises.

In recent decades as the international calendar continues to become more and more crowded there are few opportunities for international players to represent their states.

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As a result, while they might be the best Australian players of their generation, they will not be the best players for their state.

For example, neither Mitchell Johnson nor Shane Warne even played the minimum number of games to be considered for these lists and David Warner only got there in the first game of the current season.

But in days gone by the best players in the country regularly turned out for their states. Often, international series were two years apart so every second season of the Shield would pit full strength teams against each other.

In fact until the 1970s the Boxing Day Test was not a regular occurrence and Christmas was reserved for the big Shield game between NSW and Victoria!

The title of Shield Champions was fiercely sought after. And for those Queenslanders who waited nearly 70 years until 1996 to taste victory, we know how hard the competition could be.

States also often imported overseas greats to bolster their teams and such legends as Barry Richards, Garry Sobers, Viv Richards, Joel Garner, Wes Hall, Imran Khan and Ian Botham have all tried to bring glory to their temporary state.

What will the criteria be for selection?

Given I’m no professional historian or statistician there will be healthy doses of gut feel, bias and guesswork, but some basic criteria will include:
– Minimum 20 matches in the Sheffield Shield competition for a single state;
– If a player qualifies for more than one state, then they represent the state they played most for, except that if they do not make the cut, they can try to get a pity spot from their second team;
– Number of games, runs and batting average, wickets and bowling average and strike rate, and catches and stumpings will all play their part;
– However they will not be the sole criteria. Just as important is winning titles and performing in winning seasons. In recent decades this includes the Shield Final (especially in rare away wins), but previous to that I will examine overall season performances and turning up in must win games;
– The basic team principals of six batsmen, a keeper and four bowlers will prevail, unless a standout all rounder can claim the number six slot. Pace bowlers versus spinners will depend on the state and the all round question.

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All statistics are courtesy of Cricinfo. All mistakes are my own.

So without further ado we will start with the ‘winningest’ team in Shield history – New South Wales. Look for the first article coming soon.

And all hail the Sheffield Shield!