Welcome to another fun, frivolous hypothetical cricketing XI.
The concept this time is quite simple: come up with the best possible alphabetical XI in which the players are listed alphabetically in their batting order.
Obviously we all have at least two names (I assume), so this raises the question: do we use first or last names to compile this team? Well, for even more fun, I’ve decided to go with both. Thus I’ve developed an all-star, totally alphabetical clash between two teams: the First Namers (Firsties) against the Last Namers (Lasties).
Given this is of course hypothetical I’ve allowed myself a small magic trick which you’ll soon see, but apart from that it’s all very simple and straightforward.
What’s more, I’ve done this is for both Tests and ODIs. I could get around to a T20 one eventually, but I’m not quite as into that format, so for now this will do.
So obviously I’ve cheated a little bit by putting a certain D Bradman into both teams, but I honestly didn’t plan it. His name really did fit most naturally into both teams, and because this is entirely imaginary, I thought why not.
It also shouldn’t prevent the next bit of indulgent imagination: deciding which team would win. Bradman in fact would probably be very keen on the idea of batting for both teams. I think it plays out like this, but of course disagree with me if you want: the respective middle orders are basically even, and though the Firsties openers and probably ahead of their Lasties counterparts, the Last Namers bowlers might just shade the First Namers. But this is close
My gut feeling is that Firsties are marginally better given their greater depth of batting and range of bowling.
By the way, I chose Waqar over Wasim Akram because I was being strict to the alphabetical batting order rule. I would indeed choose Wasim as a better Test bowler than Waqar, but he wouldn’t be batting at No. 11 behind Stuart Broad and Shane Warne.
Finding the bowlers was the harder part, as I essentially couldn’t pick any names earlier than R. To avoid that you’d have to seriously bastardise the batting order, which is possible, but I thought this was a good enough balance.
Batsmen didn’t have it all their own way either though – greats like Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar never really had a chance thanks to their tardy naming patterns. Sheesh.
Several points here. Firstly, this felt much messier and harder to construct. Perhaps that comes from the difficulty in assessing ODI batsmanship where the balance between average and strike rate becomes fuzzier. It’s perhaps also due to people’s wobbliness in their ‘usual’ batting position. This means a few people are slightly out of position, but I was getting desperate and it’s not too egregious.
This difficulty also extended to the bowlers – I couldn’t sneak in any spinners at all apart from Ravi Jadeja. Having only one spinner across two teams is not particularly realistic, but with all these fiery quicks it would be entertaining!
Secondly, Waqar Younis is the Bradman of ODIs in that he gets into both teams here. Courtney Walsh kept him out of the Test team but Waqar’s ODI record is frankly astonishing – and Walsh’s surprisingly not that great – so he couldn’t be stopped.
Thirdly, I checked and the rule for alphabetising names like ‘De Villiers’ demands you start with the D, not the V. Phew – I really wanted him in the team, even if he’s slightly higher than he normally would be.
Okay, onto the battle between these two teams. Firsties have a wonderful mix of power, accumulation and finishing as well as seriously deep batting (Pollock down at No. 9!).
Lasties have a less fancy but still highly dependable opening partnership and a truly golden middle order with De Villiers and Kohli. Nevertheless, despite these two superstars, overall Firsties’ batting is more balanced and deeper.
However, with both Starc and Andy Roberts – whose average is lower than even Starc’s crazy average – as well as my personal favourite, Chaminda Vaas, I think Lasties’ bowlers get the nod.
Conversely, the Firsties wicketkeeper clearly dominates Lasties’, so overall I have to say Firsties would win this battle.
So it’s official: first names are better than last names.
Finally, a quick congratulations to the players who managed to fit into both a Test and an ODI team: Richard Hadlee, Waqar Younis, Hashim Amla, Andy Roberts, Virat Kohli, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle.
There are a few more interesting selection choices throughout the teams, but I’ll let everyone dissect them in the comments. So please dive in with your own thoughts on who would win between these teams as well as your own teams!